The U.S. Government has promised to update Medicare and Medicaid rules in order to increase the quality of care provided by nursing homes and long term care facilities to the 1.5 million people living in them. The guidelines that determine when a nursing facility qualifies for a government payment were last updated in 1991.

The changes announced as part of the proposal include an update to infection control programs, require proper training for residents with dementia, ensure staffing levels taken into account patient care needs, strengthen the rights of nursing residents and allow the facilities to provide greater food choice. If these changes also make it easier for nursing home whistleblowers, to prove violations of the False Claims Act, something we have yet to determine whether they would or not, they would be very welcome.

The announcement happened in conjunction with the White House National Conference on Aging, a once a decade forum that started in 1961 to help the government chart a better aging policy. HHS also announced an update to its initiative to address Alzheimer’s Disease, including a $4 million educational campaign for older Americans and health care workforce training.

In related news, the Washington Post published an article about dangerous errors in Coumadin doses given by nursing homes to the elderly written by Propublica contributor Charles Ornstein. According to the article, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died due to errors in their blood thinner (either Coumadin or its generic drug known as warfarin) and thousands more may have been injured but not investigated by the government. If If the nursing home gives too little, the patient is at risk of blood costs. Too much of the drug can cause uncontrollable bleeding.

A peer reviewed study in the American Journal of Medicine in 2007 estimated that Coumadin is involved in 34,000 fatal, life threatening or serious medical events in nursing home residents every year. The drugs react badly with certain foods and other medications. They also require regular blood testing to ensure it is having the appropriate effect.

In total, more than 200,000 nursing home residents are estimated to take an anticoagulant with Coumadin or warfarin being the most popular. If you know of a resident that has been injured because of the neglect or abuse of the facility or a member of its staff, contact us for a free, confidential initial consultation regarding the possibility of bringing a lawsuit against the nursing home for its poor care.

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