In a frightening and eye-opening piece in The New York Times today, reporter Robert Pear wrote that 94 percent of nursing homes across the country have violations, and that a full and staggering 100 percent of Washington, DC, elder care facilities have violations.  In the article, Pear expands to say that the report was made by the Department of Human Services and that the study also found that 17 percent of nursing homes suffered from problems that caused “actual harm or immediate jeopardy.”

Nursing home abuse inspectors received 37,150 complaints nationwide last year, with 39 percent of those complains holding water, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson told The New York Times. Twenty percent of the complaints were verified by both federal and state agents who concluded that the claims did indeed involve the abuse and neglect of the elders in their care.

Among the laundry list of problems mentioned, poor nutrition, medication mix-ups, infected bedsores, and general cases of neglect and abuse were the most common complaints, with for-profit homes incurring more complains than other kinds of senior living facilities. Two out of three nursing homes are privately run for-profit entities, while the remainder are non-profits or government-run facilities.  Other types of abuse other than physical cases were also recorded. For example, Levinson cited that many for-profit sites billed their patients and their patients families for services that were not provided at all.

“For-profit nursing homes had a higher average number of deficiencies than the other types of nursing homes,” Mr. Levinson said. “In 2007, for-profit nursing homes averaged 7.6 deficiencies per home, while not-for-profit and government homes averaged 5.7 and 6.3, respectively.”

In response to these shocking numbers, Levinson has issued a compliance guide for the elder care homes that performed especially badly this year. He also pointed out that the inspection system as it stands now is not working properly. As the system stands now, the country’s 15,000 nursing homes are inspected once a year. Passing inspection is one condition for the adult care facilities to participate in the Medicaid and Medicare programs that cover over two-thirds of their residents.

Bruce Yardwood, the president of the American Health Care Association, agreed that although nursing home facilities need to do a better job, the system of inspection was also flawed. “We know we have to do a better job. We have been doing a better job, in treating pressure sores, managing pain and reducing the use of physical restraints. [the inspection system] does not reliably measure quality,” he continued. “It does not create any positive incentives.”