Massachusetts Nursing Home Advertising Update: “Alzheimer’s Specialty Care,” “Memory Care” Advertising Now Scrutinized

In my previous posts on this important subject, I wrote of the growing number of Massachusetts nursing homes that are making advertising and marketing claims that they “specialize” in caring for Alzheimer’s Disease patients and other patients suffering from dementia. They like to use terms such as “Memory Care Center,” “Alzheimer’s Specialty Units,” and similar.

I’ve previously warned my readers not to buy this marketing so quickly. Over 60% of it is pure lies: Gross exaggerations that seek to capitalize on the growing population of people suffering from dementia. This week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) announced the enactment of regulations that (in theory) prohibit Massachusetts nursing care centers and nursing homes from making these claims, unless they have first complied with certain qualifications.

This action by the DPH follows a July investigation by the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire of this growing trend of false and misleading advertising by Massachusetts nursing care centers. That study determined that over 60 percent of Massachusetts nursing facilities making claims of “specializing” in Alzheimer’s Disease, “Memory Care,” “Dementia Care, “Cognitive Care,” and similar, could produce no proof that these facilities specialized in any of these critical areas. In fact, most had not completed any specialty training, specialty staffing, physical plant design or program changes required to advertise as a nursing facility “specializing” in dementia care. These Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association’s discoveries mirrored those produced by a smaller investigation that The Boston Globe conducted in February 2015.

A letter from the DPH has been sent to all nursing home that states, “A facility which does not operate a dementia special care unit may not include a reference to dementia care or memory care in a list of provided services . . . even with a disclaimer that the facility does not operate a dementia special care unit.”

The Alzheimer’s Association has devoted years to advocating for similar laws, designed to close loopholes that had allowed nursing homes to make these false claims. James Wessler, president of the Alzheimer’s Association, commented that he is pleased with the new regulations, saying “We like to see dementia special care units, but we want to make sure they are providing the quality of care they should be providing.”

As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, so do I. I’ve seen far too many cases of Massachusetts nursing home patient abuse than I care to know. And I’m glad that these new regulations have been put into effect. But as a Boston injury attorney who is very familiar with nursing home neglect & abuse, I should warn anyone who might be impacted by this serious issue: Do NOT think that just because these regulations have been put into effect, that this “solves” the problem – that Massachusetts nursing homes & nursing care centers will all, immediately and permanently, obey these regulations. The Massachusetts DPH, unfortunately, is notoriously under-staffed and unreliable. You must be your loved one’s advocate, in making sure that whatever Massachusetts long-term care facility that your loved one is in, is providing appropriate care to your loved one. If you’re unsure and need the professional guidance of a Massachusetts elder care attorney, seek out an experienced one. Do not go to a generalist.

Post Script: On related note, I’ve previously written about Synergy Health Systems, an out of state nursing home chain with a horrible reputation for patient care, that’s been buying up smaller, locally owned Massachusetts nursing homes. State investigators have stepped up their investigation of this chain, finding even more disturbing instances of patient neglect than I previously blogged about. One of the more recent examples of this outfit is New England Health Center in Sunderland, Massachusetts. Boston Globe Reporter Kay Lazar recently reported on this she’s a solid reporter. Click here to read that story.