At one in three nursing homes and long-term care facilities, residents suffer some form of abuse or neglect.
A report from the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee says that 5,283 facilities in the U.S. were involved in almost 9,000 instances of abuse from January 1999 to January 2001, Carbonated.tv.com reports. According to estimates from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) of the Department of Health and Human Services only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities. NCEA cites 2010 and 2011 studies indicating that 7 to 10 percent of study participants reported some form of abuse in the previous year.
Abuse takes a variety of forms. Physical abuse includes punching, slapping, kicking, choking, and rough handling during care. Residents suffer bruises, broken bones and lacerations, according to Carbonated.tv.com. Among the incidents described in the report:
• A nursing home employee entered a resident’s room, declared, “I’m tired of your ass,”and hit the woman in the face, breaking her nose.
• At another facility, staff members bribed a brain-damaged patient to hit another resident, and then watched the two fight.
• An elderly female resident at a facility was molested by the male attendant bathing her.
Residents with dementia or a physical or mental disability are most likely to be abused or neglected, NCEA reports. Many residents find their daily needs neglected: they do not receive needed help with eating, dressing, and toilet use, or assistance to move in and out of bed. Neglect can lead to malnutrition – even starvation – dehydration, bedsores, infections, and psychological and emotional symptoms.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many nursing homes overuse antipsychotic drugs to control agitated patients, but these drugs increase the risk of death in patients with dementia. Certain sleep medications can be dangerous for nursing home residents; they increase the risk of falls by causing disorientation and impairing balance. The New York Times reported the serious consequences of the lack of proper oral hygiene care in many facilities. Residents whose teeth and mouths are not cleaned regularly can suffer pain, broken teeth, and gum disease, all of which may interfere with the inability to eat properly. They may develop infections, including pneumonia, when oral bacteria enter the bloodstream.