Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse has many causes and preventing it is complicated.  A number of factors increase the risk of nursing home abuse:

NYC Nursing Homes Staffing Issues

Staff may be poorly trained in caring for residents with dementia, mental illness and behavioral problems.  In addition, staff may be hired without the proper screening for anger management difficulties, lack of empathy, disrespectful or controlling personalities, and criminal, domestic violence and substance abuse histories. Stress, burnout and overwork due to labor shortages and rapid staff turnover are also breeding grounds for abuse, along with poor supervision and lack of communication between management and staff.

Resident Issues in NYC Nursing Homes

Patients with dementia present an enormous challenge.  Sometimes, they are verbally and physically abusive or engage in repetitive, acting out behaviors.  Others may be very helpless and dependent and unable to express their needs. Nursing homes with the highest number of particularly vulnerable residents often have the highest rates of abuse.  Further, residents who rarely receive visitors may be ignored by busy staff and are most at risk of neglect and maltreatment. Relatives and friends who do visit sometimes suffer from stress and unresolved guilt. They may alienate staff by making unreasonable demands and by being overly controlling about the resident’s care.

Institutional Issues in NYC Nursing Homes

Overcrowded facilities with outdated designs increase the risk of mistreatment. Inadequate lighting, too many floors and stairways, long, narrow hallways separating staff from residents and overcrowded rooms pose safety risks and interfere with the ability of staff to properly care for residents.
These are some strategies for preventing nursing home abuse:

  • Rigorous pre-employment screening procedures.
  • Proper staff training and education, especially in how to care for especially difficult residents.
  • Staff training in anger management, conflict resolution, and communication skills.
  • Educating staff in how to recognize the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Maintaining adequate staffing levels to minimize stress, burnout, and overwork.  Provide wage increases and career ladders, involve nurse aides as members of the care team, improve communication between staff, management and all departments, and establish leadership that promotes a kind, caring environment.
  • Development and enforcement of abuse prevention policies.  Abuse occurs more often and tends to go unreported in nursing homes that lack a clear commitment to the safety and dignity of residents.  In facilities that encourage openness and communication, staff is trained to recognize abuse and to report it without fear of negative consequences to themselves.  Detailed reporting procedures also ensure prompt investigation, remedial measures, and prevention of future abuse.

Many people are responsible for preventing nursing home abuse—staff, management, law enforcement, and the friends and families of nursing home residents.  If your loved one has been abused in a nursing home, a qualified attorney can help you determine the appropriate legal action.