Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

What causes a staff person in a nursing home to neglect or abuse a patient? There could be several reasons. But there is still no excuse for neglect or abuse. I once saw a patient slap a nurse aide so hard, I thought she would fall to the floor. To the nurse aide’s credit, she stopped, took a deep breath, and walked away. Another nurse aide took over. The patient, who had dementia, probably didn’t remember the incident later. I bring up this case to illustrate the kind of stress under which many staff members operate. Working in some nursing homes is not an easy job, especially when staff shortages and increased workloads are often the norm. But stress is not the only reason for neglect and abuse.

All staff members need ongoing training in patient care, as well as ongoing strategies for coping with the kinds of problems that are inherent to their positions. I know nursing home staff members who love their jobs and genuinely care about their patients’ well being. But working in a nursing home requires a special kind of person. Employees who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to perform their duties correctly should be held accountable and not allowed to continue working. The same goes for nursing homes that continue to get cited for violations.

Nursing home abuse includes behaviors such as residents being verbally degraded and physically punched, slapped, and even kicked by staff. Sexual abuse has also been reported. Nursing home residents are very vulnerable and sometimes cannot or will not report abuses. That’s why it is so important for caregivers and others to be to be watchful, protective advocates for patients, particularly those with dementia. They should look for signs of abuse, ask patients and other staff members questions, and vary the times of frequent visits.

Most of all, patient advocates should follow through until they get satisfactory results when abuse or neglect takes place. This can be accomplished by reporting what happened to appropriate authorities such as the nursing home administration, the state ombudsman, and the state health department that investigates complaints. Private legal action can be taken against the nursing home. Staff should be aware that certain forms of patient abuse are felonies that will result in prison time.

For more information, contact the Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Resource Center.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

1 comment:

  1. Great post on clutter and great blog. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Jack Halpern
    My Elder Advocate