After more and more horrific cases of nursing home abuse becoming public, you would have expected to see a downtrend in this appalling behavior. However, the sad truth is that the statistics still remain highly worrying. More than two million cases of abuse of elderly people in care homes are reported every single year in the USA, and almost 10% of residents experience some form of elder abuse, the majority of which remain unreported.
Sadly, one in three nursing homes in the United States have been issued citations for abuse, and the practice is extremely common.
Why Are Nursing Homes Popular?
You would have thought that with the shocking abuse statistics, the number of people going into nursing homes would be dropping. However, as people age, families are often unable to cope or care for their loved ones at home. This could be due to space, other commitments such as work, or simply because they do not have the skills to do so.
In addition to this, people are living longer. The elderly population is growing year on year with the advances in health care. While this is a very positive thing, it does mean good nursing home facilities are a necessity to house people who are no longer safe to live alone.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
While some of the most shocking cases of nursing home abuse are physical or violent, this is not the only kind of mistreatment the elderly can suffer in care homes. The list below covers some of the most common kinds of abuse experienced by the elderly population.
Physical Abuse – This is when a person is physically mistreated. It could mean hitting, pushing, or manhandling. It often results in bruising, broken bones, and of course, the emotional impact and fear that comes with the threat of physical abuse.
Financial Abuse – While this is less common due to a patient’s finances being regulated in care home settings, there are occasions where carers (especially in the home) have been known to steal from patients.
Neglect – Neglect could be anything from not calling a doctor when necessary, to not changing a person who has soiled themselves or giving them regular food and drink. Simply put, it means failing to meet the needs of the person who is being cared for.
Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse can involve anything from name calling to threats. It is causing fear or distress to a person, without physically touching them.
Sexual Abuse – There have been many reported cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes against elderly residents. This is obviously highly distressing for the individual and can lead to ongoing emotional trauma.
Causes of Abuse
Abuse in general comes down to incompetence. There are some very good care home workers out there, but in an industry where they are screaming out for more staff, often people are hired who are not the best for the job.
In addition, staff are often overworked and experience burnout. While this is no excuse for abuse, it can explain why some carers are on a short fuse with patients. This is largely due to the fact that there is not enough staff to take care of the number of patients requiring care. Lack of supervision often plays a contributing role in abuse in nursing homes as well.
Signs of Abuse
Sometimes, with abuse, there will be no signs at all, which can make it difficult to spot. However, watch out for changes in a loved one’s behavior. For example, are they becoming withdrawn, losing weight, or appearing fearful? Physical signs should also be watched for, like bruising, bed sores, or being dirty/unkempt.
What Can Be Done?
Ensuring all staff are properly background checked before allowing them to begin work, and ensuring references are checked to ensure they are the right kind of person for the role is an important first step in ensuring the safety of patients. In addition to this, nursing homes should ensure they have adequate staffing (to avoid overworking), proper supervision, and CCTV in place to act as a deterrent for any potential abusers.
Any cases of suspected abuse should be reported immediately. This will mean the abuser is suspended while under investigation and therefore unable to harm others in the meantime. If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you should report it to the nursing home and police and seek legal advice immediately. By being proactive, you will help stop this terrible trend and reduce harm to other victims.
Sadly, abuse in nursing homes is still a very real issue in 2022. If you have a loved one in care, you should be mindful of any changes to their persona or physical appearance and report them quickly. This will help you play a part in stopping this terrible crime.