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A Case For Reform of Texas Nursing Homes

Carolyn Hartman’s mother, Myrtle Hartman, died last spring after spending eight years in a Central Texas nursing facility.

Two weeks before Myrtle’s death, Carolyn learned that her mother, at the age of 93, was being given – without necessary consent -- an-anti-anxiety medication with serious side effects. But that’s not all. There were other serious health concerns facing her mother that shocked the Hartman family.

“A phone call came one morning that she had severe pain in her right hip,” said Carolyn. Though Myrtle had been in a wheelchair for four years, an X-ray showed a recent fracture.

“She apparently fell down or, you know, was dropped maybe,” Carolyn told AARP Texas.

A 2015 Texas Sunset Advisory Commission and numerous other studies, including a recent report by AARP Texas, have found that Texas nursing homes perform poorly when it comes to providing quality care to residents. Texas has more serious violations than most states, with Texas ranking third in the nation in the rate of serious violations per nursing facility. The violations include such things as burns, assaults and broken bones. Studies also show that Texas ranks 42 nd in the nation for inappropriate use of antipsychotics.

Senate Bill 932 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) is among several bills being considered in the Texas Legislature that could have a major impact on the quality of care for thousands of residents of Texas nursing facilities. The Senate Health & Human Services Committee discussed the bill on Monday, March 27, and representatives from AARP Texas testified in support. It's expected to come to a vote within days.

SB 932 would substantially revise the state’s “right to correct” law, a loophole that allows facilities to avoid penalty by making quick fixes after an inspection. Too often, the result is a persistence of poor quality care and harm to nursing home residents. SB 932 would also change penalties to deal more stringently with facilities that commit repeat and escalating violations.

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