Once a parent, spouse or other loved one requires the added care a competent nursing home can provide, you’ll have to carefully review all your options explains a New York nursing home abuse lawyer at the F&A injury law firm. You’ll need a facility that places a strong emphasis on safety, refuses to tolerate any abuse – and provides a proper medical staff-to-patient ratio. Since most nursing homes are run for profit, it can be hard to find a place that runs so efficiently that most of its new residents choose it due to its positive reputation in the community.
Before reviewing some of the key safety criteria a good nursing home must meet – it’s important to note the size of America’s growing senior population, the likelihood of abuse, and the different ways that senior citizens are sometimes mistreated.
Our Growing Number of Senior Citizens & The Prevalence of Elder Abuse
America’s National Center on Elder Abuse reports that there are currently at least 40.3 million citizens age 65 or older (based on 2010 Census figures). That striking number represents roughly 13% of the overall population. By 2050, that figure may almost double to approximately 83.7 million.
Although there are no precise numbers documenting how many older Americans are currently being abused – estimates indicate that at any given time, about 10% of all senior citizens are being abuse in some way.
In fact, researchers and experts on our older population believe that elder abuse has now reached “epidemic” proportions. This makes it imperative for all responsible adults with senior citizens in the family, nursing home facilities (and other eldercare institutions), and the public-at-large to work together to minimize all forms of elder abuse. Although seniors may face higher instances of abuse while living in special care facilities – they are also frequently mistreated by their own family members when living at home.
Most Common Types of Elder Abuse
- Direct physical abuse or neglect. This can include slapping, hitting or otherwise physically harming an elderly person for little or no reason. In addition, nursing homes that fail to maintain safe and clean facilities may regularly put their patients at risk for unnecessary slips and falls, unhealthy dietary regimens, and improper handling of the patients’ medicines and other chronic care treatments. The misuse of bed rails and restraints can also cause serious or even deadly harm to seniors;
- Emotional abuse and abandonment. After making living arrangements for their loved ones, far too many families rarely visit them very often. And poorly trained staff members who become irritated by forgetful patients – or those suffering from incontinence issues – may purposefully neglect them. All this behavior causes many seniors to fall into deep depressions and fully give up on their lives;
- Sexual abuse. A recent CNN article referenced the shock one woman received when she got a phone call telling her that her mother had not just passed away – instead, she had been raped in her nursing home room. When residents are suffering from dementia or battling one or more physical disabilities – it becomes extra hard for them to protect themselves against the deviant types of people who sexually prey on defenseless elderly people. All forms of nursing home sexual abuse are now being reported;
- Financial abuse. While this can be perpetrated by those who run a nursing facility, it’s also often due directly to a family member who decides to cheat a resident out of his/her monthly government stipend (or other funds) for his/her own personal use or gain. This is often the most frequently reported type of abuse.
Given the many different types of elder abuse, it’s possible for any one resident to be the victim of multiple types of abuse at any given time.
Since elder abuse is most likely to occur in nursing homes that fail to meet basic safety standards, here are some reminders about what you should look for when visiting a new one.
Important Safety Criteria for Nursing Homes Providing Quality Care
- Facilities are kept completely clean throughout the day – seven days a week. If any type of accident occurs, ample staff members are available to clean up the mess so that none of the residents will slip and fall – or otherwise harm themselves. Make sure you visit a prospective nursing home several times, including on weekends, to see how clean it’s really kept when fewer visitors are expected;
- Registered dieticians should prepare hot meals that cater to individual residents’ medical conditions. Always eat at a facility at least twice (at non-peak times) to be sure the food is properly prepared, sufficiently tasty, and full of healthy nutrients;
- There must be an adequate doctor/RN/LVN worker-patient ratio. Many facilities do not publish accurate information about how many highly trained medical staff members are on duty each day. Be sure to ask how the facility handles special needs that arise during shift changes – especially on weekends. Always visit at odd hours in the evening and weekends to be sure there are enough staff members on hand to keep your loved one safe – or at least available should any type of injury occur;
- Employee background checks should be routine – and repeated once or twice a year. Elderly patients deserve caregivers who have good credentials – and are not alcohol or drug addicts. They should also not have any type of criminal background of any sort;
- There should be a well-organized system for handling all resident and family complaints regarding nursing home employees and conditions. This is crucial since unsafe conditions often develop in nursing homes. There should be some type of “ombudsman” or residents’ rights program – one that guarantees that residents will not face harsh treatment, retaliation or abuse for reporting unsafe or dangerous conditions.
If you or someone you know has suffered a serious fall or other injury due to a nursing home’s negligence, be sure to contact your New York nursing home injury lawyer.
(Note: Always review any prospective nursing home’s most recent state licensing report – and ask if all noted deficiencies have now been fully corrected before placing a loved one there).