Nursing Home Abuse

Its a sad fact that each year, many people have to make the decision to place a loved one into a nursing home. In most cases, the loved ones condition has deteriorated to a point where the family can no longer care for them at home. They then try to find a good nursing home to take care of their loved ones needs, and while many are able to find good ones, others are not as lucky.

It has been 20 years since the U.S. passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. Have things improved?

Approximately 35,000 elderly people die each year in nursing homes because of neglect and/or abuse. The distraught loved ones often blame themselves for making a bad decision in care, but in the majority of cases it is the operator of the nursing home who is at fault. To make things worse, by 2010, the number of vacant positions for nursing home employees is expected to reach 810,000.

The Nursing Home Reform Act

In 1987, U.S. passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, to make sure that residents of nursing homes get quality care. The aim is for residents to be able to achieve or maintain the “highest practicable” physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. The Nursing Home Reform Act requires the provision of certain services to each resident and establishes a Residents’ Bill of Rights.

One of the obligations that nursing homes have is to hire enough staff to cover the needs of the patients according to the plans that were made.

According to the Nursing Home Reform Act, nursing homes are required to “provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each nursing home resident in accordance with a written plan of care.” This helps to ensure that your loved one gets all the care that they need while under the nursing homes care.

Responsibilities Not Met

Unfortunately, there are nursing homes out there that will ignore this responsibility. The patients under their care are neglected, and suffer because of it. This may mean that they are not helped to the toilet, bed ridden patients are not properly turned, lack of nutrition, dehydration, misuse of medications, and not being bathed properly, as well as other issues. This neglect may be intentional or unintentional, but ultimately causes injury and potential death.

The more you can be present, by visiting your loved one, the better you can make sure they are not suffering some form of abuse. State and federal agencies do their best oversee and monitor nursing homes, but they cannot possibly cover everything.

In a 1995 survey of 29 states, there were over 80,000 complaints reported. Around 5 percent of these complaints (4,500) were reported for complaint categories which are specifically defined as abuse. For example, physical abuse complaints number about 1,800. other complaint categories such as “dignity, respect, staff attitudes” or “personal funds mismanaged” include complaints which often involve abuse, neglect and exploitation.

If these cases are added to the specific abuse complaints, there are over 17,000 complaints, more than 20% of the total which are received. The line between neglect and abuse is very hard to draw. The complaints reported under many categories such as “personal hygiene” and “accidents, improper handling” can also involve abuse issues.

Adding these categories will result in 30,000 complaints or more than 1/3 of the total for nursing facilities. The 29 states were responsible for less than half of the complaints reported. The data received from the ombudsmen is not specifically aimed at measuring abuse but does give an indication of a significant incidence of abuse in nursing facilities.

Types of Abuse

There are several forms of intentional abuse, including emotional, financial, psychological, sexual, verbal, and physical abuse. Sexual abuse can be considered any unwanted sexual contact, forced nudity, or photography that is inappropriate.

Physical abuse can be battery, the use of restraints beyond what is medically necessary and to the point of even being dangerous to the patient, use of drugs that are not needed, or refusing to give the patient the aid that they need.

Emotional abuse, which can also be considered psychological or mental abuse, can be verbal harassment, ignoring the resident, and isolating the resident from friend and family that either come to visit or live in the nursing home.

These are the main forms of abuse; however there are plenty of issues not discussed here. If you feel that a loved one is a victim of abuse, speaking with a lawyer can help you find out if you have any legal grounds.

Get a Lawyer

Any time that your loved one suffers any trauma, no matter the type, it is in your best interest to find a lawyer that specializes in nursing home abuse and neglect.

Time is of the essence, since the statute of limitations can prevent you from filing old complaints, so you will want to file a suit as soon as possible. By working to see that those who abuse and neglect the elderly are punished, you can make nursing homes safer for all the residents who live there.