Over 36 million Americans are currently over the age of 65. By 2050, that number is expected to raise to 86.7 million. We have an estimated 1.4 million residents living in 16,000 nursing homes in the United States. Incredible statistics.
This problem did not sneak up on us. We all knew that our population was aging. It is a great thing. People are living longer and more productive lives. Today, 80 is the new 60. But there are byproducts of civilization’s leap forward. We keep saying we realize there is a problem with nursing home abuse and neglect. But the problem is getting better, not worse.
In nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the most common problem is not abuse, but negligence: care and treatment by nursing homes that just will not spend the time to provide a reasonable and humane level of care. Nursing home residents are also getting run over with overmedication (“Here, have some Seroquel”), and financial exploitation. The elderly are also at risk of improper monitoring and post-operative care, following their return to the nursing home after surgical procedures. Less common – but still all too common – is mental, physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. Any of these things can have a devastating effect on nursing home patients. Old equals vulnerable in far too many cases.
What do you do if your parents or someone else you love is in a nursing home? It is important to be aware of signs of negligence which may include unsanitary conditions, bedsores, unexplained anemia, weight loss, irritability, unexplained bruises, slow reaction time from nurses, sedation of the resident, and little interaction between nursing staff and the resident.
Significant risk factors among caregivers for elder abuse include inability to deal with stress, low pay, low job satisfaction, depression, and substance abuse. These factors can lead to loss of compassion and care for the residents. Further stress can come from poor working conditions, too many responsibilities, and a lack of proper training.
Studies have identified that the quality of care provided in nursing homes is closely associated with nurse staffing levels, and some states have implemented standard education levels that must be met. Studies have shown that higher levels of education lead to higher standards of care and, in turn, lower risk of negligence.
Inadequate staffing is another major factor associated with nursing home negligence. In many nursing homes, there are not enough staff members to meet the federal recommendations for 3.45 nursing hours daily per patient, and 4 nursing home expert hours per patient. Many nursing homes do not even meet minimum staffing requirements.
But you know the problem: we are running out of money. We have to look for non-monetary solutions (Throwing money at the problem is not going to solve it anyway, it will just lead to more profits for nursing homes.).
It is important that every resident be given appropriate care to meet their individual needs. As many residents have specific medical needs, it is imperative that nursing home staff are aware of the patients’ conditions and requirements and meet their needs.
With rising costs and an aging population, nationally and particularly in Maryland, nursing homes have felt and will continue to face increasing financial pressures. What we are doing now is not working. The increased risk of negligence must be mitigated in order to ensure the well being and quality of life that these people deserve.
Maybe to the man with a hammer, everything is a nail. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I really do think that nursing home lawsuits – meritorious nursing home lawsuits – help solve the problem. Claims that demonstrate abuse lead to settlements and verdicts which lead to insurance companies that have to pay higher insurance premiums. This reduces the nursing home profits and reminds nursing homes that good care and making money can go hand-in-hand.
Another idea that is languishing out there is a law that would require Maryland nursing homes to give people the choice of putting in cameras to monitor the care given to the one they love who is in a nursing home. The resident would have to consent and pay for the cost. So, Maryland nursing homes would not pay a single cent. It is a great idea, but the law has never made it very far in the Maryland legislature because nursing homes are fighting it tooth and nail. Why? Because they don’t want us to see how the sausage is being made. That tells us something, right?
If someone you love has injuries of unknown origin, bedsores, a broken hip or frequent falls, and you suspect elder abuse or negligence from a Maryland nursing home, a nursing home lawyer may be able to help.