Nursing home neglect is a growing problem nationwide. As more and more baby boomers require long-term care, skilled nursing facilities are becoming overcrowded and understaffed. Unfortunately, far too many of these facilities are more concerned about the bottom line than about their residents’ well-being. They end up cutting corners – with tragic results.
Just last month, accusations of neglect surfaced against a Forest Lake nursing home. The family of a blind 94-year-old resident installed a hidden camera in his room to confirm their suspicions of neglect. According to the family, video footage revealed that:
- The resident’s clothes went unchanged for days.
- Staff didn’t assist him with eating as they were supposed to.
- The resident fell during an 8-hour timeframe when nobody checked on him.
- He became so thirsty that he tried to drink lotion.
Only a fraction of complaints get investigated
Sadly, these types of allegations are becoming increasingly widespread. In Minnesota alone, complaints involving mistreatment of vulnerable adults have risen significantly over the past few years. Reports of neglect (the most common type of mistreatment) rose more than 40 percent statewide. At the same time, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has struggled to keep up, conducting fewer on-site investigations and submitting fewer findings that mistreatment did occur.
Many serious complaints against nursing homes essentially get brushed aside. DHS only does a full on-site investigation for roughly 10 percent of nursing home complaints. As a result, in 2016, more than 23,000 complaints went uninvestigated.
Two tragic examples
A recent KARE11 report sheds light on the troubling details of two such complaints. One elderly resident of a Bloomington nursing home was left screaming in bed for 19 hours while staff members dismissed her complaints that her legs were broken. When she was finally transferred to the hospital, X-rays revealed that she did indeed have two broken femurs. She died a few weeks later.
At the same facility, another resident with a history of falls was apparently left unsupervised within hours of her arrival. She fell, re-fractured her hip and never recovered.
In both incidents, DHS consulted with the facility but declined to conduct a full on-site investigation.
How to keep your loved one safe
Given the frightening prevalence of nursing home neglect, what can you do to protect your elderly loved one?
Of course, it’s important to choose facilities with care. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate potential nursing homes. DHS provides a searchable “nursing home report card” database that gives you a better picture of the quality of care at specific facilities.
You can also protect your loved one by staying involved in their care. Nursing home residents are less likely to become victims of mistreatment if they have a strong support system. By staying involved, you can not only serve as an extra set of eyes and ears, but also be a more effective advocate if concerns do arise.
Finally, if you suspect that something isn’t right, speak up. Minnesota has a toll-free, statewide hotline for reporting mistreatment of vulnerable adults: 1-844-880-1574.