Elderly people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities may wind up in the emergency room if the facility cannot provide the level of acute medical care required of a specific illness. However, hospitals report that many of these frail residents show up for critical care due to injuries, abuse or neglect.
The underlying problem may have to do with workers at these care facilities failing to report signs of abuse or neglect as required by law. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals major missteps in the way nursing home workers and state inspectors handle those instances where warning signs pointed to patient mishandling.
Health care workers failing to report
The study, compiled by an audit of Medicare claims filed in 2016, found that only one in five patients presenting to the emergency room with signs of neglect or abuse were ever reported to authorities for investigation. Some of the red flags include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Head trauma
Staff workers at care facilities are the first line of defense when it comes to reporting these signs to higher-ups or even the authorities. However, because of possible for the facility and themselves, many workers do not report possible mishandling or patient harm.
Perpetuating the abuse
When a patient goes to the emergency room and no report of possible malfeasance results, the patient may go back to the originating facility. This move may perpetuate the cycle of abuse. Since elderly people can often not speak for themselves, they either cannot self-report or are afraid to do so.
Nursing home inspectors equally guilty
State inspectors are in the position to ensure facilities operate properly and the standard of care is upheld. The report reveals that in instances where state inspectors concluded neglect or abuse allegations were true, they failed to file reports with police. This resulted in 97% of cases not getting forwarded to police for possible criminal charges or court actions.
Elder abuse and neglect are growing problems. Baby Boomers are aging into the nursing home and assisted living system in record numbers. Understaffed facilities and growing frustrations among staff are two of the factors that may have dire consequences for elderly residents.