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Standards of Care in American Nursing Homes

Submitted by Anonymous on Jul 16th, 2009

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 entitles residents of nursing homes to receive the "highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being." This act also included various other provisions to clearly indicate the proper care residents should receive. Any nursing home that receives Medicaid or Medicare funds must abide by these rules. Violators are subject to sanctions.

One provision outlaws clinically avoidable pressure sores or contractures, which occur when a patient does not move around and lays stagnant during the course of the day. Another rule defines nutritional standards, which maintain a resident's proper body weight and hydration at healthy levels. Finally, the doctrine establishes that facilities have a proper number of staff to maintain these provisions.

These provisions and rules seem to force nursing homes to maintain a high standard of care for patients. However, for various reasons, many nursing homes are not keeping up to this standard. Many homes are currently understaffed and many patients are experiencing both nursing home abuse and injuries in the home.

The obvious reaction involves people wondering how these homes are avoiding sanctions and repercussions from the government or costly lawsuits from residents. One answer involves the massive legal team many of the conglomerate corporations employ. Corporate defense attorneys are very well trained and have developed many strategies to defeat these lawsuits or force private settlements.

There is a possibility for residents to win lawsuits, however the suit filed is very important to the outcome. The strongest cause for action involves direct liability against a corporation and its executives. These executives should be involved with the nursing home enough to know which transgressions are occurring in the home.

There is a precedent for filing such a case, although it did not involve a nursing home. Such a case involving direct liability is Forsythe vs. Clark USA, Inc. This case involves a parent company, an oil refinery, which instructed one of its branches to cut costs by eliminating training, supervision and safety courses. Because of this cost cutting, two untrained worker started a fire which killed two people. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on the case saying, "a parent corporation can be held liable if, for its own benefit, it directs or authorizes the manner in which its subsidiary's budget is implemented, disregarding the discretion and interests of the subsidiary, and thereby creating dangerous conditions."

Nursing homes should follow the Act of 1987 and give residents the best possible care available, although many homes do not follow these rules. If you know of someone who has been subject to a home that does not follow such rules, contact an experienced nursing home attorney. It is becoming much more difficult to win lawsuits against nursing homes and their parent corporations; however nursing home lawyers are well trained in arguing, litigating, settling, and winning such lawsuits.