A federal report citing an increase in physical and verbal abuse of nursing home residents should outrage residents' families and the nursing home industry alike.
Unfortunately for us all, there is too often little regard for senior citizens in our society. Other societies not only respect their elderly but value them. It is disgraceful that residents in U.S. nursing homes occasionally are punched, kicked, and choked, and that many do not get proper medical care, or suffer from malnutrition and dehydration.
The government report found that in the last five years, such violations in nursing homes have steadily increased. Last year, more than two times as many nursing homes were cited for violations as four years earlier. The report also showed that abuses were found in more than 30 percent of the 5,283 nursing homes investigated. That's almost one in three!
Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the senior ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, requested the study. The disturbing results prompted the proposed Nursing Home Quality Protection Act. It demands bipartisan support to stem the physical and verbal abuse of nursing home residents.
The head of the largest nursing home trade group labels the reported abuse “unacceptable.” Of course it is. But the question is this: How could this pattern of worsening abuse have occurred and nursing home trade groups not acted before now?
The proposal will set guidelines, requirements, and restrictions to improve nursing home residents' care by increasing funding for nursing homes and setting mandatory nurse staffing levels. Homes with low standards would have to meet tighter restrictions, criminal background checks would be made on employees, and records on nursing home conditions would be available via the Internet.
The Department of Health and Human Services predicts that nearly half those who reach age 65 will at some time live in a nursing home.
If their care and handling doesn't improve, that's a gloomy prospect.
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