Nursing home facilities provide an essential service for the elderly population, and a service that, according to some predictions, around half of Americans age 65 and older will make use of at some point in their lives. Because most people have to deal with skilled nursing home care at some point, either for a loved one or for themselves, all of us should be concerned about the quality of care at these facilities.
Fortunately, the quality of nursing home care here in Pennsylvania is ranked quite highly. According to a recent assessment of figures from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Pennsylvania nursing homes rank better than the national average in 8 of 11 measurable quality areas, having improved in 10 of the 11 areas last year. The high ranking is certainly good news, but improvements can always be made and negligence still does occur.
Interestingly, Stuart Shapiro, CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association and Center for Assisted Living Management, has commented that “frivolous litigation” is still a problem faced by skilled nursing facilities. By “frivolous,” of course, is meant legal claims which have no merit and which should never be brought in the first place.
Whether you consider any given tort claim against a skilled nursing facility to be groundless depends to an extent on where your sympathies lie—whether with vulnerable patients and their families or with the nursing home industry. This isn’t to say that there is no such thing as frivolous lawsuits against nursing home facilities, but only to point out that determining the merits of a legal claim is not something those representing the nursing home industry can do with pure objectivity.
Patients who have been seriously harmed by the negligence of a nursing home facility, as well as their families, have a right to seek compensation for their injuries. Working with an experienced and ethical legal advocate can help to ensure not only that one’s legal claims against a skilled nursing facility have merit, but also that the rights and interests of the patient and his or her family will be well represented throughout the legal process.