Advancing technologies have continued to lengthen the average human lifespan, growing America’s elderly population more and more as time goes on. According to studies from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), our “current growth of the population ages 65 and older … is unprecedented in U.S. history.” As such, nursing homes and other elder care facilities are more important now than ever before. Unfortunately, some nursing homes and staff members are better than others. Though everyone deserves to live out their twilight years in peace, nursing home abuse or neglect can often prevent this from happening. The good news, however, is that most of these accidents are preventable. Read on to find out more.
Nursing home abuse is a type of elder abuse, which can take shape in many different forms. The phenomenon tends to be an underreported one, as victims may be too ashamed to admit their abuse. They may even feel guilty and responsible for their own victimization. Regardless, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study found that every 2 in 3 nursing home staff members confessed to committing elder abuse in the past year. Additionally, every 1 in 6 older adults (aged 60 and up) reported being the victim of some form of abuse within the past year. Psychological abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse were all reported by the nursing home staff members, residents, and some residents’ proxies.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 8 percent of nursing home residents had had an emergency room visit in the past 90 days. During this timeframe, 15 percent of these residents visited the emergency room at least two separate times. Furthermore, 40 percent of all ER-visiting residents were there for a potentially preventable accident. Falls accounted for 36 percent of these preventable injuries; heart conditions accounted for 19 percent; pneumonia accounted for 12 percent; various other conditions accounted for 33 percent. Such statistics suggest that many nursing homes are suffering from a problem of understaffing. An adequately staffed facility has the resources to treat residents’ medical needs on-site rather than at an emergency room. Additionally, adequate staffing gives nurses the capacity to catch problems before they happen (or are worsened). It also gives nurses the time to supervise residents more closely, which can exponentially reduce the number of fall-related injuries.
We have established that negligence alone is a leading factor in preventable nursing home injuries. Now, you are probably wondering how to choose the best nursing home for your loved ones. We understand that placement may seem urgent, especially when your loved ones require immediate care. However, there is no need to rush such an important decision. You want to know that you are making the right decision.
Every nursing home will say they put their residents first. It is one of the most common marketing ploys out there. What is important is seeing the “resident first” mentality in action. Make sure to take an involved tour of each prospective facility. Take note of how staff members treat residents. Do they define the residents by their illnesses or disabilities? Or are they fully realized as individuals? The ideal nursing home staff is both competent and compassionate, especially when dealing with residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Nursing homes should also aim to empower their residents, rather than override them. The goal is not to overtake their autonomy but to ease their transitions into the next stage of life. In other words, nursing home residents should still feel autonomous in their decisions. They should be able to wake up and go to sleep whenever they want, wear whatever they want to wear and eat wherever they want to eat. With certain restrictions, they should also be able to go wherever they want to go. Variety is the spice of life, no matter how old you are. Make sure you are looking at facilities that will accommodate the need for meaningful activities. Good nursing homes offer a variety of physical, interactive, educational, and social activities for their residents. They may also have both bigger cafeterias and smaller dining rooms, so residents have the option to socialize or enjoy a quiet meal as they see fit.
Knowing your rights (or your loved ones’ rights) is the first step to empowerment. You may feel less willing to overlook abuse of power when you know your legal rights and protections. The 1987 federal Nursing Home Reform Act mandated that all nursing homes “promote and protect the rights of each resident.” Additionally, after the Act passed, all nursing homes that take Medicare and Medicaid payments were required to meet federal residents’ rights requirements. Some states also subject nursing homes to their own residents’ rights laws and regulations. In any case, federal law guarantees all nursing home residents the following general categories of rights:
If you suspect that your loved one is being taken advantage of, speak to them in private. Let them know that you are there to advocate for them and their rights. Contacting an experienced nursing home abuse attorney is the best way to review all your options and know what next steps to take.
If you or a loved one have recently fallen victim to nursing home abuse, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide nursing home abuse attorneys. Let us fight for you.