Most people don’t think about it much until we hear something in the news, but elder abuse is an unfortunate reality in nursing homes and other facilities for the aged. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse is estimated to affect between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 and older. The type of abuse varies, but includes physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.
Here in Alabama, neglect refers to a caregiver’s failure to provide a patient or resident who is unable to care for himself or herself with adequate food, shelter, clothing, or medical/health services. In nursing home care, certified nursing assistance are typically responsible for assisting residents with changing bedding, going to the restroom, bathing, dental care, changing clothes and a number of other daily activities. Likewise, nurses are responsible for dispensing medications, monitoring health conditions and a number of other tasks. When there are deficiencies in these areas, there is a possibility of neglect.
Determining exactly when nursing home neglect has occurred is a matter of understanding the laws and regulations which establish minimum standards of care for nursing homes. Under federal law, there is the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which details the standards for facilities accepting payments from Medicare and Medicaid. These regulations include things like: developing a comprehensive care plan for each resident; providing residents with proper nutrition, grooming, and dental care; keeping residents free from medication errors; and providing adequate nursing staff. Anybody who has worked in a nursing home setting can tell you that inadequate staffing is a very common issue.
In our next post, we’ll continue discussing the issue of nursing home neglect and what victims of neglect can do to protect their rights.