Science and medicine are allowing human beings to live longer and longer. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that humans have also been freed from the ills and issues that come with aging. As a result, much of our aging and aged population will ultimately reside in some type of “assisted living facility”. And as we approach a time when one of modern history’s largest population waves (a.k.a. baby boomers) are entering this stage, the demand for assisted living facilities will only continue.
While no adult relishes the thought of being dependent on others for basic care, the experiences of a number of care facility residents is satisfactory. But other residents have a very different story. A formal Federal investigation early in the 21st century revealed that “serious” abuse of residents was occurring in one of three long-term care living facilities in America. Abuses ranged the gamut, from physical to sexual to emotional. Theft, the study revealed, was also not uncommon, and many residents also risked injury from neglect or “care” at the hands of untrained or unsupervised (usually both) attendants. And it appeared that allegations of this abuse were on the rise compared to earlier studies.
After reading the study report, both parties of Congress claimed to be shocked and outraged. America’s most vulnerable population needed to be protected and sweeping industry reforms were clearly in order. And a little more than a decade later, have there been those big reforms to nursing home care? Sadly, there have not. A big part of why this has been difficult is that many of these facilities are run by a plethora of organizations, making the establishing of consistent rules and enforcement difficult. Our outgoing president has promised sweeping new nursing home legislation that would affect all facilities of this type. But such legislation would be expensive to implement (about $40,000 per facility), and there are no guarantees that the incoming administration would continue to champion this.
And there are those both within and outside of the aging residential care industry who question whether or not all of the elder-care abuse being reported truly qualifies as abuse. The memory, cognitive abilities, and sensory abilities of residents at these facilities are often in severe decline. This can make victims and fellow residents who claim to have seen the abuse “unreliable witnesses”. And many residential facilities have policies in place that require that all “incidents” (like one resident yelling at another) to be classified as abuse. This, these experts point out, can create “false positives” in reporting.
But there’s no denying the continual reports of actual abuse coming in from nursing homes around the country. The resident in Massachusetts who suffered two broken legs and died the next day from internal injuries when an unqualified attendant tried to move her from her bed to a wheelchair. The attendants in Arizona who regularly assaulted a ninety-three year old resident for fun. And the District Of Columbia resident who almost starved to death because staff didn’t seem to notice that he had stopped eating.
While the aftermath of the Congressional home inquiry resulted in new facility governing laws for all fifty states, compliance and enforcement of them has been spotty at best. That means that the true protectors of these residents needs to be their friends and relatives. Since these facilities and their residents are often not the best observers and reporters of abuses, residents’ loved ones should be always alert for signs of:
- unexplained broken bones
- unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, etc.
- the resident is suffering from unexplained anxiety, mood swings, or depression
- the resident seems withdrawn or frightened
- the resident is dehydrated or losing weight
- the resident is “losing” belongings or money, and the staff can’t locate them
- the resident has unexplained bedsores
- the resident has frequent infections
- the facility staff doesn’t want you to be alone with the resident or discuss problems that you’ve been observing
There’s an old joke that hospitals are bad for one’s health, and it’s true that accidents and incidents can happen at even the best run facilities. And these facilities are insured as well to cover issues that victimize residents. But these insurers work for the facilities in question, and are not advocates for residents and their families. That’s why it’s so important to contact a lawyer specializing in nursing home abuse when such cases are suspected.
Such an attorney can collect evidence, interview witnesses, file paperwork, attend hearings, and arrange for examinations and expert testimony. With the help of this type of lawyer, residents and their families can get adequate medical treatment and financial compensation. They can also help “bad seed” facilities to be brought to justice, insuring that they and other residents can celebrate their later years in truly golden style. For more information .