For most clients and their families the topic of abuse occurring in a nursing home is filled with anger, shame and frequently embarrassment. Clients’ ask; “Why did this happen to my mother?” “What could I have done to prevent this.” “Can I report this abuse anonymously?”
While certainly not reassuring, the reality is that situations involving verbal, physical and sexual abuse in nursing homes are a common occurrence. If people learned of the frequency of these occurrences, they would would be shocked and outraged. The more people who step forward and report this incidents, the more action state and federal agencies may take to prevent future occurrences.
The nursing home industry has done a good job keeping the extent of these occurrences under wraps. Most situations involving elder abuse go unreported due to the inability of some people to communicate and misunderstanding about where and how to register a complaint. In most states, the department of public health is responsible for fielding and investigating complaints related to nursing home abuse and neglect. Further, anyone may initiate the complaint and it may be done anonymously if you wish. In, Illinois, you may contact the Illinois Department of Public Health to make a complaint here.
I came across some startling statistics regarding elder abuse on the Center for Justice & Democracy’s website. Here are some of the low-lights:
Most nursing home abuse goes unreported
- 1 to 2 million Americans over 65 have been injured or exploited by a person responsible for their care.
- 1 in 6 cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation gets reported.
- In 2000, there were 472,813 reported incidences of abuse. This means that there were 2,364,065 incidences of unreported abuse!
- There are 1.9 million adverse drug event occurring each year in long-term care facilities. 70% are preventable. Up to 86,000 adverse drug event (medication errors, overdoses) result in death or severe injury.
A small number of nursing homes are responsible for the majority of the abuse
- 20% of nursing homes were cited for safety violations, many resulting in serious injury or death between July of 2000 and January, 2002.
- In a study of California nursing homes: 23% of the facilities were responsible for 71% of the lawsuits involving abuse or negligent care, 10% of the nursing homes were responsible for half of the lawsuits filed against nursing homes.
Nursing home owners are making hefty profits. Desire for profits frequently results in cutting corners with respect to patient safety.
- For-profit nursing homes (which make up the vast majority of facilities) have profit margins of 20% to 30%.
- For-profit nursing homes have 32% fewer nurses and 47% more deficiencies that non-profit facilities.
- Many extremely profitable nursing homes have set up ‘shell companies’ that protect owners and investors from regulators and litigation. In some cases, severely injured residents are unable be fairly compensated because they can not access the full resources of the company.