No state is exempt from abuse reports. According to a study by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, 5,283 facilities in the U.S. were involved in almost 9,000 instances of abuse over a two-year period from January 1999 to January 2001, Carbonated.tv.com reports. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) of the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.
Residents are abused in a variety of ways. They are punched, slapped, kicked, choked, and handled roughly during care, treatment that can result in bruises, broken bones and lacerations, according to Carbonated.tv.com. The report details sickening incidents, including these:
• At one facility, an employee entered a resident’s room, declared, “I’m tired of your ass,” and hit the woman in the face, breaking her nose.
• Staff at another facility bribed a brain-damaged patient to hit another resident, and then stood by, watching the two fight.
• While bathing an elderly female resident, a male attendant molested her.
Many residents, especially those with dementia or a physical or mental disability, are neglected, the NCEA says. They do not receive adequate assistance with basic daily needs: help with eating, dressing, and toilet use, or assistance when moving in and out of bed. Inadequate attention can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, infections, and psychological and emotional symptoms.
The Wall Street Journal has reported on what critics call the overuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes to control agitated patients. These drugs increase the risk of death in patients with dementia, according to the WSJ. Sleep medications can increase the risk of falls for nursing home residents, who may wake up disoriented or whose balance may be impaired by the drugs. The New York Times reported last year on the problem of poor oral hygiene care in many facilities. Without regular tooth and mouth cleaning, residents can suffer pain, broken teeth, and gum disease; and therefore cannot eat properly. Infections, including pneumonia, can start when oral bacteria proliferate and enter the bloodstream.