Florida tragedy highlights challenge for families seeking senior care

Updated: Sep. 14, 2017 at 10:22 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Medicare records show a "below-average" rating for a Florida nursing home where an air conditioning outage led to the deaths of eight elderly clients.

The deaths are linked to heat conditions that developed at the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Hollywood police have launched a criminal investigation into the home's operations.

A city spokeswoman says fire crews had been called to the facility 127 times over a one year period.

The nursing home's sub-par rating is an example of information available online to any family including here in South Carolina trying to determine whether a senior care facility has a history of poor performance.

The web site Medicare.gov allows users to access details about any facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding. The site provides ratings on a scale of one to five in areas including health and fire safety inspections, staffing levels, dietary programs and penalties assessed for regulatory violations.

The site also allows visitors to compare ratings of as many as three facilities at a time.

Some in the Midlands senior care field criticize the site, saying the information may not be up to date or an accurate indicator of a facility's suitability for a client's specific needs.

Taylor Miller, president of the Columbia-based Senior Matters Extended Services agency, says experts known as Geriatric Care Managers have a better understanding of what is available from local senior care providers.

"You want to contract with somebody that's working directly with you that has no partnerships or affiliations with any of the communities or facilities in the area so that they can give unbiased recommendations for your loved one," Miller says.

Related information on state enforcement actions against a care provider will be available soon on the South Carolina DHEC website.

A DHEC spokesman says that information will be online Oct. 1. He says anyone needing the information before that date can call 898-DHEC.

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