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No Wonder People Hate the Nursing Home Industry

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By Steve Moran

It pains me to write this article because it is a direct smack down on a segment of the industry that I have poured 100% of my time, energy and and soul into. This is not my story but rather that of a close cousin.

Two Preambles

If you are a nursing home operator doing a great job for your residents and family members this is not about you. There are a few of you who are doing an amazing job of serving your residents and their families. You work with them, empathize with them and create amazing experiences.

If you are a senior living provider but do not operate nursing homes, this article is still vitally important because the public hardly knows the difference between nursing homes, independent living, assisted living and memory care. When nursing homes are bad, they make the whole sector look bad.

Your Rehab Days Are Up, Get Out!

About 4 weeks ago my Uncle Dick who is 89 fell and broke his hip. They did a surgical repair and then transferred him to a decent nursing home for rehab. He is a member of a Medicare Advantage health plan that normally grants about 2 weeks of therapy for a hip repair.  

He and his wife had some financial resources but not a lot. He was unable to transfer in or out of bed without maximum assistance. Though he is fairly slim, he is 6 ft. tall. His wife is about 5’2”, strong and healthy, but would still be incapable of providing him assistance and his house would not be safe.

As they approached the discharge date, the interdisciplinary team went to his wife and said, “He will be done with his allotted days in 4 days and you need to figure out what to do next. He will need to go home or to a board and care.”

That is Not Helpful

So now this eighty-something woman is in a panic, she has no idea what to do. She is scared about money, she is worried about bringing him home, she has no idea how to find an assisted living community or board and care.

All she knows is that the nursing home will not get any more money from the health plan and they want him out now. As she describes her experience she believes they will, if she does nothing, send him home or put him on the street.

My cousin reached out to me for help, because I am an expert and this is all happening in my home town.

Fighting Back

I confess to being both embarrassed for my industry and incensed that all this community cared about was getting Uncle Dick out at any cost. Here is what I advised . . .

  1. Tell the unhelpful discharge planner these words: “My home is unsafe to take him home, he will or I will die if he comes home. I don’t know what to do.”

  2. Call the ombudsman office and ask them to help.

  3. I then talked to a therapist friend who recommended filing an appeal with the health plan because it would, at least, buy some additional time.

  4. I even considered pointing them to one of the public interest watchdog groups that are constantly at war with nursing homes for substandard care, even knowing they are mostly horrible organizations that do more damage to the industry than they help the industry.

It Should Not Be Like This

I honestly don’t get it. Nursing homes legitimately complain that their reimbursements are inadequate. BUT THEY WILL NEVER GAIN MUCH SYMPATHY TREATING FAMILIES AND RESIDENTS LIKE THIS. It is wrong, it is immoral, it is bad business.

I know the nursing home trade organizations have to be very careful about how they deal with members that have vastly different ways of doing business, but somehow they need to be serious about making it unacceptable to treat their customers this way.  

I haven’t talked to the leadership of this organization yet, because I don’t know them well, but I do know them a little bit. I suspect they will tell me that it is just one person who did it wrong. Maybe . . . but I am sure she is doing this to dozens of families a month.

We are in a helping business and WE NEED TO HELP.

Ultimately my cousin and her father's wife found a very nice Brookdale community they could afford and for now things are okay, but the lack of help was unconscionable.

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