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.
In a 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.