America’s aging population, which is being driven in large part by the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, has had a significant impact on many different factors of our society, but one largely unnoticed trend has been the increasing reliance of many individuals and families on the use of nursing care facilities to help elderly Americans remain in good health throughout their twilight years. In fact, the demand for nursing home care, which has been steadily increasing for decades, appears poised to now reach unprecedented levels in the coming years.
This, unfortunately, may also prove to be problematic. As the demand for nursing care increases, so too does the overall share of nursing care facilities operated on a for-profit basis. And the reality is that these facilities often cut corners, sometimes drastically, or otherwise mistreat their residents in order to increase profit margins. A disturbing case from South Carolina demonstrates the ways in which for-profit nursing homes can cause serious injury or other forms of damage to occur to residents.
Life Care Centers of America, one of America’s largest for-profit nursing care companies with more than 200 facilities in 28 different states, is currently under investigation by the federal government for a series of abuses the company is alleged to have committed. The government’s interest in the company relates to potential Medicare and Medicaid fraud that may have occurred as a result of the company submitting residents to care and treatments which they did not need solely in order to bill the government more for services rendered. But the consequences of this unnecessary care have, in some circumstances, been devastating.
At a South Carolina facility operated by Life Care, an 80-year old woman was placed in a standing frame for well over an hour, ostensibly for physical rehabilitation and “occupational” therapy. This woman was unable to control her head or keep her eyes open, and the treatment, as described in federal documents, had no relevant purpose. Two days later, the woman died, in part because of the unnecessary treatment she had received.
In many other cases, for-profit nursing homes operate with far fewer staff than necessary to provide their residents with the care they need, choosing instead to optimize cost structures at the expense of patient safety. The results of this type of negligence can be just as devastating as unnecessary patient care, potentially causing medication errors, patient injuries, and many other possible causes of harm to occur. For this reason, for-profit nursing homes are often cited by nursing home abuse lawyers as the most dangerous care facilities in which to place elderly relatives.