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Report Shows Widespread Nursing Home Abuse

Over 1.5 million seniors live in nursing homes. Although they are entitled to receive proper care, a report from the U.S. Congress shows there is widespread abuse in nursing homes. The report, titled “Abuse of Residents Is A Major Problem in U.S. Nursing Homes,” was the first major investigation to assess the prevalence of abuse in nursing homes by reviewing state nursing home inspection records as well as formal complaints filed by residents, families of residents and others.

The Congressional report looked at incidences of physical, sexual and verbal abuse of residents in U.S. nursing homes. It found that 5,283 nursing homes — almost one out of every three — were cited for abusing residents. The problems were not limited to minor instances of abuse. All the violations had the potential to harm residents. In addition, nearly a third of the violations were serious enough to actually harm residents or place them in danger of serious injury or death. According to the report, nearly 10% of the approximately 17,000 nursing homes in the United States have been cited for abuse violations that caused actual harm to residents or worse.

Other important findings of the report are:

• Many abuse violations are discovered only after a formal complaint has been issued. A large number of states have inspectors to annually check on nursing home violations, but these inspections are often not enough to uncover problems. Nearly half of all violations were discovered only after the filing of a formal complaint.

• The percentage of nursing homes with abuse violations is increasing. During the period studied in the report, abuse violations went up every year. They have nearly doubled in the past decade.

• The level of abuse is extremely serious in many cases. The report found numerous instances of physical abuse of residents by staff, many instances of sexual abuse, and the failure of nursing home staff in many cases to adequately protect residents from other abusive residents.

This report is an important reminder of the kinds of abuse going on in many nursing homes across the country. It suggests that the problem of abuse in nursing homes is more widespread than the public generally recognizes.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, be sure he or she is being treated right. If you think a loved one is being abused or neglected, seek legal help immediately to stop this conduct and to find out what remedies are available under the law. If a nursing home resident is being abused or not receiving proper care, a claim for damages can be made (depending on the facts, criminal proceedings may also be pursued). Recently, the family of a man who died in a nursing home made a claim. The man died from dehydration after being kept in a room without air conditioning and with windows that barely opened. A court ruled for the family and awarded them a large sum of money.

Many residents of nursing homes who are being abused or neglected may be reluctant to reveal this due to various reasons, including fear they will be subject to more abuse if they disclose what happened. It’s therefore vital for family members to be extra watchful and to seek legal help immediately when abuse or neglect is suspected.

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