Massachusetts Nursing Homes That Claim To “Specializing” in Alzheimer’s Care, Probably Don’t

Make a buck – at any cost. That’s what drives so many businesses, whether it’s product manufacturing or service providers. False or misleading advertising? Means nothing to most businesses.

But it should, especially when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society: The elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Yet, still, it doesn’t. Exhibit “A“: The rapid rise in the number of Massachusetts residents and other Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. As the population ages and lives longer, the increase in elderly people who become afflicted with this horrid disease (and even relatively younger people in their fifties,) is exploding exponentially. And with this explosion of Alzheimer’s victims, comes an economic opportunism that in some cases is even criminal: Nursing homes who advertise that they “specialize” in the care of Alzheimer’s patients – when they don’t have any such “specialty.” Many of these Massachusetts nursing homes even call themselves Alzheimer’s “Care Centers.”

The truth? Most of them are nothing more than standard nursing homes; warehouses for the near-dead and worse-off-than-dead. I know that there are many nursing homes out there that are better than most; that their owners and operators try their best to provide the best care to their patients that they can. And I wish there were more ethical nursing homes. But as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect & abuse attorney, I can tell you that the sad fact is that the majority of nursing homes, inside Massachusetts and outside, are horrid places. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t.

This sad fact was brought out in a recent Boston Globe story, which exposed the fact that almost 60 per cent of Massachusetts nursing homes regularly engage in false claims that they provide “special” care for Alzheimer’s patients and other dementia victims. Don’t believe these claims. The Alzheimer’s Association of Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire recently released a review that made clear that at least 60 percent of nursing homes that make such claims, are engaging in false advertising. Reason: They know there’s a fast-growing market out there; there’s cash to be made – and many nursing homes don’t care how they make it. The Alzheimer’s Association studied advertising from nearly 320 nursing homes, and discovered that 114 of them either advertised or suggested that they provide “special” care to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive impairments — but provided no proof that they have complied with new “regulations” concerning such nursing home claims.

If you are either considering a nursing home for a loved one, or now have a loved one in a nursing home, don’t rely on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to assure the care of your loved one. The DPH, which oversees Massachusetts nursing homes, has done little if anything to ensure compliance with new laws governing nursing homes and Massachusetts assisted living facilities. They’re under-staffed, and under-motivated. This is despite the fact that the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association fought extremely hard to pass a new law in 2012 designed in part to prohibit deceptive and misleading advertising by nursing homes in this state. James Wessler, president of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association, has stated that “People’s lives are at risk. This is misinformation to the general public, and it’s one of the things we wanted to stop – having nursing homes claiming they have special care and not be in compliance with minimal standards of dementia care.”

State Senator Patricia Jehlen, who chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs and who also cosponsored the 2012 dementia care law, is troubled by the Alzheimer’s Associations findings. “This is wrong,” said Jehlen. “Families need to know this was the intent of the law, that [nursing homes] could not make false claims and there would be some quality standard. People [in the Legislature] are very concerned.”

The unfortunate truth is that this new law is a toothless tiger: It is completely lacking in enforcement – and the DPH itself has publicly acknowledged that its nursing home “inspectors” do not monitor compliance with this law, at all.

Shocking, isn’t it? Though, more accurately, a better term would be “immoral,” “unconscionable,” or “reprehensible.” Take your choice. To learn which Massachusetts nursing homes are among the worst offenders, look for my next post on this subject, is a few days.

Why should you stay informed and active on this subject? Because not only may a loved one of yours one day in the future become a victim of Massachusetts nursing home neglect or abuse. You might, too.