Congressional Report Cites Thousands of Cases of Elder Abuse

The widespread problem of elder abuse has even come to the attention of Congress. Reported instances of abuse appear to be on the rise. The percentage of nursing homes cited for violations has increased every year since 1996, according to the House Government Reform Committee. Serious physical, sexual and verbal abuse reports are “numerous” among the nation’s nursing homes, says a congressional study released recently.

The study, prepared by the minority (Democratic and Independent) staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, finds that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States — 5,283 facilities — were cited for almost 9,000 instances of abuse over a recent two-year period, from January 1999 to January 2001.

Common problems included untreated bedsores, inadequate medical care, malnutrition, dehydration, preventable accidents, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, the report said.

Many of the abuse violations caused harm to the residents, the report said.

In 1,601 cases, the abuse violations were serious enough “to cause actual harm to residents or to place the residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury,” it said.

“What we have found is shocking,” says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the committee’s minority leader, who instructed the staff to do the study.

Staff members accused of committing physical or sexual abuse

In some reported cases, a member of the nursing home’s staff was accused of committing physical or sexual abuse. In others, staff were cited for failing to protect people from abuse by other residents.

The report documents instances of residents being punched, slapped, choked or kicked by staff members or other residents, causing injuries such as fractured bones or lacerations.

Some of the violations uncovered are particularly disturbing. In one case, according to the report, an attendant walked into a resident’s room, said “I’m tired of your ass,” and hit her in the face, breaking her nose.

In another case, attendants bribed a brain-damaged patient with cigarettes to attack another resident, then watched the two fight. The report also described a case in which a male attendant molested an elderly female resident while bathing her.

The federal government is the biggest contributor of nursing home care

The homes cited by the study for instances of abuse accommodate some 550,000 residents. Nationwide, some 1.6 million people reside in 17,000 nursing homes and 11,000 of them are for-profit businesses.

The federal government is the biggest contributor of nursing home care, mostly through Medicaid, a joint federal-state health care program for the poor, and Medicare, the federal program for elderly and disabled people. Federal heath and safety standards are designed to protect nursing home residents from abuse.

Elder Abuse Lawyer Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: “Congressional Report Cites Thousands of Cases of Elder Abuse,” 30 July 2013

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