When Americans place their elder loved ones into a nursing home or other elder care facility, they expect only the best of care. Although often this is the case, there are also examples of quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the elders in our society are sometimes seen as easy targets for abuse and are too often the victims of neglect. Cases of nursing home or elder abuse shock the conscience.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2004:
There were about 16,100 nursing homes in the United States with about 1.7 million beds
There were about 1.5 million nursing home residents for an occupancy rate of 86%
The average stay for current residents at the time of the study was 835 days
The majority of nursing homes take Medicare and Medicaid for long term care. In order to take the federal money, nursing homes have to be certified by the state to be in compliance with a federal law known as the Nursing Home Reform Act. The Nursing Home Reform Act requires them to provide adequate medical staff, develop a comprehensive plan for each resident, ensure proper body weight maintenance and hydration, ensure that bed sores do not happen and properly care for any that do, maintain and properly maintain records.
Unfortunately, some nursing homes and assisted living centers end up with substandard care due to budget cuts and staff reductions. When a nursing home or assisted care center are short staffed, residents often fall victim to bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, improper hygiene, infections, wandering away from the facility, wrongly administrated medication, falls, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and even death. Staffing cut backs cause such problems because remaining staff is either overworked and has trouble keeping up the same level of care or resentment at the proprietors can build and staff can lash back at the residents.
Neglect is based on the duty of care placed on nursing homes and their staff. The nursing home residents are placed in the care of the homes and staff with the expectation that reasonable care will be given to the elderly. Neglect occurs when staff and the nursing homes fail to meet a reasonable standard of care. Federal law has defined nursing home neglect as “failure to provide goods and services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish or mental illness.” Neglect leads to such injuries as malnutrition, bed sores, falls and wandering away from the facility.
Abuse is intentional harming of nursing home residents. These cases are often the most shocking in terms of the real depravity that a small number of nursing home staff can show to elderly residents. Abuse can be verbal, physical or sexual. Federal law has defined nursing home abuse as “willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” Examples of abuse include assault and battery, deprivation of basic necessities such as food and water, mental and verbal abuse, administration of drugs with intent to harm and virtual imprisonment. While some of these cases can so shock the conscious that disbelief may be the first reaction, it is important to know that they do happen.
It is important to investigate and contact an attorney promptly in the event of nursing home or elderly abuse. First and foremost, it is important to remove a loved one from the situation if it is dangerous in any way. It is also important to hold those responsible accountable for the harm they cause. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only a small percent of violations of the federal nursing home neglect and abuse laws are actually reported. It is important to make sure these situations are not allowed to continue. It is imperative that we care for the elderly.Useful Links:
Medicare Comparison of Nursing Homes:
Oregon Department of Human Services – Choosing a long-term care setting:
Oregon DHS – Oregon Consumer Guide – Assisted living and residential care facilities:
Oregon Nursing Home Administrators Board:
American Health Care Association Consumer Information About Long Term Care:
Medicare Nursing Home Resident Rights:
Administration on Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: