What Is Being Done To End Nursing Home Abuse?
Currently, about 1.5 million nursing home residents reside in the United States. Nine-out-of-ten nursing homes are understaffed and the hours per day nursing home personnel are recommended to spend with residents by the government is not being met by many nursing homes. Employees are underpaid, overworked, and, in many cases, undertrained; five percent have criminal records, and 25 percent of those prosecuted for nursing home related crimes already had a record. Unfortunately, all of these factors and the fact that many elderly patients have psychological or physical incapacities lead to abuse in nursing homes; 33 percent of all nursing homes nationwide have been reported for some form of elder abuse. The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home can be a difficult decision solely because it means that they will live away from family and friends. With the added threat of abuse, and it is a real threat, the decision becomes almost a lose-lose situation. Given some of the atrocities in nursing homes, what is being done to stop the abuse?
Unfortunately, federal officials have found that state inspection agencies are not fully fulfilling their objectives. States are required by their contracts with The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to perform annual surveys at nursing homes. However, mistakes are being made and inaccuracies recorded. The General Accountability Office (GAO) is a federal agency whose mission is to guarantee that federal programs are meeting their constitutional responsibilities. The agency has been investigating state agencies for a few decades after the high rate of abuses came to their attention. They have found two main problems with state inspection officials. The first problem is the state inspectors are passing dangerous homes. The second problem is that when state inspectors determine that abuse or neglect are present, they are understating the degree of harm. And, unfortunately, the GAO reported in 2008 that both of these mistakes have led to harm, injury, and death of nursing home residents. According to a 2003 GAO report, 20 percent of nursing homes were state approved despite actually being dangerous.
A main reason for these mistakes are that nursing homes generally know the dates state officials will go to their facilities to complete inspections; this allows homes sufficient time to prepare, and hide their deficiencies.
What is being done?
Federal agencies, like AGO and The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services are working to rectify these mistakes. Annually they complete investigations and release reports on nationwide nursing home abuse statistics and improvements. Since AGO’s initial investigations, state inspection related mistakes and oversights have decreased. However, since the nursing home population is growing annually due to the Baby Boomer generation’s accelerating age, nursing home abuse is not necessarily becoming less common.
Advocacy groups also work to end nursing home abuse. They have risen in popularity in recent years, bringing to light the abuses taking place in nursing homes. Groups educate the public on individuals’ experiences and attempt to prevent abuses by releasing relevant data and statistics. They also provide resources and tools for victims and their families.
Amy Shoemaker is a guest post and article writer bringing to us her thoughts on nursing home abuse.
Additionally, Amy writes about this subject for http://www.nursinghomeabuse.net
- Nursing home hospitalizations often driven by payer status (eurekalert.org)
- New Disparity in Nursing Homes: Whites Leave, Elders of Color Enter (alternet.org)
- A Family Member HomeCare, A Hallandale Beach, Florida Home Health Care Agency, Notes GAO Report: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Oversight of Long-Term Care Hospitals Is Limited and Should Be Strengthened (browardhomehealthcareagency.com)