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Austin Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

One of the key issues that face many nursing care facilities around the country is funding. With the population of Austin booming more every year, the number of elderly citizens in need of care at a long term healthcare facility increases exponentially. The mayor of Austin has recently spoken out about the growing need for more low-income senior care facilities. But with the next five years predicted to bring growth in the senior population of Austin, to the tune of 39%, the changes can’t come fast enough.

These statistics come from the Aging Services Council of Central Texas, which also estimates that over 25,000 of the senior citizens living in Austin are malnourished, including half of the elderly people who are in long-term care facilities.

Funding for Disability Services

The problem of funding doesn’t only apply to nursing and rehabilitation centers. The largest nonprofit provider of in-home care for disabled citizens in Texas, the Helping Restore Ability in Arlington, is struggling is to stay afloat. With all of the new clients, the funding simply isn’t enough to keep up with the demand.

State agencies like the Department of Aging and Disability Services and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services provide funding for those who cannot afford the costs of private in-home care through this agency, which pays 95% of all funding to the caregivers. The other 5% goes to cover the administrative employees’ salary and overhead. Even without a profit margin, the distribution of state funds to the newly licensed full-cost 1,200 agencies has severely cut the incoming cash flow.

Two other Texas agencies for disability services have discontinued their services entirely, referring all of their clients to the Helping Restore Ability facility, creating an even larger surge of clients to serve.

Texas Senate Health Committee

In addition to funding problems, the Texas Senate Health Committee has recently begun looking into the disparity between the imposed penalties on nursing home facilities in 2015, and the number of violations. According to the statistics, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave over half of the nursing homes in Texas less than three stars, more below-average ratings than any other state in America.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services Commissioner claims that the reason for the low number of penalties in the face of the reported violations is very simple: they are attempting to correct the issues in the nursing home facilities, rather than focusing their attention on levying penalties.

Groups like the Texas AARP aren’t impressed by the slow moving of the DADS, claiming that facilities are avoiding being answerable to the law of Texas, in Austin and many other cities. The state lawmakers, spurned on by the AARP and groups like them, are beginning deeper investigations, especially considering the high turnover rates of Texas nursing facilities. One solution that has been considered is paying facilities higher Medicaid rates to afford more staff.

Texas State Law

The laws regarding elder care in the Austin and surrounding areas clearly lay out the types of misdemeanors and felonies that could be levied against those who abuse or neglect elders. The penalties that these facilities have so far avoided include heavy fines and possible jail time.

The Austin courts have the authority under the law to find the nursing staff, management staff, and directors of nursing care guilty in the cases of proven abuse or neglect. This includes neglect caused by short staffing issues, and a lack of proper medical care caused by a lack of funds. Healthcare facilities who are found guilty of serious abuse crimes could also be shut down, resulting in even more burdensome overflow for other facilities.

Sources:

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/opinion/angel-zischkale-needs-grow-greater-as-austin-grows/nqtGx/

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/arlington-citizen-journal/article66745677.html

http://kut.org/post/lawmakers-debate-how-keep-texas-nursing-homes-accountable

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