With the number of people older than 65 projected to nearly double from 2010 to 2030 in both California and the nation as a whole, it’s important to be sure that members of this age group are getting the proper care in America’s assisted living facilities.
Troublingly, a May 2018 audit by state Auditor Elaine Howle found that the number of complaints about poor care in California nursing homes had jumped by 31% over a recent nine-year span.
Faulting mediocre oversight, Howle found that three state agencies had done a poor job of coordinating their regulatory efforts. She called for new rules requiring nursing homes to demonstrate they had improved care before receiving what are in effect state bonuses tied to better performance and for tighter, more consistent licensing decisions.
Another audit released three months ago by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department also found nursing home oversight lacking. By studying emergency room visits of Medicare patients, auditors concluded that in 2016, about 6,600 cases of abuse or possible abuse were not reported to federal authorities, as required by law.
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Now The Center for Investigative Reporting has released an investigation detailing how some senior board-and-care homes in California often “endanger or neglect their residents, sometimes with dire consequences.”
It detailed the appalling story of how a 91-year-old patient at a facility in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., had died after being bitten by rats. The center noted that after allegations that some operators of homes exploited workers by paying less than minimum wage, state investigators found that one in five homes visited had health and safety violations that put patients at risk.
A spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom said the departments of Social Services and Industrial Relations were preparing for a crackdown aimed at the poor treatment of seniors and of workers at elderly care homes, promising “legal actions up to and including license revocation.”
The focus is overdue. As Americans live longer, greater efforts need to be taken to protect them.