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Ask An Expert: How Common Is Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse?
Ask An Expert: How Common is Nursing Home Abuse?
As an attorney who represents nursing home patients and their families, I am often asked the important question: “how common is abuse and neglect in the nursing home setting?” Many times, the person asking follows their own question with a comment along the lines of: “I bet you see lot of it.” It is interesting that so many people have this intuitive response.
We all too often see and hear the headlines about how yet another nursing home has failed to properly care for a patient. These common reports of neglect and abuse include understaffed facilities that let patients suffer deadly falls, facilities that fail to turn and reposition patients causing the development of painful pressure sores, the posting of explicit photos/videos of patients to social media, and even sexual assault. Just one such incident is clearly too many, but the question remains: are these reported incidents unfortunate isolated events, or warning signs of a much larger problem?
To answer the question, we will look at studies reporting what state investigators, nursing home employees, and patients and families themselves have to say about the issue. But first, it is important to point out that even one single act of abuse and neglect is unacceptable. No matter how many nursing homes there are, or how many vulnerable patients they choose to admit, abuse and neglect can always — and should always — be prevented.
Every nursing home in the U.S. that receives Medicare funding (i.e., virtually all of them) explicitly agrees and promises us taxpayers to help every resident “attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well–being.” In other words, they are paid to ensure that patients receive proper care and to ensure patients are not neglected or abused.
Yet, most of us have a family member, friend, or other loved one who has suffered a far different experience while residing in a nursing home. This anecdotal evidence of widespread neglect and abuse is confirmed by the reports of those who have researched the issue. For years now, the evidence from government investigations, as well as surveys of nursing home employees and patients, all confirm the unacceptable prevalence of patient mistreatment.
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Jeff Powless is an attorney and the author of the 2017 book, Abuses and Excuses: How To Hold Bad Nursing Homes Accountable. Abuses and Excuses breaks new ground in helping patients and families hold bad nursing homes accountable, sharing a wealth of insider strategies and insights. It’s an eye opening account of corporate greed, acts of neglect and abuse, an insidious industry culture of cover-up, and the actual harm that inevitably befalls vulnerable nursing home patients all across the country with shocking frequency.
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