10/17/02 - Disturbing Nursing Home Report

A report this week in a St. Louis paper is raising eyebrows and concern over conditions in nursing homes. According to the report, no one's watching the homes, and that's leading to the abuse and neglect of residents. Wednesday we visited a Heartland nursing home, which admittedly has been fined for past violations itself, minor though in comparison to what that report says happens at nursing homes every day.
According to the series of special reports this week in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, nursing homes paid by the government or families to provide food, drink, shelter and medical care often fail to do so, and their residents die from this neglect. The report says those responsible for investigating are overworked, that autopsies are rarely done, medical records are sometimes falsified, and nursing home officials are often less than forthright in discussing incidents leading up to the death! Just some of the incredible problems facing the industry.
Glenda Cato, Administrator of Heartland Care and Rehab says, "I don't think they understand that nursing homes work really hard to give quality care to people who have no family and no funding." The results of that report concern Cato. "Basically I've seen in this area quality care of nursing homes, a lot of quality people," she says. Cato says someone is watching the nursing homes, at least her's, in fact her home has been cited before. "I remember a time when I got a dumpster open deficiency, the lid was open, it was empty. There was one time I had to count cigarette butts where my employees park."
State inspectors come into town with no warning, they dropped in to Heartland Care and Rehab Tuesday morning. Cato says she's not concerned with them finding anything major, because they don't get ready for inspectors, they stay ready.
Elaine Shirrell volunteers at the center once a week because she was happy with the treatment her father received until he lost his battle with Alzheimer's. "I think you can tell the way they act if they're happy or not, this was his home."
And that report isn't all bad either, it does point out that there are some good, quality nursing homes that have well-trained staff. So the moral may be a diligent family keeping an eye on the conditions of their loved-one's home.