Law Call, Sunday night

This Sunday night at 10:30, I will be the guest on the Eiland & Ritchie Law Call Show which airs on WPMI, Mobile’s NBC affiliate station.  The topic will be nursing homes.

As the Baby Boom Generation ages, and with advances in medicine that prolong life, we can count on our nursing home populations to continue to rise – if not explode.  Meanwhile, federal and state governments, politically unwilling to raise taxes or generate other sources of revenue, continue to look for ways to cut social program expenditures and entitlements. This will place incredible monetary and staffing pressures on nursing facilities to provide adequate care for the most vulnerable in our society.

Unless you are fortunate enough to have independent resources (i.e., are wealthy enough) or have nursing home insurance, the annual cost of providing nursing care to a loved one is no less than staggering.  According to some national figures, the current annual cost of a semi-private room is $80,000.  This cost is estimated to grow at 4% annually.  If you need nursing home care, but lack the resources, Medicaid will pay those expenses, but only after all of the patient’s assets have been exhausted to pay for the care.  As with planning for taxes or your estate, careful advance health care planning must be used so as to avoid unnecessary governmental expense.

Also, since Medicaid is a government based program, and government dollars are scarce, the level of care you can expect to find will typically only meet “minimum standards”.  Nursing home operators and administrators face incredible financial pressures to cut costs.  This is typically done by having only a minimum number of required staff which limits payroll and saves money for the facility.  An all too common complaint one hears about nursing home care, particularly with troubled facilities, is that they are under staffed.  It is universally recognized that a chronically under staffed facility will not be able to provide adequate care. This is not the fault of the care givers themselves.  But, even the most dedicated and caring of nurses can only do so much in a day (or shift).  Under staffing leads to inadequate care which can lead to injury and death.  In some instances, this may rise to the level of elder abuse. We have seen this occur in our practice, when representing the victims of nursing home negligence and abuse.

The States’ Medicaid agencies are charged with performing inspections and surveys on nursing homes that receive Medicaid funds to make sure the nursing home is meeting minimum required care standards.  These surveys are public records and are generally available on-line.  The surveys contain a wealth of information concerning how a particular nursing home is performing.

If you are having to consider placing a loved one in a nursing facility, it is critically important that you do your research and plan ahead – sometimes called “due diligence”.  And be prepared to stay pro-actively involved in monitoring the care your loved one receives (or, doesn’t). Do not wait to do this planning until the issue with your loved one becomes acute.  It may be difficult for you to face emotionally, but, when you think about it, it really is (or can be) an expression of love and caring for your loved one, and for your family

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