Big Changes to Nursing Home Ratings

Kacy Hagerty: Well, last year, some significant changes were made to the rating system for nursing home. Attorney Jim Higgins with The Higgins Firm recently stopped by to explain what changes were made, why this happened and if people should be concerned. Take a look.

We've got Jim back in the studio with us today. Great to see you again.

Jim Higgins: Thank you.

Kacy Hagerty: As always. OK. Today, we're talking about nursing home ratings. We've actually heard there's been a drop in these ratings. So what's going on behind that? Do you know what the deal is?

Jim Higgins: Well, you know, it's actually a good thing. One of the tools that we always tell our folks to look at when they're picking a nursing home for their loved one is the rating system that the Medicare site has and they have, you know, a one through five-star rating. And nursing homes work hard to get those ratings.

And so, but what they’ve recently done is they’ve kind of made it harder to get that five star and they made some changes to the ratings and a couple of the real important ones were now they – a nursing home can lose their status if they're using too many antipsychotic drugs. And the reason that's important from, like, in our situation, you know, we handle a lot of nursing home neglect cases, is it can be an easy-care procedure to just give someone a bunch of medication and then you don’t have to care for them.

Kacy Hagerty: Right.

Jim Higgins: It's almost like chemical restraint is what we call it when we've had cases where people are overmedicated.

Kacy Hagerty: Right.

Jim Higgins: And so they watched that more closely which is great. And the other thing they're doing is, of course, when we talk about nursing home neglect cases, one of the core problems we always see is there just not being enough staff to care for people.

Kacy Hagerty: We heard that all the time from you.

Jim Higgins: All the time. And so, Medicare or the government is now watching that more closely and what they’ve done is they said, OK, we want to know how many nurses you have and aides, people that may be are a little less trained and they're putting that into their ratings. And what we hope is is that's going to increase the staff, increase the well-trained people so, you know, they can put me out of business and we don’t have nursing home neglect cases, that would be great, and we hope that that's what – what, you know, this is something that's going to go more towards accomplishing that.

Kacy Hagerty: It is good it's under better scrutiny but what if someone is in a nursing home and their rating has dropped or maybe someone's loved one is in the nursing home and the rating has dropped since they’ve been in it and should they be terribly concerned? It seems like they might – should be.

Jim Higgins: If it drops because of this, no. You really shouldn’t be, you know. And you always have to remember what we talked to at folks is this is one of many tools, you know. It's great to look at the nursing home ratings but, you know, you need to go there. You need to meet the administrator. You need to meet other residents and the staff. That's how you make sure that your loved one is getting proper care and they're not being neglected at the home.

Kacy Hagerty: OK. So if somebody does that and they go to nursing home and they meet people and they suspect that something is wrong, maybe they're not getting the care that they deserve, what should they do then?

Jim Higgins: Well, you – I always say you kind of ratchet it up. You know what, the first thing you do is you talk to them and hopefully you work it out and everything's great. You know, when they call our office, a lot of times, it's too late. Our cases are often versus when someone has been neglected, they have been hurt, they lose their life or have horrible bed sore, something like that, that's when they call our office. But they can call us at any time. We'd be glad to give them directions or help them out any way we can.

Kacy Hagerty: All right. Well, thanks for all you do. Great to have you.

Jim Higgins: Thanks.

Kacy Hagerty: The Higgins Firm is serving Tennessee. Give them a call at 1-800-705-2121 or go to thehigginsfirm.com.