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The Best Watchdog Journalism on Elderly Care

This week, we launched an interactive tool that lets you search nursing home inspection reports. Here are the types of stories that could be buried in those files.

This week, we launched Nursing Home Inspect, an interactive tool that lets you search more than 20,000 inspection reports from nursing homes nationwide. Below is a sampling of the types of stories that could be buried in those reports. If you know about more great watchdog journalism on nursing homes, leave a link in the comments.

A Rampant Prescription, A Hidden Peril, Boston Globe, April 2012
Nursing homes nationwide are giving antipsychotics to residents who don't need the potent pill. Side effects include stupor and, for those with dementia, potentially death. Administrators say the data exaggerate the issue, and industry executives maintain that the 20-year-old regulations are out of date. The second half of the series looked at alternatives to antipsychotics. (A search for "antipsychotic" in our nursing home app led to 2,310 results.)

Trust and Neglect, Detroit Free Press, December 2011
Between 2008 and 2011, three quarters of Michigan's nursing homes received serious violations — nearly twice the national average. The best homes, according to the last piece in the series, had managed to hire and retain good staff, involved families in decisions and developed individualized programs. (An administrator of a Michigan nursing home also told us that the state's inspectors find more problems, and issue steeper fines, than in other states.)

Violated: "Broken" System Fails Elderly Abuse Victims, Star Tribune, October 2011
As Minnesota's regulators struggled to meet federal benchmarks, elderly residents and their families became frustrated with the lack of punishment for abusive caretakers. State Department of Health officials said they were aware of their own shortcomings, and pointed out that their strategy emphasized correcting problems, rather than punishment. They had also added staff in an effort to improve investigations.

Falsified Patient Records Are Untold Story of California Nursing Home Care, Sacramento Bee, September 2011
Spanning two decades, 150 alleged falsification cases give some insight into how California caregivers altered records to cover up lapses in care that put patients at risk and sometimes led to death. Though citations declined between 2000 and 2010, officials, attorneys and advocates said it's because falsification is not a priority; regulators often discover violations during investigations into other issues.

Neglected to Death, The Miami Herald, April 2011
Though not exactly nursing homes, Florida's assisted-living facilities, created as a safe space for the state's elderly and mentally ill, were wracked with problems — like neglected residents who wander off only to be eaten by an alligator or drown in a pond. Facilities that also housed the mentally ill had an abuse rate twice that of normal facilities.

Nursing Homes Received Millions While Cutting Staff, Wages, California Watch, April 2010
A 2004 California law gave $880 million in additional funding for nursing homes to hire caregivers and boost wages. But by 2008, several homes had cut staffing and wages in an attempt to boost profits. Meanwhile, complaints filed by patients, families and advocates increased 23 percent.

Compromised Care, Chicago Tribune, September 2009
In 2009, Illinois housed psychiatric patients, some of whom were convicted felons, next to the elderly. They accounted for 15 percent of Illinois' nursing home population, and lax oversight and understaffing allowed rapes and assaults. Though this investigation prompted state reform in 2010, nursing homes have struggled to implement the changes.

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