Does Your Loved One Need Hospice Care? Be Diligent to Minimize Risk of Neglect or Abuse
When your loved one is facing his or her final days, more than just about anything, you want him or her to experience a minimal amount of discomfort or pain. Unfortunately, with the current state of, or lack of, inspections of hospice care facilities, the likelihood that your loved will suffer unnecessarily because of neglect or abuse is significant. According to at least one study, the average period of time between state inspections of hospice facilities is six years. The average nursing home has an annual inspection and home health care providers are subject to review every three years.
One of the principal challenges in inspecting hospice providers and ensuring minimal standards of care is that most hospice care is done in the patient’s home. Even when hospice workers go to nursing homes or assisted living, inspectors can be challenged to observe them at work. Furthermore, the temporary nature of the care and the privacy of the hospice patients also make it difficult to conduct a meaningful inspection. According to studies, many patients in hospice care suffer from treatable medical conditions that either are ignored or go unnoticed by hospice workers. Further complicating matters and increasing the likelihood of potential abuse is that most families of former hospice patients are reluctant to file grievances about the quality of care, either feeling unqualified to make such observations, or too consumed by grief to be willing to instigate action.
Inspection of hospice facilities generally falls under the auspices of Medicare. Medicare provides the funding for states to conduct inspections of hospice facilities, and determines how much money is available to conduct inspections. Based on the dollars available, Medicare may change the guidelines from year to year—in 2009, inspections were only required once every 10 years.
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