Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is a heart-wrenching decision for any family. It’s an emotional task, and one that should not and cannot be made lightly. There’s no shortage of horror stories, but with some research you can make a difficult decision a little easier.
Nearly every nursing home in North Carolina (NC) depends largely upon Medicare and Medicaid funds for its earnings. As such, every nursing home must be licensed to operate in the state:
Each resident must receive and the facility must provide the necessary care and services to [its residents] to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.
42 C.F.R. § 483.25
Every patient shall have the following rights: (1) To be treated with consideration, respect, and full recognition of personal dignity and individuality; (2) To receive care, treatment and services which are adequate, appropriate, and in compliance with relevant federal and state statutes and rules.
N.C.Gen. Stat. § 131E-117
The facility shall provide medically related social services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial wellbeing of each resident.
Most North Carolina nursing home facilities opt to save money by not purchasing liability coverage since they aren’t required to do so. This means families are left with little to no aid should a family member suffer abuse, neglect or serious injury while residing at a nursing home.
When choosing a long-term care facility, one of the first questions that should be asked is if the facility has liability coverage. The answer will help you to determine if the establishment is patient-focused or profit-focused.
In years past, advocates sought to require nursing homes to carry liability insurance, but those efforts have been scaled back. Current plans are to seek legislation to require nursing homes to disclose whether they have liability insurance and how much.
What is Nursing Home Negligence?
The exact definition varies from state to state, but nursing home negligence is generally defined as failure to provide any resident with the services they need for their health and safety. This commonly includes not providing adequate medical care, food/drinks, clothing and protection from injuries.
Choosing a Nursing Home
Knowledge is power. Each year, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services collects data on more than 15,000 nursing homes in the United States. That information is compiled on Medicare.gov on a page titled Nursing Home Compare, where you can search and compare overall rankings. Keep in mind, however, that government rankings are limited and reflect a short period of performance.
Before making a final decision, visit the home, and go back more than once at different times. Pay attention to what you hear, see and smell during each visit. Speak with the director and head nurse, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
In 2011, the North Carolina General passed S.B. 33, which limits recovery in nursing home abuse and neglect cases alleging medical negligence. The legislation caps noneconomic damages at $500,000 no matter how severely injured a resident was or how painful and horrific a patient's death may have been. This tort reform bill was vetoed by the governor but the NC state senators and representatives voted to override that veto.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.