More and more seniors are headed to nursing homes. You might think that this would place greater emphasis on the quality of care these facilities provide, but the facts suggest almost the opposite.
A government report released earlier this year found that recorded abuses nearly doubled in the four years from 2013 to 2017. Given that the victims are typically our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, this is a truly concerning statistic—especially when you realize that Washington’s nursing homes rank among the worst in the nation.
The many forms of elder abuse and neglect
While many of the nation’s nursing homes care for their residents, there are many ways that substandard homes may fail them. And a recent report from The Senior List ranked Washington’s nursing homes the nation’s most likely to fail in one way or another. The state racked up a staggering 18.1 complaints per facility, nearly three higher than the next state.
The good news is that the homes weren’t quite as guilty of the worst and most serious offenses. They scored only 1.77 serious complaints per facility, although that still made the state the sixth worst offender.
Altogether, The Senior List noted that the seven most common problems in nursing homes were, in order:
- Poor quality of care
- Failure to uphold resident rights
- Pharmaceutical concerns
- Insufficient resident care plans
- Poor nutrition
- Resident abuse and neglect
Nearly two-thirds of all nursing home abuse committed by staff
Of course, the problems in nursing homes are often intertwined. This fact was highlighted by the findings of a July 2019 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That report looked primarily at nursing home abuse but also noted:
- Homes may not be living up to expectations with their background checks. In fact, 13 states didn’t even require homes to conduct background checks for their staff.
- The homes are largely understaffed. Staffing them up to the recommended 4.1 staff hours per resident day could cost as much as $6 billion.
- Poor reporting means that many incidents of abuse and neglect likely go unreported.
Based on the available reports, however, the GAO concluded that the most common form of abuse was physical abuse. This encompasses everything from rough treatment to direct violence. The percentages for the types of abuse didn’t total up to 100% because some instances involved multiple forms of abuse, but the report showed:
- 46% of all abuse was physical
- 44% was verbal or emotional
- 18% was sexual
- 58% of the abuse was committed by staff
- 30% was committed by residents
The GAO report did not look at cases of financial abuse or neglect.
Who keeps nursing homes honest? Residents and their families
The question becomes: What can you do for your loved ones in nursing homes? The answer is, unfortunately, that you likely need to be more vigilant and active. These homes already have strict laws to follow. The problem is that the systems for reporting often allow troubles to slip through the cracks. It’s often up to the residents and their families to report problems and follow the issues until they’re resolved.
In the meantime, you can pay close attention to the quality of care a home provides. The differences can be tremendous. While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services gave 11.3% of Washington’s nursing homes an abysmal one-star rating, they also gave five-star ratings to another 26.3% of the state’s homes.