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Nursing home abuse is tragically common

When our loved ones are no longer able to care for themselves and we must rely on others for their well-being, the last thing we want to find out is that they have become the victims of abuse or neglect. Millions of elderly and incapacitated people live in nursing homes throughout the country, and new studies are revealing that various forms of neglect and abuse have occurred in a large portion of these facilities. The National Center on Elder Abuse shines a light on the problem, stating that nearly 90 percent of the country’s nursing homes aren’t equipped with adequate staff to provide a high level of care for their residents.

In what is becoming an alarmingly common occurrence, many nursing home residents are becoming victims of afflictions ranging from bed sores to broken bones, resulting from falls or abuse. And the already disturbing numbers may be underreported: The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability says that only about 1 in 23 elder abuse cases are reported in our state.

Abuses from staff rampant in today’s nursing homes

ABC News recently released an alarming report stating that about one third of nursing homes throughout the country have been cited for some type of abuse. Many cases, including reports of staff members physically striking or choking residents, have been serious enough to place residents at risk of injury or death. Other common instances of neglect involve malnutrition and dehydration, inadequate medical care, untreated bedsores and inadequate sanitation and hygiene. Residents have also been victims of preventable accidents, including falls resulting from improperly maintained facilities, or patients wandering off and getting lost or hurt.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bed sores that are left to fester can cause the patient severe pain, often resulting in deadly infections. When a patient lies in one position for too long without being moved, these pressure wounds can worsen into hard to treat infections like cellulitis, sepsis, bone and joint infections and even cancerous tumors.

Not all staff are neglectful and uncaring, of course, but many are simply too overworked due to the difficulty many facilities have in employing qualified caregivers. Others may witness abuse and be unable to stop it from happening. One former nursing home employee told WKRG that during her career, she witnessed many instances of abuse, including bed sores so severe she was able to see the bones beneath. Her advice was for family members to visit their loved ones often, in order to monitor the level of care they were receiving.

Shielding your loved one from abuse

In fact, nursing home staff is much more likely to treat residents better if they know they’re being watched. Family members of nursing home residents should keep an eye out for any of the following signs that may mean a patient is being abused or neglected:

  • Unexplained weight loss, patient begging for food
  • Soiled bedding and clothing, patient not being bathed, apparent unsanitary living conditions
  • Bruises, cuts, untreated bed sores
  • Arguments and tension between the patient and caregiver
  • Changes in the resident’s behavior and personality

Even what seem to be small signs that something is amiss should not be taken lightly, since abused nursing home residents have a significantly higher chance of dying prematurely than those whose level of care is superior.

Nobody deserves to live in conditions in which they’re treated poorly or put in danger. If your loved one has suffered due to bed sores and pressure wounds, preventable falls, bruises or broken bones, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.