Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

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Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

According to statistics, nursing home abuse or neglect is on a steep rise and might develop into a crisis. This is a serious problem that is facing over quarter of a million elders that are relying on nursing homes for care, food, and support. Abuse and neglect are often hard to detect and need to be monitored carefully especially when residents have trouble communicating. Furthermore, the staff in a nursing home might find ways to cover-up signs of abuse. An article in Time Magazine exposed that 35, 000 seniors might be dying early as a result of neglect at nursing homes. Most patients are at risk and the government data indicates that one out of every four nursing homes is cited for serious injury or a death to a resident.

Assisted-living home inspection documents show that more than a quarter of all nursing homes in United States were cited several times for harm violations to their patients; and in California one in every three nursing homes had similar offenses. What's more frightening is that over 1000 nursing homes hired people with a previous history of physical abuse. Even with the current reports about nursing home abuse, a lot of the accounts are not reported and unknown even if an eyewitness was present. The neglect is often blamed on the poor working conditions of the staff, insufficient training, and especially a shortage in staff present. In order to combat this growing problem, many programs are currently in existence and are being derived to improve the working conditions, hiring, education and training, and a compliance between the law enforcement, nursing homes, and the private nursing home abuse advocacy groups.

There are 1.6 million residents in nursing homes and this number is expected to go up to an astounding 6.6 million by 2050.

The Government Accountability Office's investigation into nursing homes (located in California) determined that "unacceptable care continues to be a problem in many homes." In the report they also stated that there is not enough intervention when it comes to monitoring nursing homes so that the homes are safe place of residence. Also many nursing homes involved are fighting back by saying that the nursing home abuse lawsuits are partly to blame, and that it's the cutbacks by the government that is actually driving them out of business. The 1997 Balanced Budget Act reformed Medicare and is trying to cut down the payment system by shaving off $9.5 billion dollars, which some speculate could be as high as $16.6 billion. In the last year, over 1600 nursing homes have filed for bankruptcy. Some patient advocates claim that nursing homes will expose their financial problems but will hide the fraud and bad operation that was to blame for their current financial state.

What can you do if you or your loved one was abused or neglected at a nursing home?

If you feel your loved one is in immediate danger, call your local police or 911, or hospital emergency department. If your family member lives in another state call 1 (800) 677-1116. This is the Eldercare Locator hotline and the staff will help you find help. Here is a directory of state ombudsmen offices, state elder protection agencies, quality review boards for nursing homes:

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 allows all residents of nursing homes to receive quality care and live in a place that maintains or even improves their wellness. This act includes freedom from abuse or neglect and misuse of funds. Residents should be aware that abuse and neglect in nursing homes are criminal acts when they happen inside the nursing home or on the premises of the nursing home.

Nursing Home Neglect can be characterized as the following:
(this is not a legal statement)
  • Neglect is a failure to help when reasonable in a way which would avoid a resident pain or harm usually in the long-term. Lack of assistance in walking which results in a lack of mobility, seldom showering or bathing which results in deprived hygiene and indignity, lack of assistance in toileting or change of disposable briefs which results in obvious discomfort, indignity, decreased movement, skin conditions and indignity, ignoring calls for help or assistance that is often initiated with bells, incorrect hand washing which can lead to infection and bacterial diseases, poor body positioning which might cause the skin to breakdown, no assistance in drinking or eating, and others.

Nursing Home Abuse can be characterized as the following:
(this is not a legal statement)
  • Abuse can be both physical, sexual, psychological, and verbal and usually means intentionally causing harm or pain. This can be done by putting the elder in intentional seclusion. Some physical acts that can qualify as abuse include punching, slapping, pushing, spitting, feeding with force and even pinching. Ignoring, threatening, making fun of a resident can be categorized as psychological abuse. Unwanted touching and sexual acts would be categorized as sexual abuse.

Legal action against Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

The most reasonable solution appears in fighting nursing home abuse is to seek legal action in state court against the people involved in the abuse. The most common lawsuits seek monetary compensation for a wrongful death or neglect and these types of lawsuits fall in the state civil litigation category. Not just any attorney will be able to help out with this type of nursing home abuse lawsuit. You will need a specialized attorney with previous experience in these types of lawsuits. There are usually many local reform activists who will direct you to the right attorney.

What should you look for when selecting a nursing home to avoid nursing home neglect?

Here are a few guidelines:
  • First remember that the actual cost of the nursing home is not an indicator of the quality of care you or your loved one will receive. Any nursing home facility should be further investigated. There are many pricy nursing homes where the staff is barely accessible. Even if the nursing home is licensed it will require further review. You will need to verify that the nursing home is certified by both Medicare and Medicaid. You should get the most recent state inspection report and verify your source in obtaining this report to make sure it's legitimate. Check what the staff to patient ration is. The more staff the better as the patients will receive more attention and care.
  • Remember to check the quality of meals being offered. Just because the food looks good doesn't mean it's decent. Most nursing homes should let you order a meal before you sign up a loved one. Go and visit the kitchen and observe if it's clean or not. Also, verify that residents actually receive their meals when it's time to eat. Many elders will require assistance in opening their cartons or feeding themselves.
  • Visit several nursing homes. Many people make the mistake of visiting to few places. Keep a checklist of what you see and how clean the nursing homes are, but remember looks can be deceiving as just because a nursing home looks clean doesn't mean it's a quality home.
An attorney for patients rights recently seeked out a court order which would deny managers of some of the biggest nursing homes to settle accusations of patient abuse by receiving insurance expenditure reimbursements. On July 22 Russel Balisok filed this suit with the Los Angeles Superior Court. He claimed that the payouts for legal claims allowed many nursing homes charged with abuse to not only stay operational but also to continue nursing home abuse and neglect. Balisok stated that "It's still cheaper to give bad care because the taxpayers are paying the cost." However, this suit didn't sit well with managers of nursing homes as well as with supporters for patients' rights.

The biggest complaint was that nursing home abuse lawyers wouldn't take on cases of nursing home neglect because there would be no payout from insurance companies. Also there were worries that decent nursing homes would be shut down by just one suit.

Pat McGinns who is the director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform stated: "There may be some bad nursing homes that will close. There may be some not-so-bad nursing homes that will close. I don't know if that is a good thing," He also voiced his opinion about the lack of legal help abused nursing home residents will have.

Three nursing homes that were named in this lawsuit were Beverly Enterprises Inc., and Ensign Group Inc. and Covenant Care Inc. Beverly reprehensive spoke on how this lawsuit has no value and is based mostly on theory. An owner of 44 nursing homes in various states commented. "No question what he does is second to none, but I don't think anything that prevents nursing homes from spreading the risk will be beneficial to families, health care providers or the people who rely on them"

The lawsuit can be appealed even in the event that it holds. Many operators already dropped insurance after the premiums rose last few years. Currently a manager who has past accounts of abuse or neglect is forced to pay higher premiums than they might receive from an insurance payout. There has been indications that the nursing home industry is in trouble. The following statistics might explain why:
  • There are 250 000 elders being nursed at only 1,400 nursing homes
  • Medi-Cal pays $115 per day for care, food, and other associated costs
  • 1 out of 3 nursing homes in the nation was cited by regulators for having the potential to abuse or neglect residents.