When special care becomes unavailable to an elder, a nursing home can provide the treatment that is tailored to their specific needs. However, there are times when a facility demonstrates malpractices, which can seriously impact the well-being of a resident. Whether caused by a shortage in nursing staff or the negligence of an employee, nursing home abuse is a relevant issue keeping patients from receiving the proper aid they deserve.
Nursing homes have more regulations than other forms of senior care, with significant attention given to regulating the staff and their routines of care. Some forms of abuse are accidental, such as a fault in medication management; giving out an improper dosage amount or the wrong medicine is an example of physical neglect that can be potentially fatal for the resident. Also, staff members may not notice if an elder skips meals or is becoming malnourished/dehydrated. While these faults are not intentional, the nursing home staff is completely responsible for those who cannot independently care for their own physical and emotional health, and failure to notice or treat problems like malnutrition can be detrimental. Any instances of a lack in the performance of a staff member’s duties can be emotionally neglectful towards the elder if they are often left alone or feel ignored.
Purposeful acts of physical or emotional abuse can be especially harmful to the safety and health of an elder. Signs of violence, such as bite marks, wounds, cuts, bruises, even weight loss, should make it fairly obvious that the resident is being subjected to nursing home abuse. Emotionally, residents can suffer from elder psychological abuse if they are being humiliated or terrorized by their caretakers.
For nursing home patients, extreme measures must be taken in regard to the vulnerability of the seniors, and a breach in this required care can result in either abuse or neglect. Either of these instances can be equally as harmful to the health of the residing elder, which is why it is so significant that regulations in nursing homes remain as strict.
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When age or a certain physical condition starts to require regular care and extra time that other family members can no longer provide due to work and/or other valid concerns, these members, with the consent of their aged or sick loved one, rather decide to seek out a nursing home, which can (and should) provide the quality care needed by the aged or physically disabled individual. Though a hard decision to make, families are often forced to house their loved ones in nursing homes because they are certain that in these institutions, quality care, through mindful physical and medical treatment, will be provided.
On its website, law firm Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® states that nursing homes should be places where the elderly can feel safe and provided with the full care that they need; however, the firm is also aware of the many physical abuses that often lead to serious injuries or even death committed in many nursing homes in the US.
Recent studies (conducted by staff from the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee) show that between January 1999 and January 2001 about 9,000 instances of abuse in 5,283 nursing home facilities have been committed. The abuses (or lack of care) were actually acts resulting to dehydration, inadequate medical care, inadequate sanitation and hygiene, preventable accidents, untreated bedsores, malnutrition and so forth. The number of abuses specified, does not include minor incidents, though, such as a resident slapping a co-resident – a minor harmful act but which federal regulations require to be reported.
As of May 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 16,100 nursing home facilities in the US. These houses more than 1.5 million elders, physically or mentally incapacitated individuals and persons needing rehabilitative therapies due to an illness or an accident. Though some of the reported abuses were committed by the victims’ co-residents, majority were performed by nurses and/or staff, who may have very well been over-worked and tired, lacking in training, or unqualified. But no matter what the reason is, nursing home abuse is a crime for which the abuser may be found guilty criminally and civilly.
Adding to the past reported cases of abuses against nursing home residents (these cases include financial, emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuses), a new growing concern of the federal government is the oversedation or overmedication of patients with antipsychotic drugs (approved by the FDA for people suffering from bipolar disorders or schizophrenia). These drugs are being given regularly to patients suffering only from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. To medical experts, and especially to the FDA, this “chemical restraint” resorted to by some staff and nurses to retrain residents from the effects of dementia attacks can lead to severe injuries or deadly results; despite this, the FDA says that this type of treatment remains to be given to about 300,000 nursing home residents.
Some individuals sustain injuries due to their own carelessness or mistakes; others, however, are due to someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior. Injuries of this type are called personal injuries and, according to the website of the Habush Habush & Rottier S.C.®, people who suffer these are allowed by the law to seek legal action against the liable party for compensation.
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