According to ABC News, nursing home abuse is rampant across the United States. The news report explains that abuse instances were found in 30 percent of elder care facilities. One particularly shocking incident involved a female Illinois nursing home patient. She was cursed at and then struck in the mouth by a nursing aide. The assault left the patient with a bloody mouth and broken nose. The aide who attacked this woman had a track record of abusing residents. The facility’s administrators did not conduct an investigation, and resolution of the incident required law enforcement intervention. Unfortunately, situations like this are not uncommon, as any nursing home abuse lawyer in Chicago would attest.
Understanding nursing home abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are six general categories of abuse. These are: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, gross neglect, resident-to-resident abuse and financial exploitation.
In a 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health, over half of surveyed nursing home staff confessed to abusing elderly patients in the year prior. In approximately 1,600 of 9,000 incidents, nursing home abuse caused actual harm or placed residents at risk of serious injury or death.
Such abuses may lead to substantial physical and emotional damage to elderly patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the physical effects of nursing home abuse may include increased risk of early death, chronic pain and higher susceptibility to illness. Psychological effects include depression, the development of anxiety reactions, post traumatic stress disorder and learned helplessness.
In addition, elder abuse in nursing homes shows no signs of diminishing. The congressional report, which was completed in 2001, found that nursing home abuse had increased by almost three times since 1996. This rise may be attributed to improved reporting mechanisms, as well as an increase in the need for nursing home facilities.
Current projections from the NCEA indicate that nearly half of those who are over 65 years old will require nursing home assistance at some point. As such, the issue of abuse in these facilities is a substantial concern, both for elderly populations and their families.
An issue of national importance
The trauma induced by nursing home abuse is reason enough for people to want to take action against negligent care facilities. In addition to these human costs, however, there are also substantial financial concerns. According to a congressional report, nursing homes operate in large part on funding from Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the SCAN Foundation, Medicaid is the main source of long-term care funding, accounting for 62.2 percent of long-term care expenditures. Long-term care totaled $207.9 billion in 2010. As such, the amount of federal dollars that is spent on nursing homes is substantial. If 30 percent of nursing homes are engaging in abuse, a large percentage of federal funding may be received by abusive care facilities. By all indications, the issue of nursing home abuse is a national problem.
Inadequate nursing staff
Lack of quality staff is often cited as a root cause of nursing home injuries and abuse. According to the congressional report, the need for nursing home care has gone up in recent years. This, along with the fact that Medicaid reimbursements may not have risen appropriately, may make it difficult to recruit qualified, well-trained staff.
This idea is supported by findings from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency states that employment growth for registered nurses is projected to reach 19 percent. This growth is higher than the average of all occupations.
The BLS offers several reasons for this increase, some of which speak directly to the staffing shortages in nursing homes. The agency explains that the aging U.S. population has increased the demand for elderly healthcare. Additionally, hospitals are under increasing pressure to reduce financial strains by discharging patients quickly. These rapid discharges may have produced higher demand for long-term care facilities and residential care facilities, all of which require registered nurses.
Protection for Illinois’s elderly citizens
Illinois citizens enjoy the protections of both federal and state laws on nursing home abuse, as any nursing home abuse lawyer in Chicago would explain. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, for example, provides protections for residents in long-term care facilities in the state. Under this law, long-term care facilities are defined as places in which three or more people are provided with nursing, personal care or sheltered care. State or federally run institutions do not fall under this law.
The NHCA establishes a number of Residents’ Rights. These include the right to:
- Live free from neglect and abuse
- Manage personal financial affairs
- Visitors, phone calls and mail
- Care from their own doctors
- Refuse treatment
- Live free from restraints
Should a nursing home be found to have violated these rights, it may face stiff penalties such as fines and revoked licenses.
Holding abusive nursing homes accountable
It is important to keep in mind that the penalties provided by the NHCA are not the only remedies against negligent or abusive nursing homes. In addition to filing a complaint under the state’s NHCA, families may initiate civil litigation. This may produce civil damages, which may help to address any monetary losses suffered by abused elderly residents. By pursuing such litigation, these families may prevent nursing homes from inflicting harm on any other elderly patients.
Families who would like to seek accountability from these care homes may want to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer in Chicago. Taking this action may provide an understanding of the legal options available when an elderly patient has been abused.