Why Nursing Home Patients Are Often at Risk of Neglect or Abuse
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a significant problem, both in the United States and worldwide. Estimates are that 25% of American nursing homes residents suffer some type of physical abuse every year. The World Health Organization reports that two of every three staff personnel at nursing homes around the world admit to having committed abuse in the past. What are the causes of nursing home abuse and neglect? Why is it such a pervasive problem?
Factors that Lead to Negligent Nursing Home Care
Most industry experts and watchdogs attribute the prevalence of nursing home abuse and neglect to nursing home operators’ emphasis on profitability at the expense of meeting a reasonable level of patient care. Cost-cutting measures lead directly to such problems as:
- Failure to hire properly qualified workers
- Failure to attract competent caregivers because of inadequate wages
- Failure to provide necessary staff training and supervision
- Failure to put standard procedures and practices in place to protect patients
- Failure to provide proper safety equipment
- Failure to accurately assess the needs of patients and provide necessary care and services
Problems Caused by Understaffing
Studies show that nursing homes in the United States have been chronically understaffed for a long time. Understaffing leads to patient injuries in a variety of ways:
- Inadequate staff to provide the necessary care for all residents
- Staff inability to properly supervise or oversee patients, leading to falls or even physical altercations between residents
- Worker frustration that results in denial of care, failure to administer prescription medication, or even physical acts of violence by workers against patients
Lack of Training
The needs of patients in a nursing home can be complex and varied. Unfortunately, most nursing home employees receive inadequate training and guidance and lack the expertise to respond properly to medical emergencies, or even to some routine healthcare needs. Nursing homes routinely hire workers with:
- Little or no educational or vocational training to care for patients
- No previous experience in nursing home care
- No understanding of the unique issues and challenges that arise on a daily basis in a nursing home
- No understanding of the needs and rights of nursing home residents
Because they offer significantly lower wages than other healthcare positions (about 10% less than hospitals, with fewer benefits as well), nursing homes typically do not attract the highest caliber workers.
If you detect signs of nursing home abuse or neglect affecting a loved one, contact an attorney to find out what steps you need to take to stop the abuse and to learn whether your loved one might have a claim for damages.