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What does Massachusetts’ nursing home rating mean for residents?

Verified ombudsman complaints and severe deficiencies indicate that Massachusetts nursing home residents may be in danger of abuse or neglect.

Choosing a nursing home in Massachusetts can be confusing, involving factors that a person may not even know to investigate. A nursing home advocacy group, Families for Better Care, has gathered data about facilities and provided grades for each state based on criteria that may help people make more informed decisions regarding their care.

Although overall, the state did well in national rankings, coming it at number 11, Massachusetts came in 48 th in verified ombudsman complaints, a serious failing. The state also had a high number of facilities where severe deficiencies were discovered that could lead to nursing home injuries.

High number of complaints indicates risks

Nursing home residents, staff and visitors have access to a qualified representative called a long term care ombudsman, who listens to complaints, investigates them and works to correct the issues, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. The goal of the ombudsman program is to ensure that residents receive care that results in their best possible quality of life. Ombudsmen visit facilities frequently and invite those who have concerns about the welfare of residents to provide information about problems. Since the source of the complaint is confidential, there is no need to worry about retaliation, and people are free to be candid.

Families for Better Care information shows that, in 2013, the ombudsmen verified 95.17 percent of all the complaints that they received. The statistics were even worse in 2014, with 96.2 percent verified. The extremely high percentage does not mean that every nursing home facility in the state had a large number of complaints. However, the organization warns it does suggest that issues prompting the grievances are likely to be prevalent.

Deficiencies point to threats of injury

Although there are an unusually high number of nursing homes in the state that had no deficiencies at all, more than 77 percent had at least one, and investigators identified 23.46 percent of the state’s nursing homes with severe deficiencies. These indicated harm or imminent danger of harm to residents. This statistic was consistent of findings for both 2013 and 2014.

Regular inspections and ombudsman representation do help identify and resolve many problems, but at times, this is not to protect residents from abuse and neglect.

When a resident is harmed, a family member may want to pursue litigation for two reasons. A personal injury attorney may be able to help victims receive compensation to cover all damages, including pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost quality of life. In addition, holding responsible parties accountable may prevent others from being injured in the same way.