Consumer website missing 60% of substantiated complaints against senior living communities: report

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File photo. (Michigan State University)
File photo. (Michigan State University)

More than 60% of substantiated complaints of substandard care involving Oregon assisted living communities, residential care facilities, adult foster homes and nursing facilities made since 2005 have not been published on a state website for consumers, according to an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com.

“The excluded complaints, all validated by the department's own employees, show cases of elderly residents being punched, pushed, slapped or sexually abused by staff,” according to the media outlet. “Other missing complaints describe residents who had valuables stolen or who landed in the emergency room after getting the wrong medication.”

Linda Kirschbaum, senior vice president of quality services for the Oregon Health Care Association, told the newspaper, “We support full transparency of completed abuse investigation reports being online.”

The omissions by the state Department of Human Services add up to almost 8,000 substantiated complaints and misrepresent the track records of 91% of the 642 senior living and long-term care communities in the state, according to the article. Additionally, reporters Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry said, consumers may have difficulty researching more than 25% of facilities in the state because they have changed ownership, and complaints on the site are listed only under a facility's current name.

The department keeps information related to all substantiated cases on an internal website but has a policy to publish on its consumer website only cases in which facilities, not solely workers, were found to have been responsible for abuse, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.com. The department also does not post many complaints deemed to have involved no harm, even if its managers determined that the issues involved were serious enough to deserve additional action, the media outlet said. And the public posting guidelines are open to interpretation or classification mistakes by workers, according to the report.

The agency told the newspaper that it plans to replace the website, although it has no timeline for doing so and said it could take years.

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