Reports of Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect Continue to Rise

nursing_home_neglect_on_the_riseWorkers responsible for the care of the elderly say that their industry faces staffing challenges amid nursing home abuse and neglect claims.

A new report, released by ABC’s Lateline, revealed a pattern of failure in a number of facilities, following conversations with scores of caregivers, facility managers, and former health care officials. Staff admitted to not having sufficient time to appropriately care for residents and to attend to basic needs, such as feeding, hydrating, or toileting. Worse, according to ABC Australia, there are frequent medication errors—no less than 10 monthly—and resident injuries such as infections and fractures are often not noticed.

Those interviewed discussed a trend of abuse toward residents and noted that there was not enough time, staff, or supplies to attend to the most basic of needs. Instances of patients having to sit in their own urine due to a lack of staff and incontinence pads was not unusual. Neither were instances of patients struggling with their own vomit, some asphyxiating and dying.

According to the report, more and more elderly patients require complex care while less qualified staff are being employed. About 70 percent of nursing home staff are lower paid, lower skilled workers said ABC Australia. Many, according to the news outlet simply take online courses to satisfy requirements or have a poor grasp of the English language. Then, they are called on to handle tasks greater than for what their training prepares them.

Dr. Joachim Sturmberg, a health care academic and a physician who treats nursing home patients notes that, “[A patient’s health] can be changed by small things, like urinary tract infection which, if not picked up, turns into delirium and can tip over into death.” He added, “Which is why it is important that staff are able to pick up subtle changes in the patient.”

Sadly, patients often suffer not just pain, but indignities, and sometimes die over inadequate care, according to ABC Australia.

A health care scandal in the United Kingdom revealed that some patients were drinking from vases because they were so thirsty, while staff seeking appropriate care for the patients were punished. Some 1,200 patients have died, in part, due to neglect in some facilities, according to ABC Australia.

We have long written about the growing issue of elder abuse and neglect in nursing home facilities. While news of such abuse routinely makes headlines, the deplorable practice continues. This is significant issue given that the senior population is expanding and living longer and more and more, people find themselves faced with the challenging decision of placing older relatives and loved ones in nursing home care. Unfortunately, family and loved ones seeking care of their seniors are sometimes left with very limited options and loved ones often suffer devastating indignities that include a broad array of abuse and neglect.

Some 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease today and, by 2025, that number could reach 7.1 million, the Alzheimer’s Association reports. Meanwhile, a 2001 Congressional report revealed that nearly one out of every three United States nursing homes were cited for at least one abuse violation over a two-year period. “In over 1,600 of these nursing homes, the abuse violations were serious enough to cause actual harm to residents or to place the residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury,” the report stated.

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