Nursing homes are supposed to be tranquil homes of rest and relaxation for the elderly. Social connections among peers, assisted living, and freedom from the stresses of living alone and supporting oneself are all supposed rewards of life in a nursing home. Additionally, family members feel comforted knowing their aging loved ones are looked after continually. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes meet the idealized standards they seek to achieve. Furthermore, some situations not only fail to meet elevated standards but also provide neglectful or abusive living situations. Laws in the United States seek to protect residents’ rights, although the law can only protect the elderly if people speak out for them.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was created in response to an alarming number of neglect and abuse charges that surfaced during the 1980’s. Congress passed the Act in conjunction with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA). This law protects residents’ rights to be fully informed of services and their charges and participate in their own care, both in receiving adequate and appropriate care and the ability to refuse that care if so desired. Residents also have the rights to privacy and confidentiality, to make independent choices, to have security in their own possessions, to complain, the ability to have visits, and a basic entitlement to dignity, respect, and freedom.
Abuse in nursing homes is usually easier to spot than neglect, simply because abuse normally has physical manifestations. Broken bones, cuts, scars, abrasions, and bed sores are all clues of abuse. Neglect is more subtle and difficult to spot. Potential examples of neglect include insufficient food, water, and bathing opportunities, failure to properly assist an elderly person who needs assistance eating, drinking, or bathing, and failure to supply adequate supplies such as soap or shampoo. If you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected, it is recommended to speak with them to find out as much information as possible. Overall mood and cleanliness, as well as the general condition of the room and nursing home, should also be observed. Complaints should be filed at the state level as well as contacting the police department where the abuse occurred.