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How Do We Resolve the Persistent Nature of Nursing Home Abuse?

Published on Apr 24, 2019 at 9:44 am in Nursing Home Abuse.

Nursing home abuse is a terrible occurrence in the United States. There’s also a lack of unified data on the abuse that happens within nursing homes, especially sexual abuse. And while people can look up nursing home reviews and see how the facility rates, this doesn’t always stop bad people from slipping through the cracks. It only takes one negligent or abusive person to harm an elder.

Stopping abuse from happening is necessary, but is a task that’s considered difficult due to the persistent nature of both neglect and abuse. Cases of abuse are considered “persistent” because events continue to happen despite changes made in the last couple of years to encourage honest facility reviews and staffing protocols that hold homes accountable. Given how defenseless nursing home residents often tend to be, protections need to be in place to keep residents safe from horrific abusive crimes. This poses a question that’s difficult to answer: What types of protections are we lacking nationwide, and how can we stop abuse cases from being so persistent?

What Is Being Done About Nursing Home Abuse?

Abuse in nursing homes is getting pushed more into public knowledge and it’s also reaching our government. In a Senate hearing about elder abuse in nursing homes, they heard testimony from people who told their loved one’s stories of neglect and abuse. The hearing also looked at what methods are in place to help seniors and what can be done to improve them to help reduce and eventually stop instances of nursing home abuse.

One account that the Senate heard was about how a woman was sexually abused in her nursing home, but the home had the highest rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While it held the highest rating, the year before the nursing home had been fined for cases of physical and verbal abuse.

This shows that changes need to be made in the standards that nursing homes are held to and how organizations like CMS rate them. They need to have honest reporting so families don’t put loved ones in dangerous situations. CMS is going to implement changes to their online tools so people can rely on the information they’re reading. The changes will affect the Nursing Home Compare database and the Five-Star Quality Rating System.

Reporting needs to be more honest and concrete as well. CNN found in 2017 that the federal government cited over 1,000 nursing homes for failing to prevent sexual abuse between 2013 and 2016. In response, there were revisions made in 2016 that involves how CMS inspections and surveys of long-term care facilities go. The state can have an inspection at any time without announcing it. If they find violations, the nursing home is penalized.

There’s also the issue of nursing homes not reporting cases of abuse, or those that do don’t face an intense investigation. Unfortunately, when patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are involved, they can be dismissed because of their mental condition. Dismissing and ignoring these claims allows the facility to keep a good reputation and not face more lawsuits.

Workers may not be taught to recognize the signs of abuse in their residents. Education on what to look for could clue in responsible and attentive nurses that something is amiss.

On the other side of the problem, there are suggestions for how nursing homes can be made safer from the inside out. Some suggest that federal programs that will bring in people to the nursing home profession could help increase the number of quality caregivers in the country. Then, nursing homes won’t have to have the difficult situation of being understaffed and unable to provide the best care to their residents. When a nursing home is understaffed, residents are more likely to get hurt or be neglected. Nursing homes may resort to illegal measures like overmedicating so residents are more subdued and easier to control.

There also needs to be federal regulations about abusive employees and how nursing homes should share and have access to those reports and information. A national background public registry could be the key with that.

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