Nursing Home Abuse Cases Increase in the US
When an elderly loved one becomes too frail to care for themselves any longer, the hardest choice the family must make is whether or not to put the relative in a nursing home. The next decision is deciding which nursing home to trust. And with cases of nursing home abuse increasing while reporting systems fail to accurately track the problem, the decision becomes even more stressful.
Stories involving nursing home abuse lawsuits are all over the news. Nursing home abuse claims vary and may be filed alleging anything from sexual abuse, to financial abuse, to overmedication of patients.
Just recently, a male former nursing assistant in Minneapolis pleaded guilty to a criminal elder abuse charge which contended that he raped an 83-year-old woman resident with dementia. A nursing home in Blythe, California is currently defending a claim alleging that the company focused on profits at the expense of the health of its residents. A woman in Benton, Arkansas is suing a nursing home on behalf of her elderly mother, whom she contends was overmedicated and neglected to the point that she was hospitalized 37 times. Another woman is suing a nursing home in Huntington, West Virginia after the relative passed away from an infection because they purportedly failed to monitor her relative’s physical health. Pharmaceutical company PharMerica Corp, has settled allegations that it used kickbacks at nursing homes to promote overuse of its anti-epileptic medication on elderly patients.
Research into the scope of the nursing home abuse problem indicates it is a constant problem. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that 1.7 million Americans currently live in 15,700 nursing homes across the country. A 2010 study conducted by the government agency showed that about 10% of those residents reported some type of abuse, while in a similar 2010 study, around half of nursing home employees reported abusing one of the elderly residents that year. In 2012, the CMS surveyed reports from their federal nursing home surveyors and found that 90% of the nursing homes had some type of deficiency – meaning, the facility did not meet a federal standard. The average number of federal deficiencies was 5.9.
Many family members may not think to file a lawsuit first. Instead, they will focus on getting their loved one transferred to a different facility, or released to their care at home. The victim’s family may also file a complaint with their local ombudsman or Department of Health and Human Services first. According to the Administration for Community Living’s National Ombudsman Reporting Data, nursing home residents and their families filed an astonishing 135,620 complaints against skilled nursing facilities in 2013; 25.4% of those complaints involved neglect of the resident, and 7.1% involved nursing home abuse.
Senior citizens are one of the fastest growing populations in the country, and also one of the most vulnerable. The elderly face a 300% higher risk of dying if they suffer abuse. It is important to hold nursing homes accountable for their standards of care, especially as the older adult population increases in the coming years.