The Disturbing Reality of Nursing Home Abuse
As we all grow older, a large portion of the population ends up at the same location: nursing homes. Nursing homes are touchy subjects in society. The choice to move into them signals both an acknowledgment of not being able to properly care for oneself and a sacrifice of independence. Few eagerly await the transition into nursing homes, but often that decision, either made voluntarily or by loved ones, turns out to be the best option for everyone involved.
Because the call to move someone into a nursing home carries much emotional weight, we expect these locations to be fully safe and accommodating. After all, people move into nursing homes under the assumption that they will receive better living conditions than in their previous residence. Compared to the rest of society, the elderly living in nursing homes often cannot adequately take care of themselves. They are extremely vulnerable to illnesses and injuries. Thus, we hold nursing homes to a high standard when it comes to safety, well-being, and happiness.
Despite our optimistic hopes and expectations, some nursing homes fail to provide the proper care that their residents need. Due to their physical inabilities, residents might find themselves unfed or unclean. Some could go hours or even days without a proper checkup from a staff member. Whether intentional or not, this neglect coincides with physical and emotional abuse.
In the Hampton Roads area, this problem is unfortunately quite common. Local news outlets like the Daily Press of Newport News and The Pilot have investigated the quality of care of many of these residencies. Their findings, in addition to recent court cases in the area concerning elderly abuse, are staggering.
Problems Facing Virginia Beach Nursing Home Residents
Upon review of inspection reports and federal data, the Daily Press found that many nursing homes in Virginia surpass national averages for injuries suffered from open wounds and falls. For instance, state inspectors monitoring Consulate Care of Williamsburg discovered some alarming transgressions in their annual investigation last July. One resident had an open wound for seven days. Even though there was a doctor’s order, Consulate Care did not treat it during those seven days. To make matters worse, the staff falsely stated on forms that they had tended to it. In the next month, on the resident’s ankle there was swelling, shedding skin, and a smelly pus trickling from the wound. The resident “grimaced with pain when a nurse touched the area,” according to nursing notes from Consulate Care. Furthermore, the Daily Press deduced that about 60% of nursing facilities in Hampton Roads exceeded the national average for reports of open skin wounds. Open skin wounds are especially harmful for the elderly if they go untreated, since it greatly affects their already-weakened mobility.
Falls also pose a significant danger to nursing home residents. Similar to the issue of untreated open wounds, lack of mobility often presents daily challenges to the elderly. The particularly immobile must be moved everywhere; all it takes for a fall to occur is a caretaker not paying attention for a second. Sam Kukich, founder of a support group called Dignity for the Aged, began studying records from nursing homes across Hampton Roads after seeing the improper care her mother had been receiving. She was shocked to discover that her mother suffered more than four dozen falls within a year and a half in her residence at St. Francis nursing home in Newport News. According to the notes she reviewed, staff would simply watch as some of these falls occurred. She argues, “Residents are being yelled at and sworn at for falling down.”
The Cause of the Issue
The countless issues of neglect that nursing home residents face can all be traced back to one source: shortages of staff. Many of these facilities in Hampton Roads are severely understaffed for the job they are tasked with. A lot of positions in the care profession provide relatively low wages. Monitoring residents in nursing homes requires much focus and hard work which might not always reward the appreciation it deserves. Nursing home residents are often too proud to receive care for their inabilities and scorn those who help. Because of these factors, the profession experiences large amounts of turnover.
Additionally, nursing homes and citizens alike believe that Medicaid has an effect on the lack of staff. Almost all nursing homes in Virginia qualify for federal reimbursement under Medicaid; however, most of them agree that its coverage is not enough to support the care necessary for their residents. As a result, nursing homes try to cut costs. This typically manifests in hiring fewer nurses.
The Virginia Health Care Association, which represents the majority of nursing homes in Virginia, acknowledges these limitations. They claim in a written statement that “Virginia’s nursing homes are dedicated to providing high-quality care to every resident entrusted to their care. The challenges facing Virginia’s nursing homes are wide-ranging from the complex care needs of our residents, to nationwide staffing shortages, to a complex reimbursement system that does not fully cover the cost of care for Medicaid recipients.” It is not all negative, though. The group continues, “There are countless instances of residents whose health and well-being improved because of the care they received in a nursing home.”
How Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers Can Help Nursing Home Residents
The issues of neglect and abuse at nursing homes should disturb everyone in the Hampton Roads area. Everyone will likely have an experience with a nursing home, either through a self-imposed decision or moving a loved one into one. Thus, we hope that our trust is placed into the right hands. We all have an obligation to help the elderly. This includes reporting potential transgressions when you witness it. In fact, Virginia law requires that people who associate with these residents report any signs of neglect or abuse. Here at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, our legal team is equipped to handle these incidents. We have tried many cases of nursing home abuse in the past and are ready to address your needs. If you believe that you or a loved one has been involved in a potential case of elder abuse, call us today.