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New Nursing Home Compare Icon Flags Facilities for Abuse

People picking a long-term care facility for their loved one just received an additional tool in the form of the Nursing Home Compare website. The resource, provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides a window into a nursing home’s history of care and flags any past allegations of abuse.

CMS Nursing Home Compare Icon Keeps Seniors Safe

Choosing a nursing home for a loved one requires careful consideration. With the safety and wellbeing of a father, sister, or another family member at stake, all the factors to consider can feel overwhelming. Now, a new federal initiative makes the task a little easier.

Certified nursing homes are, as of October 23, 2019, subject to a red icon on a website called Nursing Home Compare if it has been flagged for abuse or neglect. It is an expansion of the Nursing Home Compare website, which gives consumers a window into a nursing’s history of care.

Elder advocacy groups praise Nursing Home Compare for its increased transparency and accountability. Nursing home industry leaders disagree and argue the icons provide an incomplete picture that discourages business.

Why Was the Icon Put Into Effect?

The effort to protect seniors — and behind Nursing Home Compare — is led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It includes updates from April 2019 that provide a five-star quality rating system that indicates the caliber of care provided by the nursing home.

Consumers can learn if a nursing home was cited for: 

  • Abuse in the last year
  • Possible harm of a resident in the last two years

The red hand icon signals this is the first time a nursing home has been cited, while a yellow triangle shows subpar care has consistently been the case. The yellow icon also indicates that the home is a Special Focus Facility subject to extra federal scrutiny.

This expands on previous ranking systems and provides consumers a clear notice that a nursing home could be dangerous.

Controversy About the Nursing Home Compare Icon

The Nursing Home Compare website is not without controversy.

Advocates praise the peace of mind it provides when choosing a long-term care facility. Nursing homes carry inherent risks for a population with already fragile health, including intrusive medical devices, special medical needs, and overworked staff.

The nursing home industry, however, argues the Nursing Home Compare website provides an inadequate snapshot of a facility.

In a prepared statement, the CEO of nonprofit LeadingAge says “the abuse icon program in Nursing Home Compare, however well-intentioned, risks misleading consumers. It is built on the back of a flawed survey system, in which interpretations of regulations are notoriously inconsistent.” 

James Berklan, the executive editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, criticized the launch of the system, including the confusion the yellow and red icons can cause (in this case, the red “stop” hand is the least serious of the two).

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) also called for a change to the logos, stating the red logo will likely lead consumers away from a facility before fully investigating the age and circumstances of a complaint.

Impact of the Nursing Home Compare Icon

The launch of the Nursing Home Compare icon system produced almost immediate effects.

About 5% of nursing homes listed on Nursing Home Compare received a red hand icon. Journalists began investigating their respective states and areas and discovered Georgia and South Carolina rank among the highest states for nursing home abuse. For context, though, only five nursing homes in Georgia have the red icon.

While the website has its advocates and detractors, ultimately, it is up to the consumer to make the decision. Medicare officials say they will update information monthly to ensure the most up-to-date information is available.

The officials encourage the public to: 

  • Use the Nursing Home Compare website for its intended purpose, which is to create a collective snapshot of nursing homes within an area.
  • Use the CMS nursing home checklist to weigh the attributes of a nursing home.
  • Call 911 in the case of an emergency, and report any suspected abuse to the proper authorities.
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The Nursing Home Abuse Center Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

Last modified: December 23, 2019