Placing a loved one in a nursing home is a difficult enough decision as it is. Finding out that your loved one has suffered from nursing home negligence or abuse is a nightmare.
The National Center on Elder Abuse has identified ten risk factors for nursing home negligence or abuse. http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/NursingHomeRisk.pdf.
The NCEA says the following issues can increase the likelihood of nursing home abuse and neglect:
- Risk Factor #1: Abuse prevention policy. Abuse is more likely to occur and to go unreported in nursing homes that have no abuse prevention policy.
- Risk Factor #2: Staff education and training. Training should be frequent, not a “one-shot” intervention, and trainers must be well educated and provide consistent information.
- Risk Factor #3: Staff screening. When low staff ratios and high turnover drive nursing homes to fill vacancies in a hurry, skills may be “less than optimum” necessary. Preemployment screening – including checking references and conducting criminal background checks – is essential to ensure that applicants who are not suited to care for vulnerable elders are not hired.
- Risk Factor #4: Staff stresses/burnout. The research shows that stress and burnout take on special importance in light of what is known about physical and psychological abuse.
- Risk Factor #5: Staff Ratio/Turnover. Many experts cite inadequate staffing and staff turnover as contributing factors in increased abuse risk.
- Risk Factor #6: History of Deficiencies/Complaints. An increased risk of abuse is found at nursing homes that have a history of serious noncompliance, particularly if abuse has occurred in the facility in the past.
- Risk Factor #7: Culture and Management. A nursing home’s “culture” is what the organization is all about: its goals, traditions, values, and shared attitudes. A “closed structure” does not acknowledge that anything bad can happen. In such a place, the staff’s version of events is given more credence than what a resident says, and the potential for abuse is high.
- Risk Factor #8: Physical Environment. Facilities with a “strong institutional flavor” or an outdated building design create risks for residents. These include long or narrow corridors, inadequate lighting, crowded rooms (more than three residents), and long distances between dining and residents’ rooms.
- Risk Factor #9: Unmet Patient Needs (behavioral/cognitive symptoms). Researchers shows that, too often, abuse occurs in nursing homes with particularly vulnerable residents. Repetitive behaviors, sexual acting out, attempted escapes all present enormous challenges to direct care staff who care for vulnerable, dependent elders.
- Risk Factor #10: Resident-visitor frequency. Residents who rarely receive visitors are at greater risk of being mistreated.
- Risk Factor #11: Resident staff interaction. The quality of resident staff interaction is often related to the relative dependency of the resident.
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