Nursing Home Abuse Is a Silent Epidemic in the US

It is a devastating reality that elderly Americans in nursing homes are often victims of abuse and neglect. The most disturbing fact is that this situation is only getting worse. 

Nursing homes are meant to provide extra care to elderly citizens or people suffering from challenging conditions (dementia, lost limbs, Alzheimer’s, etc.). To know that our seniors who deserve all our love, respect, and care are treated horribly by the very people who promise to take care of them is quite painful.

Nursing home abuse is widespread in the United States, yet it still hasn’t triggered any wide-scale reaction among the population. Read on to learn more about nursing home abuse and how prevalent it is in this country.

Common Statistics Tied to Nursing Home Abuse 

There are some alarming statistics about nursing home abuse in America. 

  • In 2014, more than 14,000 complaints filed against nursing homes were due to abuse and neglect suffered by residents.
  • 1 in 6 elderly Americans suffered from nursing home abuse between 2017 and 2018, according to World Health Organization. 
  • Almost 1 in 3 nursing homes in the United States of America have been issued citations for abuse and nursing home neglect.
  • 10% of Americans above the age of 60 have been abused at least once. 
  • For every resident, there are 1.5 falls per year.
  • Almost 50% of elderly Americans suffering from dementia have experienced abuse or neglect.

Causes of Abuse

Constant Exposure to a Stressful Environment

Taking care of people, especially the elderly is hugely stressful. Many employees in a nursing home have to work long hours, and constantly having to deal with residents’ needs takes a huge toll on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

While it is understandable to get frustrated, it should be channeled out in a healthy way. Often, staff members resort to unleashing their stress on residents through verbal or physical means. 

Lack of Supervision

It’s not always about staff having any malicious intentions towards residents. Sometimes it is merely a case of negligence and carelessness. Unqualified staff may lack the expertise and dedication required to take care of residents. Staff may also be inattentive towards residents’ needs due to lack of supervision.

As mentioned before, there may not be any ill-will behind such actions. Nevertheless, this behavior is inexcusable and prompt action has to be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Greed

An unfortunate yet quite common cause. Residents typically are of old age, some having accumulated considerable wealth over their years. This may cause some of the staff members to steal their money, credit cards, and other financial assets. 

This happens by forming close relationships with residents, getting sensitive information out of them, or forging checks. 

Understaffing

According to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), a low ratio of nurses to residents can have a hugely detrimental effect on the quality of care provided by a nursing home. If the staffing is not enough to match the number of residents, additional burden and stress will be placed on existing employees, causing burnout.

Burnout and frustration can lead to staff members letting off steam against residents.

Inadequate Hiring

In order to get the maximum profits, nursing homes may hire inexperienced, unqualified staff members at a cheaper salary offering and not train them properly. This gives grounds for a lot of abuse, whether intentionally or otherwise.

Types of Abuse

There are several types of abuse done in nursing homes perpetrated by staff members on residents.

Physical

Physical abuse involves direct violence on the residents, causing cuts, bruises, broken bones, and other injuries. Being one of the staff members, it is easy to divert the blame from oneself and shift it to the residents. Sometimes, such injuries are misreported or not even reported at all.

Emotional

Emotional abuse targets the residents’ fears and insecurities in an attempt to stress them out. Making residents emotionally vulnerable by scaring, threatening, or manipulating them in order for a variety of reasons is also counted as emotional abuse. 

Financial

Financial abuse involves scamming the residents and stealing their money in one way or another. It can either manipulate them to reveal their bank security questions and thus enable the culprit to access and withdraw all their money from their bank accounts. Sometimes, the residents’ credit cards are stolen too.

Sexual

Sexual abuse is also reported in nursing homes by residents, caused by a staff member. Sexual abuse is sometimes done as a fear, revenge, or punishment tactic in order to manipulate the residents. 

Signs of an Abusive Nursing Home

It might be difficult to identify if a nursing home is allowing abuse to happen on its premises. Obviously, none of the staff would necessarily report such cases. However, you can look for some of these potential signs.

Physical Injuries

If residents are repeatedly suffering from injuries like falls or if they have cuts or bruises on their bodies, the cause of which is unknown, this is a big sign that there is abuse happening in that nursing home.

Fear and Anxiety Among Residents

Residents may be afraid of talking with staff members and are often anxious or fearful if a particular employee is around them. Nursing home employees tend to disregard this as delusions or imaginations, but too often than not, there is an underlying truth beneath all this. 

Poor Management

This can be seen by several factors. Hygiene is not properly taken care of; residents may be suffering from illnesses or untreated bedsores. The nursing home itself shows signs of falling standards, which could be due to a lack of proper financing. All this indicates a poor management style that isn’t ideal for the residents or anyone.

Conclusion

Nursing home abuse is rampant in this country. While there are good nursing homes out there, the rising cases of abuse have become a cause for concern. Some residents in nursing homes may not even know if they are being abused or not; hence reporting them becomes an issue. Family members are advised to keep a strict check and take all the necessary measures if any sign of abuse does present itself.

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