Recent news coverage has turned a spotlight on just how vulnerable our elderly loved ones can be in residential care facilities like nursing homes. We’ve recently noted reports of:
- Seven employees of a Columbus, Ohio nursing facility being indicted on charges ranging from patient neglect to involuntary manslaughter after one patient suffered physical harm and another died of untreated wounds that progressed to gangrene;
- A family filing suit against a Cuyahoga Falls nursing home after a 30-year-old facility employee pleaded guilty to felony sexual battery and gross sexual imposition in connection with sexual abuse of an elderly female resident; and
- Photos of an 80-year-old nursing home resident going viral after her family and minister said they found her unattended and face-down in a pillow.
Shocking stories like these obviously raise serious concerns for families who have loved ones in Ohio nursing homes, or whose older or disabled relatives need residential care. But it’s difficult to tell from a few high-profile incidents just how widespread nursing home abuse and neglect is.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Statistics
It’s tempting to hope that the stories about nursing home abuse that make the evening news or spread across the Internet are isolated exceptions. Unfortunately, statistics don’t bear that out. There are significant obstacles to collecting reliable data about institutional abuse of the elderly, including:
- Isolation of many older people in institutional settings leading to underreporting;
- Fear and dependence on their caretakers discouraging reporting;
- Confusion and cognitive disorders that make effective reporting difficult.
Even so, the data that is available is alarming. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) collected data from various studies and surveys and reported that:
- 44% of 2,000 nursing home residents interviewed reported that they had been abused;
- 95% of residents interviewed in the same study said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected;
- More than half of nursing home staff surveyed in another study admitted to having mistreated older patients within the previous year;
- In a separate survey of certified nursing assistants (CNAs), 17% had pushed, grabbed or shoved a resident;
- 51% of CNAs in the same study had yelled at a resident and 23% had insulted or sworn at a resident.
In 2010, 7% of complaints made to long term care ombudsmen involved abuse, neglect, or exploitation. By 2016, that percentage had increased to 7.8%. Nursing home abuse complaints broke out as follows:
- Physical abuse – 29%;
- Resident-to-resident abuse – 22%;
- Psychological abuse – 21%;
- Gross neglect – 14%;
- Sexual abuse – 7%;
- Financial exploitation – 7%.
Protecting Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Of course, the first step toward ensuring that your loved ones who require residential care are safe and well cared for is careful selection of a facility. Families have many tools for making a good selection: Medicare offers a free book on selection of a residential care facility and you can review “report cards” for nearly 1,000 Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes across the state of Ohio.
But abuse and neglect can happen in even the best-rated facilities. So it’s important to trust your personal observations of a facility during the selection process and to monitor your loved one’s care and be aware of signs of abuse and neglect.
Some common warning signs include:
- Unexplained cognitive changes;
- The elderly person becoming withdrawn or fearful;
- Unexplained bruises or restraint marks;
- Pressure ulcers (bed sores);
- Signs of malnutrition or dehydration;
- Fall-related injuries;
- Hygiene issues.
If someone you love has been suffered abuse or injury in an Ohio nursing home, it’s critical to have a knowledgeable medical malpractice and personal injury attorney like Plevin & Gallucci representing your loved one’s interests. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.