Texas' Deplorable Nursing Home Scores

Texas nursing homes recently received a notable first-place ranking from Medicare. Unfortunately, the ranking is for the unrivaled number of severe deficiencies found in the state's nursing homes. During surprise annual inspections by state regulators, Texas nursing facilities accrued 242 severe deficiencies.

This number seems high on its own, but it is especially staggering compared to data from other states. New York had the second highest number of infractions, coming in at 85 for the year - just over a third of Texas' number. Third-place Oklahoma racked up 78 deficiencies.

The data was gathered by inspectors from the state's Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and listed in Medicare inspection reports. Medicare began releasing these narratives to the public in July.

Examples of errors and deficiencies found include improperly administered IV packs, patients left in geri-chairs too long and failure to store, cook and serve food in a clean, safe way. This kind of poor care is an indicator of nursing home abuse and neglect, which can endanger residents' health - and lives.

Do your homework to protect yourself and your loved ones

Most states fared much better than Texas; 45 came in with under 50 violations. But as anyone who has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect can tell you, 50 is still far too many. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to seniors and their families who want to make an informed decision about potential nursing homes.

DADS offers a wealth of online information for prospective residents, including safety scores and a detailed list of confirmed violations for local nursing homes. Similarly, Medicare recently launched an improved nursing home comparison website. The site ranks nursing homes across the nation based on inspections, staffing and quality measures.

However, don't rely completely on reports or websites when making your decision. While this information is valuable, visiting a facility several times is important. These visits can give you an idea of the facilities' culture, atmosphere and attitude toward its residents.

If you or someone you love have been improperly treated or neglected in a nursing home you may be entitled to compensation for any sustained injuries. An experienced personal injury lawyer can discuss your case with you and help protect your rights.

Source: Star-Telegram, " Lots of ways to do your homework on nursing homes," Aug. 31, 2012.