Nursing home abuse, assisted living facility abuse and residential care home abuse have become a prevalent problem in our society. With the aging of the Baby Boomers, there has been an increased demand for these types of nursing home facilities. Industry projections are that the number of people requiring long-term care will double in the next two decades to nearly 14 million.

There are over 1.5 million seniors living in over 17,000 nursing homes across the country. In Texas there are over 1,200 nursing home or assisted living facilities with over 12,000 complaints filed with the Texas Department of Human Services each year.

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect do occur, however if you are armed with the knowledge and understanding of how this occurs and in what forms it will show, you will be able to either prevent or notice if harm has been done to your loved one.

To assist you with preventing nursing home abuse and neglect, I have provided some information about the different types of facilities that you're loved one may be living in.

Nursing Homes:

Nursing Homes are required to have medical directors and physicians who supervise and are responsible for the medical care provided in the facility. Nursing homes can administer medication but the medications can only be administered by a medication aide, licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or registered nurse (RN).

Assisted Living Facilities:

Many assisted living facilities are being attacked because they are in effect operating as a nursing home facility without licensing, but these facilities may or may not be inspected and they are not subject to the same regulations which establish standards for nursing home facilities. In fact, the General Accounting Office concluded in 1999 that it was not possible to determine the precise number of persons living in assisted living facilities in the United States because there is no generally accepted definition of assisted living and no systematic means of counting these facilities. Estimates of the current number of beds in assisted living facilities range from 800,000 to 1.5 million.

Residential Care Facilities:

Residential care facilities are variously known as residential care facilities for seniors, adult care homes and boarding homes for seniors, many of which are not licensed.

Residential care facilities do not have licensed personnel. They may not administer medications or medical services. Being that there is no requirement to be licensed, these facilities are not necessarily subject to state inspection and have no staffing requirements.

To assist you with recognizing nursing home abuse and neglect, I have provided information for you to utilize when determining if your loved one has been harmed. We have grouped these harms into three distinct sections: Nursing Home Abuse, Nursing Home Neglect and Nursing Home Injuries.

Nursing Home Abuse:

Nursing home abuse is caused when someone or something causes intentional pain or harm. This type of abuse includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse and punishment.

  • Physical Abuse – Common abuse may include: hitting, pinching, shoving, force-feeding, scratching, slapping, spitting and more specifically, assault and/or battery.
  • Psychological Abuse – Common abuse may include: scolding, ignoring, making fun of, or cursing a resident and other verbal abuse. Threats of punishment or denial of necessities are also a common form of psychological abuse.
  • Sexual Abuse - Common abuse may include: touching, coercion to perform sexual acts or worse yet, sexual assault, sexual battery or rape.
  • Punishment – Common abuse may include: unreasonable physical restraint, prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water and sometimes use of a physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication for any purpose not consistent with that authorized by the physician.
  • Nursing Home Neglect:

    Nursing Home Neglect is generally considered as being an unintentional failure to react to a situation or care for a person in a manner that would avoid a situation that may be harmful. By and large, nursing home neglect is caused by a staff member who is poorly trained or overworked. Nursing home neglect is generally seen as physical neglect, medical neglect and failure to prevent and assist. Below are some of the common signs of nursing home neglect.

  • Physical Neglect – Common forms of physical neglect may include: Incorrect body positioning, poor hand washing or bathing techniques, lack of toileting or changing that leads to limb problems, skin breakdown, bedsores, ulcers and infections.
  • Medical Neglect - Common forms of medical neglect may include: lack of care for existing medical problems, poor access to medical services and mistakes in the administration of pharmaceuticals.
  • Failure to Prevent and Assist - Common forms of the failure to prevent and assist may include: Lack of assistance eating, drinking, walking, bathing, and participating in activities, and ignoring bed calls or cries for help. Failure to protect from health, safety and emotional hazards can result in malnutrition, dehydration, poor hygiene, indignity, withdrawal, isolation and infections.
  • Nursing Home Injuries:

    The most common forms of nursing home injuries are as follows: bed injuries, pressure ulcers, falls and fractures, malnutrition and dehydration.

  • Bed Injuries – Some of the most common types of bed injuries include suffocation and strangulation. These bed injuries are generally caused by side rails that do not extend the full length of the bed, the use of half rails, which are only two-three feet in length, or mattresses that are loosely fitted causing gaps of space where a resident could become trapped.
  • Pressure Ulcers - Pressure Ulcers are also called bedsores or decubitus ulcers. Pressure ulcers can be very mild in condition (pink coloration on skin) or very serious in condition (wound that extends into bone). Common places to find pressure ulcers include the elbows, spine, tailbone, hips, or feet. Pressure ulcers are generally caused by the friction of bed sheets, casts, braces, prolonged exposure to cold substances, poor nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, poor hygiene, and dehydration.
  • Pressure ulcers may be an indication of the quality of care being provided by a nursing home. Pressure ulcers are not always avoidable, but with quick attention, the wounds will heal and not progress to a Stage IV situation (a massive, deep, open wound).

  • Falls and Fractures – One of the most common reasons that falls and fractures take place is simply the age of the resident; however other factors include: dizziness, dehydration, medications and the use of restraints, as well as medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, strokes, cardiovascular problems, and optical impairment.
  • Malnutrition/Dehydration – Malnutrition and dehydration will generally lead to the increased risk of the rapid deterioration of a resident’s health. Common consequences of malnutrition and dehydration include infections, confusion, muscle weakness, pressure ulcers, pneumonia and many other avoidable health problems. Malnutrition and dehydration are essentially the lack of essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and calories.
  • Malnutrition may be physically caused by, illness of the resident, food and drug interactions, depression, and oral disorders or problems associated with feeding themselves. Malnutrition can also be environmentally caused by, for instance; improper supervision of a resident's diet by staff that is uneducated as to the special needs of the resident.

    Some of the most common signs of dehydration are diarrhea, vomiting, fevers and urinary problems.

    Who do I turn to if I suspect abuse has occured?

    Nursing Home Abuse or Nursing Home Neglect can be a very confusing and complex problem to deal with. There are people to turn to in both yourself and your loved one's time of need.

    There are essentially five people or agencies to turn to if you suspect that your loved one has suffered in any way, shape or form, including but not limited to, nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect. The five people or agencies include: the nursing home staff, your state ombudsman, your state Department of Health, your state Licensing and Certification Office, and an experienced Nursing home abuse lawyer.

    Nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect is an extremely complex type of Civil Litigation. If you suspect that your loved one has fallen victim to nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, you should consult with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible.

    If you would like to read more about nursing home abuse and neglect please find sources below:

    http://www.marianrosen.com - Legal Advice

    http://www.angelfire.com/tn/NursingHome - General Information

    http://www.nccnhr.com - Serious Information

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