How Prevalent is Nursing Home Abuse?

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be able to abuse a senior, especially those with physical or mental conditions that leave them vulnerable and exposed. However, some people prey on those who are unable to help themselves, a fact that was made all the more clear by recent data released by a special congressional committee convened to investigate nursing home abuse.

The numbers

In some incredibly alarming news, the report revealed that more than 30 percent of all nursing homes in the United States were cited for abuse in the span of only two years. Other surveys have found that elders suffering from mental disabilities are dramatically more likely to be abused than other seniors, with 67 percent of women and 55 percent of men experiencing physical abuse at one point. Even more alarming than the stories of abuse that have been uncovered are the many more than never will be. An estimate by the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every case of abuse known to authorities, another 24 cases were unknown.

Common problems

Some examples of the abuse noted in the report include the presence of untreated bedsores, inadequate medical attention, malnourishment, dehydration, poor hygiene and the occurrence of otherwise preventable accidents. These instances of abuse resulted in more than 1,600 cases where injuries resulted that were serious enough to place nursing home residents in immediate danger of death or critical injury.

Scary examples

The survey found that in some cases, members of the nursing home’s staff were committing egregious physical, mental and even sexual abuse of residents. In other cases, the staff members were faulted for failing to protect residents from abuse by other residents. Residents were found to have been punched, slapped, choked and beaten by staff members in some cases, resulting in broken bones, bruises and gashes.

One horrifying example occurred when a nurse walked into a patient’s room, yelled at her, and then punched her in the face hard enough to break her nose. In another instance, two attendants gave a brain damaged patient cigarettes to attack another patient. The staff members then watched the two fight and encouraged further violence.

What role does money play?

The report revealed that out of more than 17,000 nursing homes in the U.S., 11,000 are run by for-profit companies. These companies complain that many of the problems related to nursing home abuse and neglect result from their difficulty finding and keeping quality staff. Critics point out that the problem lies with the companies themselves, given that most are unwilling to pay enough to attract truly skilled workers. With average pay for nursing assistants hovering between $8 and $10 per hour, it’s no wonder that it can be difficult to find people willing to work such a grueling job. If the companies operating the nursing homes were willing to cough up more money, the result would be better paid, better skilled workers taking better care of nursing home residents.