Instances of abuse are an unfortunate reality for many senior citizens
and disabled individuals living in nursing homes. In fact, instances of
abuse within nursing home facilities have risen every year since 1996.
Nursing home abuse includes physical, sexual, and verbal conduct. Common
examples include preventable accidents, poor sanitation and hygiene, malnutrition
and dehydration, and inadequate medical care. However, nursing home abuse
also includes intentional physical and sexual abuse by nursing home staff,
as well as, circumstances where nursing home staff fail to protect patients
from abuse by other residents within the facility.
According to a recent Congressional
report by the minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee’s
Special Investigation’s Division, approximately 30 percent of nursing
homes within the United States are cited for abuse every year. The study
found that over a two year period, 5,283 nursing home facilities were
cited for nearly 9,000 cases of abuse.
Of the approximately 9,000 cases of abuse identified in the study, 1,601
were considered severe enough to place nursing home residents at risk
of death or serious injury. In 1999, approximately 5,000 death certificates
belonging to nursing home residents listed malnutrition, dehydration,
starvation, or bedsores as the cause of death.
NURSING HOME ABUSE IS UNDERREPORTED
Some experts estimate the for every nursing home injury reported, there
may be as many as five that go unreported by the victim. Another study
which asked 2,000 nursing home residents regarding the standard of care
they received, 44 percent reported that they had been abused at some point,
and 95% stated that they had been subject to neglect or witnessed another
resident be neglected.
If you have a loved one who resides in a nursing home facility, lookout
for warning signs that may reveal possible abuse:
· Physical marks such as bruises, broken bones, abrasions, and burns.
· Bedsores, poor hygiene, and sudden weight loss.
· Unexplained changed in alertness and depression.
· Strained or tense relationships.
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR ABUSE WITHIN NURSING HOME FACILITIES?
There are approximately 17,000 nursing home facilities within the United
State. The largest single contributor to nursing home care is the federal
government. These contributions come primarily through Medicare and Medicaid
programs. In return, the federal government sets health and safety standards
which nursing home facilities are required to meet. Annual inspections
of nursing home facilities are conducted by state agencies in order to
ensure compliance with these Federal standards.
study submitted to the United States Congress by the General Accountability
Office (GAO), nursing home administrators often fail to run background
checks on their employees. This is a serious issue because 25 percent
of individuals charged with nursing home abuse have a criminal past.
Moreover, the study revealed that nursing home facilities no not file incident
reports with state agencies responsible for their oversight. In Georgia,
this agency is the Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Aging
Services. This limits the overseeing government agency’s ability
to respond to unsafe nursing home conditions.
If you or your loved one have been a victim of nursing home abuse, it is
important that you speak to a lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help ensure
that your legal rights are protected.