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August 26, 2014

Editor's Note: The first three articles of this issue of The Gazette all pertain to the importance of staffing to achieve quality nursing home care and the related concern of using objective data to determine staffing levels in specific facilities.  Such data improves the quality of reports about nursing homes and enables consumers to make fair and effective choices.

Members of Congress Urge CMS to Implement a Payroll Data Collection System

Following the lead of Consumer Voice and partner advocacy organizations, six members of the House of Representatives wrote to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner urging CMS to prioritize full implementation of sections 6103 and 6106 of the Affordable Care Act which require nursing home staffing information be obtained through a payroll data collection system.  Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Charles Rangel (D-NY) noted the importance of accurate staffing data as a quality measure and highlighted the problems inherent in reliance on self-reporting by nursing homes.  Staffing levels and nursing home quality are directly linked, so accurate staffing data, like that from a payroll data collection system, is imperative to ensure that the most vulnerable Americans get the quality health care services they need.  These reports are also a basis for CMS's five-star nursing home rating system.  The letter concluded that "failure to implement a payroll-based data collection system for nursing homes would be a waste of already expended public resources, a violation of the law, and a deprivation of the public's right to accurate information."  Read the full letter here.

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New York Times Article Sheds Light on Flawed Five-Star Rating System for Nursing Homes

A recent New York Times article put a spotlight on the flawed Medicare five-star rating system for nursing homes.  For the last five years, Medicare has been assigning ratings to almost every nursing home in the country.  The ratings are based on a combination of on-site evaluation and self-reported data by the nursing homes, but only one of the three criteria - results of annual health inspections - relies on assessments from independent reviewers.  Staff levels and quality statistics, the other measures, are reported by the nursing homes and accepted by Medicare without further review.  The ratings do not take into account fines, enforcement actions by state authorities or complaints filed with state agencies by consumers. The New York Times analysis of the data showed that even nursing homes with a history of poor care rated highly in the areas reliant on self-reported data.  Toby S. Edelman from the Center for Medicare Advocacy noted, "These are among the very worst facilities, and yet they are self-reporting data that gives them very high staffing and very high quality measures.  It seems implausible."  For more information, read the full article.

For further insight into consumer reactions to the quality of nursing home care, read the comments linked to the article.

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Study Suggests that Staffing Levels May Be Predictor of Quality of Life in Nursing Homes

A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health published in Research on Aging revealed that a nursing home's staffing levels are among the most important factors determing a resident's quality of life over time.  The study showed that increasing activity staff hours positively impacted quality-of-life (QOL) measures for nursing homes showing declining or mixed results in QOL measures over time.  The researchers noted, "Perhaps high-performing facilities are more adept at engaing RNs with residents on a personal level, allowing them to develop meaningful relationships outside of the clinical encounter."  They also observed that facilities that were improving also had a higher number of RN hours to begin with, so the nurses might be better able to facilitate activities and engagement. Read the full study here.

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"The Thin Edge of Dignity": Moving Video Reveals Life in an Assisted Living Facility

"The Thin Edge of Dignity" is a video by Dr. Richard Weinman about his experiences while living in an assisted living facility in Oregon.   In the 20-minute video, Dr. Weinman shares his thought on his life before he moved into the assisted living facility and how his life has changed.  The purpose of the video is to communicate a consumer's experience and assess opportunities to increase person-centeredness.  Watch the video here.

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September is National Preparedness Month

Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, electrical outages...whew, disasters happen! But September is National Preparedness Month, and this year's theme is "Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare."  Download the 2014 National Preparedness Month toolkit here and learn more at: www.ready.gov/september.

Emergency Preparedness resources are available from the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center including emergency planning checklists, resources for ombudsman and advocates, ombudsman activities, information from other states and ombudsman best practices.  Click here for these resources.

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12 Reasons to Attend the 38th Annual Consumer Voice Conference

#2: Visit Legislators on the Hill

After gaining new skills and tools at the advocacy training, take what you've learned to deliver your message to members of Congress.  The Consumer Voice's Marybeth Williams, Public Policy Associate, will lead a group of advocates on Hill visits.  Come to promote issues important to you or use talking points provided by the Consumer Voice.  Register for the conference, then sign-up for the Hill visits by emailing Marybeth at mwilliams@theconsumervoice.org

#1: Get Advocacy Training

Attend the Consumer Voice Annual Conference and experience one of a kind advocacy skills training and acquire important resources and tools.

Find more information and register for the conference.

Stay tuned for 10 more reasons to attend the Consumer Voice Annual Conference...

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Upcoming Webinars:

Get Prepared to Make Timely Decisions for Your Retirement, Tuesday, September 9th 1:00pm EST - This webcast, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, will provide information on making the most of your employer-provided retirement plan and checking if your retirement savings are on track.  The Social Security Administration and CMS will discuss Social Security and Medicare benefits including factors to consider in deciding when to sign up for these benefits and what they cover.  The ACL Administration on Aging will discuss elder rights and how to avoid abuse and scams.

Pass It On: Older Adults, Fraud and the Federal Trade Commission, Wednesday, September 10th 2:00pm EST - This free webinar from the Federal Trade Commisssion (FTC) and the National Consumer Law Center will discuss FTC's new consumer education campaign for active older people - Pass It On.  Pass It On reinforces what older adults already know about some common scams and gives them the tools to start conversations about these scams with a friend, neighbor or relative.  The webinar will discuss the Pass It On campaign, the scams that it seeks to address and ideas for passing it on.

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First Advocacy Training

Consumer Voice is holding its first training session of grassroots long-term care advocates today in Alexandria, VA. Similar training sessions will be held in selected cities across the U.S. Additionally, the complete training will be offered as part of this year's Annual Consumer Voice Conference. For conference information, click here.

In this Issue

Members of Congress Urge CMS to Implement a Payroll Data Collection System

New York Times Article Sheds Light on Flawed Five-Star Rating System for Nursing Homes

Study Suggests that Staffing Levels May Be Predictor of Quality of Life in Nursing Homes

"The Thin Edge of Dignity": Moving Video Reveals Life in an Assisted Living Facility

September is National Preparedness Month

12 Reasons to Attend the 38th Annual Consumer Voice Conference

Upcoming Webinars

First Advocacy Training

Special Alert: RN Bill - What You Can Do

On July 31st, Rep. Jan Schakowsky introduced legislation to require nursing homes to have a registered nurse (RN) on duty around the clock, not just eight hours a day.  She noted that hospitals are releasing patients to nursing care with more medical needs than ever – and qualified healthcare is necessary around the clock.  Her Bill, HR 5373, would fix a problem that goes back decades and long before the 1987 Nursing Home Reform law: nursing homes need nurses!

Adequate staffing is critical to achieving quality long-term care – and Consumer Voice is dedicated to that goal.  We are doing all we can to focus on staffing and particularly to support Rep. Schakowsky’s bill.  This is a great opportunity.  Please help us help all long-term care consumers by making a contribution today to our Special RN Campaign.  Your help will make a difference.

4.1 It CAN Be Done!

As part of our newly launched nursing home staffing campaign, Better Staffing: The Key to Better Care, Consumer Voice is advocating for a minimum of 4.1 hours of nursing care per resident per day.  To show your support of this campaign, individuals can send us a photo with the slogan "4.1 - It CAN Be Done" by tweeting us pictures @ConsumerVoices, posting on our Facebook or emailing your photos to info@theconsumervoice.org.  Get the word out and encourage consumers to participate by sending in their photos too! 

You can join the Better Staffing: The Key to Better Care campaign, learn more about the campaign's goals, access the campaign advocacy toolkit, and take action at: www.theconsumervoice.org/betterstaffing

Most recent supporters:

Texas Department of Aging & Disability Services

Calendar of Events

Thursday, August 28: Geriatric Assessment, 12:00pm EST, Part 2 of Geriatrics-Compentent Care Webinar Series

Tuesday, September 9: Get Prepared to Make Timely Decisions for Your Retirement, 1:00pm EST, Webcast from the US Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration

Wednesday, September 10: Pass It On: Older Adults, Fraud, and the Federal Trade Commission 2:00pm EST, Webinar from the Federal Trade Commission and the National Consumer Law Center

September 13-18, 2014: National Home & Community Based Services Conference, Arlington, VA

October: 2014 Residents' Rights Month, Better Staffing: The Key to Better Care

Monday, October 20: Discussing POLST with Persons with Early Alzheimer's Disease, 3:00pm EST, Webinar in yearly series from the National POLST Paradigm

November 15-18, 2014: Consumer Voice Annual Conference at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington, VA Register now.

Provide a Scholarship to the Consumer Voice Annual Conference

Many advocates are not able to afford to attend the Consumer Voice Annual Conference to experience the best speakers in the field, opportunities to network with colleagues and time to interact directly with long-term care consumers.  This year, we have created a special giving opportunity for Scholarships.  If you are able, please give as many scholarships as you can.  We would be delighted to obtain support for an additional 50 people.  Provide a scholarship by making a donation of $295 x the number of scholarships you would like to give.  Contributors to the Consumer Voice Annual Conference receive many benefits.  For more information about contributing to the conference, click here.

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About The Gazette

The Gazette is a weekly e-newsletter, published by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. If you do not wish to continue receiving this publication, please unsubscribe below. Your contributions and comments are welcome and should be sent to info@theconsumervoice.org. Copyright © 2014.

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The Consumer Voice is the leading national voice representing consumers in issues related to long-term care, helping to ensure that consumers are empowered to advocate for themselves. We are a primary source of information and tools for consumers, families, caregivers, advocates and ombudsmen to help ensure quality care for the individual. The Consumer Voice's mission is to represent consumers at the national level for quality long-term care, services and supports.

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