While it is difficult to imagine someone willfully and intentionally abusing an elderly individual, the fact is that elderly abuse in nursing homes happens at an alarming rate in the United States. Recently, the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee conducted research designed to highlight the prevalence of elderly abuse in nursing homes. The report indicated that as many as 30 percent of nursing homes across the U.S. have been cited for abuse between 1999 and 2001 alone. The 30 percent recorded accounts for nearly 9,000 citations across more than 5,200 facilities.
If the number of incident reports alone is not enough to concern U.S. families, the number of serious incident reports should. The same report indicated that more than 1,600 reported cases of abuse were significant enough to have caused “actual harm to residents to place the resident in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury”.
Elderly Abuse in Nursing Homes Higher among Federally Funded Facilities?
One element of the government research report that is particularly troubling is the fact that the vast majority of nursing homes cited for abuse violations are for-profit, with many accepting funding from the federal government. According to the study, 11,000 of the 17,000 nursing homes in the U.S. are for-profit. One of the downsides to for-profit nursing homes is the fact that limited and scrutinized funding often leads to lower pay for staff members. In some cases, the lower pay could result in inadequate background checks and training. Conversely, not-for-profit facilities may have access to more funding and more qualified staffing.
The Real Picture of the Elderly Population in the United States
With nursing home abuse reports increasing in number since the 1990’s, it is important to consider the future of the elderly population in the U.S., especially with the aging “baby boomer” population. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse Administration on Aging, it is anticipated that individuals 65 and older will comprise 20 percent of the total population of the U.S. by 2050. That is a significant concern for the individuals and agencies working to protect elderly Americans.
With a lack of properly trained staff at nursing homes an already growing problem, it is plausible that the reported 30 percent of nursing homes receiving citations could increase exponentially.