Reducing Negligence And Malpractice In Care Homes

Updated on October 12, 2020

Elder abuse is nearly as widespread in the U.S. as child abuse, suggests evidence compiled by C Hawes in a report entitled Elder Mistreatment: Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in Aging America. The report states, moreover, that older people who live in care settings are at a particularly high risk for abuse and neglect, owing to the fact that many have one or more chronic diseases that cause physical or cognitive limitations. Moreover, many can be reticent to complain about abuse because of fear of retaliation. What is the extent of abuse in some care homes, and what steps can be taken to reduce it?

Abusive Actions Range From Physical To Psychological

Research by N Castle published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, based on information compiled by 4,451 nurse aids, showed that 36% observed argumentative behavior with residents and 28% observed intimidation. On a lower rate, behaviors like physical abuse were also found, with 6% of aides observing grabbing, pushing and pinching). Around 10% also saw staff threatening to stop providing care to a resident, 10% observed inappropriate delays in the provision of medication, 10% saw carers taking assets from patients, and 1% observed unwelcome talk about sex. From a legal perspective, meanwhile, nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have brought lawsuits for additional manifestations of abuse and negligence – including not giving residents oral/dental care, not doing range of motion exercises, not helping residents with toileting when requested, rough handling, yelling, punching, and speaking to residents harshly.

Reducing Rates Of Negligence And Malpractice

In order to make a positive change to the lives of elderly residents of care homes, a multifaceted approach must be taken. One vital approach is due reporting by health care professionals of signs and symptoms of abuse; many findings have shown that underreporting is rampant among patients of this age group. Underreporting is also high when it comes to residents and family members. The latter should be fully informed of appropriate actions to take and of precise contacts to report to if they suspect a friend or loved one is being abused or neglected. 

The Role Of Government Reform

Government reform is also sorely needed, since around 10% of all nursing homes in the US have been cited for abuse violations. A system should be set up in which family members who regularly visit high-risk patients (especially those who are cognitively impaired) can report levels of satisfaction. Moreover, cognitively intact residents can act as proxies that testify to potential misdeeds in the care setting. Finally, official government interviewers should utilize various sources of written or recorded information – including medical records, interviews with other residents who are in good cognitive health, and direct observation of the resident and their interaction with staff.

Abuse and negligence in care homes for the elderly are more rampant than many people realize. Evidence has been found of both physical and psychological abuse, with some residents (especially those who are cognitively or physically impaired) being at a particularly high risk of abuse. The problem needs to be tackled with greater government intervention, more visits to care homes and more interviews conducted with cognitively sound residents. Finally, both family and health care providers should be trained to identify signs of abuse or neglect so that official complaints can be made.

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