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Why do people get abused in nursing homes?

Whether you are researching nursing homes for yourself or for a loved one, it is good to know why abuse can occur in these homes. With this information in mind, you can take steps to minimize the chances of abuse in your situation.

Background checks on staff are not thorough enough

Some nursing homes may try to cut corners here and there by, for example, letting someone start work before background check results are in, or using a company that promises inexpensive, if incomplete, checks. Ask about the level of screening that the nursing home staff goes through, and also inquire about what happens if/when a fellow resident with a troublesome history is admitted.

Abuse is underreported

Potential abusers might be more likely to prey on those in nursing homes because they know that the statistics are favorable. In every six cases of abuse, it is very possible that five go unreported. Ask your prospective nursing homes how they work to prevent abuse, and if reports are made, how the home deals with them.

There are communication issues

Dementia may be the most obvious communication issue that comes to mind, and to be sure, it can help set the ground for abuse. Also important to keep in mind: Nursing home residents may not see their family members often and may not feel safe confiding in them or anyone at the home about possible abuse. They may not know how to use computers, or be unable to use them and the phone.

One way to counteract the communication issue is to visit your loved one frequently. If that is not possible, ensure that he or she is as empowered as possible. For example, buy a notebook computer, and show your loved one how to use email. When you visit, look for personality changes such as moodiness, excessive fear and withdrawals, which indicate abuse may be present.

There are potential power imbalances

Wherever there is a power imbalance, there is the potential for abuse (child and teacher, or nursing home resident and nurse, for example). Nursing home staffers frequently help residents with daily living, hygiene and grooming, and staffers sometimes exploit these situations.

Other reasons contribute to nursing home abuse, but the ones listed above are among the most common. Fortunately, many nursing home residents live happy and secure lives in their communities, but if you suspect abuse in your situation or in your loved one's , an attorney can be one of your top resources.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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