On July 13th, President Obama revealed a plan at the White House Conference on Aging to update existing nursing home regulations. A 400-plus page document from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) specifies the changes facilities would need to make to qualify for federal payments.

At the meeting, it was revealed the change came about to address existing technology and modern situations: Mainly, current standards ignore electronic communication, scientific, and healthcare discoveries, and don’t factor in family and resident involvement.

At the event, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told the press, “When a family makes the decision for a loved one to be placed in a nursing home or long-term care facility, they need to know that their loved one’s health and safety are priorities.”

What changes should families and their loved ones expect, should this proposal go into effect?

  • A new section about electronic records
  • More efforts to get families and patients involved in care planning and discharging, such as touching on care-giving abilities and providing clear follow-up information.
  • Improving residents’ rights. For instance, the new standards would specify how binding arbitration agreements can be used.
  • Residents may be able to pick their roommates.
  • Facilities will be required to report staffing levels; Medicare officials will then review to see if the home has an adequate team. A staff with enough skilled workers is said to reduce the use of sedation drugs.
  • To reduce antipsychotic and antibiotic use, the facility’s pharmacist will be required to monitor medications prescribed for extended periods.
  • Staff will be trained to handle residents with dementia and to prevent elder abuse.

The changes could affect more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that assist 1.5 million residents.

However, since the proposal, a few concerns have arisen. Elder care advocates want a nurse-to-patient ratio established; current and proposed guidelines do not address this. As well, implementing the plan would cost $729 million its first year, and an additional $638 million its second year.

Trantolo & Trantolo stands by the notion that all residents have the right to quality care and safe living conditions inside nursing homes. If you suspect negligence or abuse, bring your case to our attention. Contact our Connecticut office to speak with an experienced nursing home attorney.