The elderly population in the United States is growing. From 2012 to 2015, the number of Americans over age 65 is expected to double from 43.1 million to 83.7 million. Many of these people will need care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Currently, more than three million people in the U.S. are living in nursing homes and that number will grow exponentially. Unfortunately, as this population in long term care grows, studies indicate that nursing home neglect and abuse for this vulnerable population is more prevalent than previously thought.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines elder abuse as “any abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust.” Studies indicate prevalence rates of nursing home abuse and neglect may be as high as 55 percent. In one study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, 95 percent of patients who were surveyed had witnessed others being neglected or been neglected themselves. Disturbingly, more than 50 percent of nursing home staff surveyed for the study admitted to elder abuse or neglect.
Health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases that require a move to a long-term care facility are often the very same factors that allow these patients to be abused. Some residents are unable to express themselves or explain injuries to their families. Others simply do not remember from day to day what is happening. Frustration Alzheimer’s, or dementia causes some residents to become aggressive, which in turn results in them being treated aggressively by nursing home staff.
Not surprisingly, a poorly run nursing home or assisted living facility has a much greater risk of elder neglect and abuse. Proper staffing levels are crucial for preventing abuse and neglect. An understaffed facility means less supervision and care, which leads to lethal and catastrophic injuries.
Most poorly run facilities are understaffed to maximize profits. Caregivers are often underpaid and overworked. For the workers, the stress can lead to health problems such as those caused by substance abuse, or mental health issues like depression. Long days and nights caring for elders can cause burn out. A caregiver who is dealing with one or more of these issues is more likely to abuse or neglect the person they are supposed to be caring for.
Inadequate training is another factor. Many times, staff miss serious changes in a resident’s condition simply because they are too busy or they don’t know their resident well enough.
When there are not enough staff to get the necessary work done, residents suffer. Typical injuries we see are: