Nursing homes are charged with the tough task of caring for a very vulnerable population. Unfortunately, far too many facilities fall down on the job. According to a concerning study from the House Government Reform Committee’s Special Investigations Division, abuse and neglect occur at approximately one out of every three facilities. These abuses are often difficult to detect, and even if they are revealed, residents may struggle to hold responsible parties accountable.
Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse and neglect are very common in nursing homes, with many residents slapped, hit, force fed, forcibly restrained, or otherwise subjected to terrible treatment. Medications are often used to abuse nursing home residents; some are forced to take unwanted drugs, while others suffer as needed medications are withheld. Physical abuse is typically the easiest type of harm to detect, and it is often accompanied by verbal or sexual abuse.
The lack of respect given to nursing home residents is appalling. Many are subjected to insults, harassment, humiliation, or threats. These obvious forms of verbal abuse are common, but residents may also be subjected to more insidious types of abuse, which caretakers may not realize is harmful. Many of these inconsiderate caretakers fail to give nursing home residents the level of privacy they deserve. They enter rooms without knocking or prevent residents from spending time alone with loved ones. Other caretakers treat residents as if they are young children, leaving them feeling insulted and humiliated.
Sexual abuse within nursing homes is shockingly common and incredibly misunderstood. It’s also the most difficult form of abuse to detect. Sadly, the older the abused individual, the less likely the abuser is to be held accountable. Types of sexual abuse commonly carried out in nursing homes include sexual harassment, unwanted touching, and rape.
Nursing home employees and volunteers often take advantage of residents, who, due to a variety of illnesses and conditions, may not be able to determine when their finances are in jeopardy. Caregivers often possess easy access to residents’ bank account or credit card information, and far too many use this information for personal gain. Healthcare fraud is also alarmingly common; this occurs when caregivers charge patients for services that are either unnecessary or never actually performed. Not only can this type of exploitation be financially damaging, it can harm the abused individual’s health, as he or she may fail to receive necessary care.
Nursing Home Rights
Under federal law, residents living in Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes are entitled to numerous rights, which must be protected and promoted by the facilities these residents occupy. Not only must nursing homes protect residents’ rights, they must make every effort to inform aspiring residents of their rights before they are admitted. The following are just a few of the many rights by which nursing homes are required to abide:
- The right for residents to determine their own schedules, including mealtime
- Freedom from discrimination according to federal, state, and local civil rights laws
- Freedom from physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse
- Freedom from physical and chemical restraints
- Full participation in making decisions that impact residents’ care
- The right to refuse to participate in experimental treatments
- The right to private visits, phone calls, mail, and email
- The right to appeal discharges or transfers
Nursing Home Reform Act
The Nursing Home Reform Act was a response to a 1986 study that highlighted abuse and neglect in numerous facilities. The act’s goal was and still is to ensure that all residents receive the care necessary to achieve the best possible physical and emotional wellbeing. Facilities are ostensibly only eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding if they maintain full compliance with all terms of this legislation and perform the following essential services:
- Dietary services
- Rehabilitation services
- Pharmaceutical services
- The creation of comprehensive care plans for all residents
- Periodic assessments for all residents
- Social services for facilities with more than 120 beds
Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
If you or a loved one has been abused at the hands of nursing home employees or volunteers, you may be eligible for compensation. Not only could you receive full remuneration for your suffering, your efforts may ensure that others do not continue to suffer in the future. Reach out today to learn more about how you can hold abusive caregivers and facilities responsible.