One of the few things that can make nursing homes in North Carolina change and provide better care is the threat of litigation by nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys. It seems that we are one of the few groups they will listen to. CNAs and nurses work very hard in nursing homes to get the job done, but they often can't. The real problem is that there just aren't enough of them. They know it. We know it. However, the corporations running these nursing homes ignore it. If you want to see a comparison of our local Greensboro area nursing homes, look at my Ranking and Review of local area North Carolina nursing homes.
If nursing home staff complain, they are usually ignored. I have seen some CNAs team up to try a concerted effort. They signed a "Petition for Better Care" which was signed by more than twenty CNAs. They said that residents weren't been taken care of as they just couldn't get the work done with such few staff. The administrator passed the Petition on to "corporate". "Corporate" means the corporate representatives that actually run things. They said that they would look into it. After six months, no additional staff were hired. Instead, many of the CNAs who signed the Petitions mysteriously no longer worked at the nursing home. The rest got the message. Staff complaints simply are ignored by corporate.
Family members complain all the time about understaffing, poor care, inattentive staff. They will have to walk the halls to find someone to come help their loved one get changed, get out of bed or get fed. Families complain to social workers, staff and administrators. However, only corporate can change things. Corporate decides how many staff the nursing home will have and what they are paid.
One truth about corporations is that they like to make money. In the nursing home business, they make a lot of money. Many of the larger chains make millions on nursing homes in multiple states. Since staffing is by far the biggest expense in nursing homes, this is what corporate will cut to make more money. Take a look at this N.Y. Times Article, "At Many Homes, More Profit and Less Nursing." Staff at nursing homes should really read that article. What the threat of litigation does is adds another potential cost on their corporate balance sheets. During litigation, corporate representatives get personally offended that they are actually being held accountable. Nothing hurts them worse than having to pay money out. I have told them many times at mediations, "spend more money on CNAs, or spend more money on defense lawyers- you pick."
Usually, they pick defense lawyers. The nursing homes have hired attorneys from Texas, Colorado, and Alabama to come in and litigate these abuse cases in North Carolina. These out of state attorneys are hired to try and beat down the local nursing home neglect attorneys and discourage us from filing suit. Honestly, it has worked with many law firms. Many law firms have stopped taking nursing home abuse cases in North Carolina. Very few of us nursing home attorneys still make this a large part of our practice. The laws are very difficult, and many cases get dismissed on procedural failures. Many nursing home abuse cases are lost at trial. The homes will try and bring their best looking and nicest nurses to trial to sit and watch. Beautiful and smiley women all sit in their nursing outfits behind the defense table. Usually, the jury can see through this ruse.
Luckily, I have won all of the nursing home abuse trials that I have handled here in the Greensboro area. I have also won two arbitrations involving local abuse cases. Admittedly, given the difficult laws, I try to only take the best cases. This greatly increases the likelihood of a positive verdict. Some of these cases did appear to cause some changes. Usually, there is a temporary spike in staffing levels and a change in management. Sometimes, it is so bad that they also change the name of the nursing home itself. You would probably be very surprised to learn that large nursing home chains own the vast majority of homes. You should ask what corporation actually owns your home before you allow a resident to go there. If you would like a ranking of our local Greensboro area nursing homes, then click on Nursing Home Ranking. I am trying to summarize all of the homes in our community.
In summary, nursing home abuse and neglect cases in North Carolina should be pursued by families and attorneys. Such lawsuits and the threat of litigation may be the only tool we have to force nursing homes to provide better care. It is our obligation to not let it slide. The ultimate goal is the force corporations to hire more staff and pay the nurses and CNAs better wages. Staffing is the key indicator for good care. Let's make the nursing homes do the right thing for the residents and not just the right thing for themselves.