According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency that certifies Medicare and/or Medicaid nursing home providers, more than 1.3 million people live in 15,700 nursing homes in the United States. As the baby boomer generation grows older, the need for well-run nursing homes becomes more and more paramount.
Of course, many of those 15,700 nursing homes in existence today provide good care for their residents. However, too many of them do not, and serve as striking examples of nursing home abuse.
An abhorrent example of one that did not provide good care recently came to light in November of this year, although the incident took place in February 2014.
A resident at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation named James Dempsey, who was 89-years old at the time and was a World War II veteran, called for help as he gasped for air before becoming unconscious. Nursing home staff responded to his calls just before 5:30 a.m., but neglected to call 911 for nearly one hour.
Former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles, who testified as a witness in a wrongful death lawsuit, said that she rushed to Mr. Dempsey’s room after discovering that he had stopped breathing to perform chest compression until the paramedics arrived.
However, she was not telling the truth. This is known because the activity in Mr. Dempsey’s room that moment was being filmed. It was apparent in the video that Supervisor Nuckles’ account of events was not true. While the responding nurses laughed as they tried to work the oxygen machine, Supervisor Nuckles was laughing with them.
Another nurse could be seen entering the room later and she too failed to check Mr. Dempsey’s vital signs. Supervisor Nuckles said later that she would have reprimanded that nurse due to her lack of response to events.
Members of Mr. Dempsey’s family had set up the camera because they suspected abuse. Once it was learned that the activities in Mr. Dempsey’s room were under surveillance, lawyers for the nursing home appealed to the Georgia State Supreme Court to prevent the video from being used at trial. However, before the Court made a decision, the attorneys withdrew their request.
The request may have been withdrawn because Atlanta television station WXIA-TV possessed the video and showed it on air.
Retired nursing professor Elaine Harris also testified that there were several violations that she could identify in the video alone including failure to respond, assess and act.
As a result of their behavior, Supervisor Nuckles and another nurse were fired nearly a year after the event. Moreover, they did not turn in their nursing licenses until September of this year, about three years since the death of Mr. Dempsey.
James Dempsey, who was from Woodstock, Georgia, died that day.
The Dempsey family agreed on a settlement with the nursing home.
According to Medicare records, the nursing home had been cited at least two dozen times for serious health and safety violations and was also accused of “immediate jeopardy,” the lowest level of care and the worst violation that could be assigned to the home. In addition, the home has been fined $813,113 since 2015.
Although the nursing home is still open, it has a Medicare rating of one star, the lowest possible grade the CMS can give.
Statistics Concerning Nursing Home Neglect
There is an average of more than two million cases of elder abuse every year. Moreover, statistics show that one out of every 10 seniors experience some form of elder abuse. In addition, according to people who work in assisted living communities and who care for seniors, most abuses go unreported.
The elderly are becoming a greater percentage of the population of the U.S. The 2010 census discovered that more than 40 million people, or more than 13% of the population, are older than 65 and as many as 6 million are beyond the age of 85. Seniors will account for up to 19% of the population within the next 40 years. As the elderly segment of the U.S. population grows, there is need for more nursing homes to take care of them. As a result, without proper action to prevent elder abuse, then there will doubtingly be more of it.
Data already collected show that:
- Between 1999 and 2001, just about 33% of all nursing homes were cited for violations of government standards.
- About one in 10 of the homes pose a serious risk of injury or death
- More than 4 in 10 of the homes have residents that have reported abuse and more than 90% report that they or another elderly person living in the home had experienced neglect.
- A study performed in 2010 discovered that up to a half of attendants in nursing homes admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients.
- Greater than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants who work in nursing homes admit to verbally abusing, yelling at, and using foul language with senior residents.
Much of the abuse is caused by the operation of the nursing home. For example:
- 30 acts of aggression toward seniors can happen in one 8-hour shift in a nursing home.
- About 33% of all nursing home residents take antipsychotic drugs.
- There are not enough nursing home beds to accommodate the entire elderly population.
- More than half of nursing home patients do not have family support that can monitor for neglect or abuse.
- The average per yearly cost for a room in a private nursing home will be as much as $175,000 by 2021.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
Families who have a loved one in a nursing home should know the signs and symptoms of elder abuse. It could be difficult to rely on the loved one residing in a nursing home to tell the truth about elder abuse because he or she may suffer dementia or are simply infirmed. However, a combination of things could provide the signal you need to take relevant steps to find out. The signs to lookout for include:
- Numerous disputes between care givers and the resident.
- Drug overdoses or failure of the resident to take medications regularly.
- Unexplained bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, cuts, or burns.
- Broken eyeglasses.
- Unexplained withdraw from regular activities, an abrupt change in awareness or unusual depression.
- Quick changes in the resident’s financial condition.
- Bedsores, neglected medical needs, poor hygiene and unexpected weight loss.
- Caretaker belittles or attempts to control or threaten the resident.
- Caregiver refuses to give permission for family member to visit resident alone.
- Resident behavior that imitates dementia including rocking, sucking, or mumbling to him or herself.
- Inappropriate covering or clothing for the weather.
- Unsafe living conditions including no heat, no running water, flawed electrical wiring or fire hazards in the resident’s room.
- Deserts senior at a public place.
- Evidence of overmedication.
- Caregiver’s unwillingness to answer questions concerning the resident’s care.
If you notice a combination of signs that make you suspect that your loved one is being abused and is in immediate danger, call the police. If you suspect something, but the suspicion does not call for immediate action, contact the state’s Attorney General’s office. You should also contact the National Center On Elder Abuse. It has a database of phone numbers by state you can call to get help.
It should go without saying that you should also contact an attorney who is well versed in nursing home abuse.