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Protecting the elderly against abuse and neglect

Families seeking care for elderly relatives must exercise great caution to find safe sources. Involvement and being proactive are also recommended to keep people safe.

Finding safe long-term care facilities for elderly family members is a challenge that faces many people in Missouri today. When adult children or other relatives do not live in the same state as persons requiring care, the difficulties in finding the right nursing homes or assisted living facilities can increase dramatically.

Instances of nursing home abuse and neglect are all too common. Recent news stories recounting such situations highlight the problem all around the country. Some examples include:

  • Oklahoma’s KFOR.com reported on a local woman who removed her husband from a nursing home because of his allegations that a nurse had punched him, resulting in multiple bruises to his abdomen.
  • The State Department of Health and Human Services in North Carolina has cited a nursing home for the alleged wrongful death of a man after an incident involving an employee of the nursing home according to WXII12.com.
  • A rehabilitation and nursing facility in Arlington, TX is under investigation by the state attorney general’s office in response to multiple complaints asserting that the facility failed to provide proper care to patients with bedsores. A Star-Telegram article indicated that at least one man is believed to have died due to an infection that developed from his sores.
  • The American Association of Retired Persons published an article that suggests some nursing home residents are inappropriately given antipsychotic drugs to provide a chemical means of restraining them.

These stories are just the beginning and indicate the serious problem associated with keeping our nation’s elderly population safe and providing appropriate care for them.

Missouri’s failing grade

In 2013, a national assessment of nursing homes was conducted and each state received an overall grade. Missouri ranked 47 in all and was given an “F” as its final grade. The report noted many issues including that almost 98 percent of all facilities statewide have had verified ombudsman complaints. Over 93 percent were found to have identifiable deficiencies with almost 20 percent of those deficiencies being severe.

Another source identified infection control, professional standards, accident prevention, food sanitation and quality of care as the top five areas of deficiency for nursing homes in Missouri.

What family members can do

Those with loved ones in nursing homes should be as involved in the care as possible so that they can identify potential problems before they escalate too far. It is also important for people to properly identify neglect or abuse. Having a resident wear sweats in the day versus just at night is not neglect, for example. Unexplainable bruises or other marks on the skin as well as dramatic shifts in demeanor, on the other hand, are the types of signs to watch for.

Talking to an attorney when abuse at a nursing home is suspected can be a good way to get clarity on suspected problems. It can also provide family members with the help needed to take action before an issue escalates too far as well as receive compensation if appropriate.

Keywords: elder, abuse, nursing home

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