More than half of nursing homes in WNY rated average or below

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - There are tough decisions to be made when deciding which nursing home is best for a loved one.

“There are places that you and I would not want to be in,” said Toby Laping, a geriatric care consultant who has been working in the field for 35 years.

Anyone who’s been through the elder care minefield understands that not all nursing homes are created equal.

“It’s a hard job,” said Anthony H. Szczygiel, a UB Law Professor  who supervises a clinic that works with Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled and Disadvantaged of WNY.

“Nursing homes have to operate every day of the year. They don’t take Christmas off. They don’t take Fourth of July off. Someone has to be there providing the right quality of care for quite a range of needs,” said Szczygiel, an expert in long term care.

Nursing Home Compare — a web site run by Medicare — tracks quality of care information on every Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing home in the country.

Facilities are given an overall rating of 1 to 5 stars based on inspections, staffing and quality.

SPECIAL FEATURE | You can look up information on any nursing home in Western New York. Nursing homes can be looked up by name, by city or by rating. Mobile users can click this link to see the database

“I would certainly encourage people to do that quick search before they make any kind of decisions about nursing homes,” Szczygiel said.

“One or two star facility is likely very bad,” said Richard Mollot, executive director, Long Term Care Community Coalition, a national consumer advocacy organization. He told News 4 Investigates that nursing homes industry-wide tend to be understaffed. “We recommend that people look at nursing homes in the upper range of 4 or 5 stars and be very concerned when there is, especially 1 or 2 stars, for nursing homes,” he said.

Madeline Huber is currently a resident of the new Terrace View Long-Term Care Facility on Grider Street run by Erie County Medical Center Corporation. Previously she had been residing at ECMC’s Skilled Nursing Facility which is no longer in operation.

Both facilities have been named in a Notice of Claim, the first step toward a possible civil lawsuit.  “Our investigation showed that not only was Ms. Huber not receiving daily, adequate care but others were not as well,” said Michael Scinta, an attorney with the Brown-Chiari Law Firm which is representing Madeline Huber.

The allegations in the claim include that the facility failed to provide appropriate grooming and hygiene services, failed to provide a timely response to resident’s needs and failed to meet basic human needs.

Nursing home
Click photo to see the story of one family who filed a complaint against their mother’s local nursing home.

“If somebody’s not provided the appropriate services. Somebody is left with uncut food and unassisted in front of them. They’re left cold. They’re left on the toilet. They’re going to the bathroom before they’re able to be transferred to the toilet because they can’t wait any longer. That relates directly to a resident’s dignity,” said Scinta.

Terrace View — according to Nursing Home Compare data — has an overall rating of one out of five stars which is much below average in ratings released on Thursday. The facility’s June rating was two stars. Erie County Medical Center Corporation declined to comment on the Notice of Claim.

Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., spokesman issued the following statement about Terrace View which opened in 2013:

“Terrace View is a vast improvement over the former facilities and we are disappointed that while our overall score improved, our Star Rating decreased.  While this rating does not take into account all aspects of care at Terrace View, we take all inspections and ratings very seriously and we always strive to improve the care we deliver. Our No. 1 priority continues to be the quality care we deliver to residents.”

When deciding on a nursing home, experts suggest that you consider the following:

  • Know what your family member needs
  • Visit the facility
  • Talk with other residents and families
  • Find out if the facility has a specialty
  • Familiarize yourself with the financial issues

Experts also suggest that you ask these questions of your family member:

  • Do they have long-term care insurance?
  • Can they afford to pay out-of-pocket?
  • Is your loved one Medicaid eligible?

Laping, the geriatric care consultant, said it could take months for Medicaid to approve a case and start the money flowing to the nursing home

“In the meantime the facility has no money coming in for your loved one,” said Laping. “So, they would rather not take a patient typically with one or two months only of private pay then have a patient who is Medicaid approved. At least they’ll know that they’re going to get money from the first day.”

The nursing home industry is big business. And despite how confusing it can be payments drive the system.  It’s estimated that the cost of private pay nursing home care in Western New York ranges from $8,000 to $13,000 per month — per patient.

According to a U.S.Census Bureau report, less than one-fifth of older people have the personal financial resources to live in a nursing home for more than three years, and  nearly two-thirds cannot afford even one year.

Medicare only pays for short-term care — no more than 100 days.

Medicaid, for low income patients, covers long-term care in certified facilities.

“From the administrator’s point of view at a nursing home my first preference would be someone who could private pay for a while obviously because I can charge them more money. Secondly, I’d like someone who’s already on Medicaid. Third would be someone who says well I can apply for Medicaid. I’m not on there yet,” Szczygiel said.

The bottom line is, people with limited upfront cash are generally left with fewer choices when it comes to nursing home placement.

Once you have settled on a nursing home, the next hurdle is figuring out how to get admitted.

“The easiest way to get into a nursing home is from a hospital and if one enters from a hospital to a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation,” said Laping.

There are other placement factors such as a patient’s behavioral history.

“Even a patient with money can have difficulty getting placed if the behaviors are too hard to manage,” said Laping.

Experts said choosing the right nursing home is perhaps one of the most important decisions anyone can make for a loved one in need of 24/7 care.

There’s a lot to consider. Not the least of which involves the level of care being provided and the most important issue– the level of staffing.

The system certainly has its flaws and may not work the best for everybody but there are some very well, high-quality homes out there and nursing homes administrators that are doing their best to serve a lot of the population that we have in Erie County,” said Randy Hoak, Erie County Senior Services commissioner.

News 4 Investigates looked at 72 nursing homes in the Western New York region from federal records and we have posted the information on  WIVB.com.

SPECIAL FEATURE | You can look up information on any nursing home in Western New York. Nursing homes can be looked up by name, by city or by rating. Mobile users can click this link to see the database

After analyzing the data from the Nursing Home Compare web site we discovered that more than half, 51 percent, are ranked average or lower; a third or 33 percent had an overall rating of one or two stars.

“None of us are getting younger, and we may all need this type of assistance some day and I think the hope is that we can place our trust in a facility that they will do what they promised to do,” said Scinta.

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