With the advancement in age of the American population, nursing homes and other forms of elderly assistance are coming to play an increasingly central role in the lives of many. As vital as these types of places can be in helping to ensure that elderly Americans have the care they need in their twilight years, they also pose distinct risks if not properly observed, both by the relatives of their residents and the state and federal agencies responsible for ensuring the quality of their care.
Nursing home abuse remains a regrettably serious problem in the United States. Because reporting of these types of incidents is almost always less frequent than their actual occurrence, it is next to impossible to obtain precise estimates of the extent of the problem. However, the most reputable statistics currently available suggest that, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents have been the victims of some form of neglect or abuse.
Nursing home abuse can vary significantly in its presentation. The most benign (though by no means harmless) form of abuse is often simple neglect. Poorly trained, overworked, or simply uncaring nursing home staff or managers may fail to adequately care for the needs of their residents, either in isolated incidents or as a systemic pattern. In some cases, though, the outcomes can be quite horrific: in Illinois, for instance, a nursing home was sued after maggots were found in the ear of one resident. More frequently, neglect can lead to problems such as bedsores which, if left untended, can be life-threatening to elderly patients.
Physical abuse is also a serious problem at nursing home facilities. Nursing home residents are often extremely vulnerable, and because of the intensive amount of care that some in this position require, nursing home staff who become angry or upset can easily do serious damage to nursing home residents in a short amount of time. In a story that received national attention, Helen Love, a resident of Valley Skilled Nursing Home in California, died after sustaining violent injuries from a frustrated caregiver. Her family, with the assistance of a nursing home abuse attorney, is still pursuing a suit against the home after it came to light that the caretaker responsible for the incident had been cited for abusive behavior multiple times in the past. These types of cases are sadly far too common.
Finally, sexual abuse in nursing homes is a far more common problem than most people realize. Both caretakers and other residents have been implicated in nursing home sexual abuse cases, typically as a result of negligence on the part of nursing home administrators or staff.
The horrible realities of nursing home abuse can make the last years of a resident’s life miserable. If you suspect your loved one is a victim, contact a nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about what you can do to put an end to it.