Elder abuse in a nursing home can take a variety of forms. Problems can include
- Improper physical handling (resulting in bruises and fractures)
- Neglect or inattention (resulting in bedsores and advanced infections)
- Improper diet (feeding sugary foods to a diabetic)
- Sexual abuse
According to one advocacy organization,
“Up to 1 in 6 nursing home residents may be the victim of abuse or neglect every year.”(1)
While that figure is an estimate (there is a lack of comprehensive and consistent reporting across all states) and may err on the high side, there are issues.
According to a new study from CNN,
“CNN exclusively found that the federal government has cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities during this period [2010-2015].”(2)
That’s 1,000 homes out of a total of 15,600 (2014) (3). There were a lot of other episodes that never reached visibility at the Federal level.
The CNN article is a particularly difficult read, with specific and detailed examples of sexual abuse of both male and female patients. Unfortunately, it’s worth reading.
What you need to know:
- Nursing homes aren’t places to “park and forget” elderly relatives who can no longer live independently. The absence of publicly available data about which facilities have had problems (especially repeat problems) means that all of them have to be monitored. Nothing can be taken for granted.
- Patients in homes require an advocate who actively oversees the care being provided.
- The advocate needs to be someone who is willing to “kick ass and take names”, is observant (details are clues), is willing to visit at odd hours, and isn’t hesitant to get authorities (regulators and police) involved and force authorities to act when they are reluctant.
- Moving someone to a nursing home doesn’t “lighten the load”. It simply changes the issues that have to be handled.
- Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes,” CNN, February 2017. http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/
- The picture is of my wife and father at the nursing home where he spent the last years of his life. There is no evidence of overt abuse at that facility, but there were issues in adherence to the living will document.