What images come to mind when you hear the words “nursing home”?
Nursing Homes–For many, the image will be of a gentle environment–soft sunlight coming through bright windows, shining on clean floors and furniture with smiling elderly residents. Others may conjure images of hospital beds and long hallways bustling with nurses and food carts. The image that comes to your mind is likely to be influenced by your experiences. The worst images are of Nursing Abuse and Neglect.
As the American population ages, an increasing proportion of us are living in various types of nursing facilities–from Assisted Living to full residential care units. These facilities can be places where residents go for assistance during rehabilitation as well as for permanent residence based upon their disability level.
However, there was a very disturbing report issued last week by Human Rights Watch. Hannah Flamm is the NYU Law School Fellow at Human Rights Watch and once of the authors of the study. Many of us have become all to familiar with stories about elderly and infirm residents of Nursing Homes being denied the proper care: where they were malnourished because food was just left in their rooms because they could not easily feed themselves; where they developed pressure wounds because they could not reposition themselves under their own power (be careful researching that as the wounds are horrible to witness); or even abused by staff or other residents.
These are horrors that terrorize family members and break hearts. For us practitioners, we have to navigate the callouses that come from seeing too many sad cases to avoid becoming numb and losing our empathy. But there are more horrors. According to the study, which spanned over 100 nursing homes in six states, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of Nursing residents nationwide are being drugged into submission.
According to interviews with residents, family members, staff and others, researchers determined that many Nursing Homes were using anti-psychotic medications to drug Residents to keep them ‘docile.’ This epidemic exposes these residents to the dangers of being given drugs without a proper diagnosis or prescription. Such drugs can cause death in the wrong patient.
Why would a Nursing Home do the wrong things?
If you’re asking: why would a Nursing Home in the business of caring for people do that? The answer is simple: profits. The staff may not want to do what they are doing. Some may have moral reservations. But their jobs are on the line. And the Homes are understaffed. Nurses, aides and technicians cannot adequately tend to all the residents and patients they’re assigned to. So, they resort to these drugs to keep patients from hurting themselves or wandering off. The ‘off-label’ use of the anti-psychotics is used especially on memory care residents with dementia or other cognitive deficits that might otherwise forget where they are or forget their physical limitations (and try to get out of bed and fall, for example). Falls are devastating injuries for an elderly or disabled person who is frail, possibly undernourished, and in no condition to recover from hip or back surgery from a fall injury.
These are dangers that we did not even know were lurking for Nursing Home Residents. And while many homes across the country provide loving, tender care for the disabled and elderly, deficiencies in care for vulnerable people can cause catastrophic injuries to patients and to their families who have to endure witnessing their pain.
One of the most-common issues in many nursing neglect cases is the presence of wounds, either from a trauma or from failing to turn and reposition the residents. You can advocate for your loved one by checking for wounds and showing them to staff. Take photos. For a great resource out of Australia, please see this link for wound image and information.
Please contact our firm if you have concerns about Nursing neglect. We want to help.