Elder abuse lawyers in San Francisco report that acts of serious physical, sexual, and verbal abuse are rampant in nursing homes across the country. A recently released study prepared by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee indicates that more than 5,000 institutions—one-third of all nursing homes in the United States—have been cited for over 9,000 cases of elder abuse between 1999 and 2001. The report highlights a serious need for reform in the nursing home industry, in order to protect more vulnerable elderly residents in need of care.
Among these instances of abuse include inadequate medical care, lack of nutrition, dehydration, unsanitary and unhygienic conditions, and untreated bedsores, according to the report. The report also indicates cases where residents were punched, kicked, choked, beaten, sexually assaulted, or otherwise hurt by staff members, injuries that left behind bruises and broken bones. In other cases, workers incited fights between residents, bribing them with forbidden items like cigarettes.
In more than 1,600 cases, the residents suffered serious injury or even death as a result of abuse violations. Nursing home workers were cited both for inflicting physical and sexual abuse and for failing to protect their charges from abusive coworkers. More disturbingly, abuse seems to be on the rise, with the number of cases increasing every year since 1996.
Nursing home workers and representatives say that maintaining a skilled, caring staff is difficult, given the lack of people in the field. The California Association of Homes & Services for the Aging reports that there is a lack of licensed vocational nurses, working aides, and certified nursing assistants—partially because there are so few in each field, and partially because the average pay rate for these jobs is just above minimum wage. Without a qualified pool to choose from, it is hard to fully staff a nursing facility, and offer the best care to elderly residents. And without a full staff, small aspects of patient care are sometimes overlooked, resulting in bedsores, dehydration, and other illnesses that could have been easily prevented.
A lack of funding does not help the issue either, elder abuse attorneys in San Francisco say. More than 1.6 million people live in nursing homes across the country, and most of these homes are federally funded through Medicaid and Medicare. Along with this funding, the federal government imposes regulations and health standards to protect residents from abuse. But this abuse is still happening, despite these efforts.
The committee’s leader, Rep. Henry Waxman, from California, says that a new bill will improve the quality of care in nursing homes across the country. Waxman’s bill plans to increase federal funding, set limits on the minimum number of staff for each facility, increase Internet disclosure for facility conditions, and increase the fines for instances of abuse. He hopes that these changes will help keep elderly residents safe.
At the Evans Law Firm, our elder abuse attorneys represent California residents and their loved ones who have been suffered injury, abuse, or death while in the care of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Call our firm today at 415-441-8669.