Making the decision to move yourself or a loved one into a nursing home is hard. Part of the reason is simply because it is hard to give up independence. But there is a much more serious reason why many seniors and their families are reluctant to take this step. Many fear they will not get the care they need. This fear is not unfounded. Across the country neglect, physical and sexual abuse are a big problem in nursing homes.
Where Hawaii Stands on Nursing Home Abuse
At first glance, it appears that Hawaii has something to be proud of when it comes to taking care of nursing home residents. While across the U.S. there is a 30% citation rate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in Hawaii the citation rate is only 4%. Unfortunately, this statistic is deceiving. The reason why it is so low is because the Hawaii Long Term Care Association does not necessarily report all incidents. Representatives from the organization have indicated that they prefer to focus on preventing future incidents, unless a facility shows “a willful and ongoing disregard” of a resident’s care and safety. With this policy, many caregivers who have abused nursing home residents go right back to having contact with them.
Alarming Numbers of Abuse
Abuse in nursing homes is not a new problem. There have been a number of studies conducted that attempt to get a clear picture of how serious nursing home abuse really is. One of these studies conducted between 1999 and 2001 by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee looked into over 5,000 facilities. Throughout these facilities, 9000 cases of abuse were discovered. Another study, conducted in 2003 by a National Research panel on elder abuse estimated that well over a million persons over 65 had suffered abuse, neglect, or financial mistreatment by a primary caretaker.
While reported abuse is already a great cause for concern, the problem may be even worse than it seems. Many seniors do not outright report cases of abuse, and when they do the facility where they live are not always cooperative. Often it is up to a family member, often an adult child, to take a stand on the resident’s behalf. Even then, their actions to protect their loved one can be too little too late.
In one case, a man called his 75 year old mother who lived in a nursing home to check on her. The woman told her son that a staff member had attacked her. The man confronted the facility who tried to claim that his mother was fine and had no major injuries. However, the facility tried to prevent the man from admitting his mother to a nearby hospital. The hospital revealed the woman had a dislocated neck, a broken wrist, and numerous bruises. In a later interview the woman told investigators that she had played dead in order to stop the attack. She died shortly afterwards.
When the attack was investigated, the staff member did plead guilty to the abuse, and it was revealed that he had a history of threatening residents at other facilities. Still, his punishment was extremely lenient according to the woman’s son. He was only required to spend a year in the county jail.
Fighting the System
Between facility cover ups, and lackluster enforcement of nursing home abuse, families need to keep a close eye on their loved ones who must be cared for in a nursing home. Any suspicion they have regarding their care needs to be looked into, and families need to insist on accountability. Many care facilities are quite large, however. It can be difficult to take them on alone. But with an elderly abuse attorney on your side, this uphill battle can go your way. These personal injury lawyers have recovered some very large settlements in cases of nursing home abuse. These settlements not only make an impact on the abused resident and their family, but also send a strong message to the facility and the community that elder abuse will not be tolerated. If you or a loved one has been abused in a geriatric care facility, please contact Davis Levin and Livingston for a free consultation.