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Identifying facilities prone to nursing home abuse

Deciding that it is time to place a loved one in a nursing home is rarely easy. When that time comes, families in Maryland usually do their very best to find the right place for loved ones. But it is hard to really know what goes on behind closed doors. Even facilities that seem safe from the outside could actually be hiding systemic nursing home abuse and neglect.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), around 15,000 U.S. nursing homes accept Medicare and Medicaid. The CMS website recently implemented a new alert that should help families and patients better assess whether a facility is the right choice. The symbol of a white hand surrounded by a red circle will appear next to nursing home facilities that have been cited for abuse within the prior year. This will supplement CMS' current five-star rating system. It should also be easier than combing through health-inspection reports and searching for citations.

While the sign might be a step in the right direction, it is still not enough. Nursing home abuse is notoriously underreported, so there are probably many dangerous facilities hiding in plain site on CMS' website. The Health and Human Services Department's Office of Inspector General estimates that for every five nursing home residents with Medicare beneficiaries who visit the emergency room for high-risk problems at least one is the victim of neglect or abuse.

Individuals can take a few steps when trying to find the safest Maryland nursing home facility for a family member. Checking the CMS website is just one of those steps, as is looking at its survey report. However, just because there are no recent citations for abuse does not mean that it is not going on. When a loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse, it might be a good idea to help him or her explore options for pursuing a medical malpractice claim.

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