Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Threatens The Health Of Elderly Patients

Nursing home abuse and neglect, which is widespread and all too frequent in America, often results in the injury or death of nursing home patients.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper recently reported that a Zanesville, Ohio, nursing home owner has been indicted on 39 charges ranging from Medicaid fraud to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the indictment. The state began investigating the nursing home after families complained that their loved ones were being subjected to nursing home abuse and neglect. Authorities installed surveillance cameras in patient's rooms and, according to DeWine, captured the "absolutely shocking and disturbing" treatment of residents.

In an in-depth study of elder abuse published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, it is concluded that nursing home abuse and neglect is widespread and occurs far too often. Abusive actions which are commonplace in nursing homes include both physical and psychological actions by staff such as rough handling of a patient, yelling at a patient in anger, threats directed toward a patient and cursing or saying hurtful things to a patient. Other abusive actions, such as punching, slapping or hitting patients, are physical in nature and often result in personal injury.

With regard to neglect, the most typical nursing home problems consist of things such as failing to provide good dental care, failing to have patients perform motion exercises and not changing patient's underclothing after an incontinent episode. Other frequent neglect problems involve ignoring patients who are bedfast, not giving baths to patients, allowing bedsores to develop and failing to keep patients hydrated and properly nourished.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, neglect and abuse cause numerous personal injuries and deaths among nursing home patients. Elderly patients who experience abuse in nursing homes were found to have "a 300% higher risk of death" when compared to patients who had not been abused. Nursing home patients suffering from neglect often experience increased joint and bone problems, digestive problems, high blood pressure and heart problems. Psychologically abused or neglected elderly patients tend to suffer from depression or anxiety. Nursing home abuse and neglect in the United States cost $5 billion annually in additional health-care costs.

Be alert to problems

If a loved one's condition necessitates his or her placement in a nursing home, you should take the time to visit the nursing home in order to personally observe the condition of the patients. If you already have a loved one residing in a nursing home, AARP offers the following suggestions which can help you determine how your loved one is being cared for:

  • Dine with your loved one and see how the food looks and tastes.
  • Note whether the staff addresses the elderly in a polite and respectful manner. Patients should be addressed respectfully by name rather than by terms such as "sweetie."
  • Observe how the facility smells. While some odors are unavoidable in a healthcare setting, you need to make sure the facility is clean and hygienic.
  • Determine whether the staff is overworked since this could translate into neglect.
  • Observe whether you see bruising on your loved one that could indicate abuse.
  • Note whether there are bedsores and whether underclothes are being changed after "accidents."

Seek legal counsel

Regrettably, nursing home abuse and neglect occurs more frequently than many of us would like to acknowledge. If you have an elderly loved one whom you believe has been injured in a nursing home due to abuse or neglect, do not hesitate to call an attorney. An attorney experienced in handling nursing home cases can advise you on how to proceed to hold accountable those responsible for causing those injuries.

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