Now and then, you learn something about caring for the elderly that stops you in your tracks.
Like this: Until last month, federal regulations did not require all nursing homes to have automatic sprinkler systems.
It’s a bit staggering, isn’t it? Automatic sprinklers, the most effective protection against fires, have been mandated in any new nursing home certified by Medicare and Medicaid, or in new construction added to an existing facility, since 2000. But for older nursing homes, there was no such regulation until August 2008 — and the industry, complaining about high costs, was given five years to comply.
That deadline passed last month, but more than 1,100 older nursing homes still do not have sprinklers or have only “partial” systems, federal records show.
Most of these places have some sprinklers — perhaps only in laundries and kitchens, perhaps in residents’ rooms but not hallways. What “partial” means in this context is unclear, a Medicare spokeswoman told me. But about 125 homes have no sprinklers, including 18 in Illinois, 16 in Texas and 13 in North Carolina. (You can see the list, though it may contain some reporting inaccuracies and may not reflect very recent changes.)
A fire in a nursing home is a horrifying...