A new report shows that long-term care facilities across the country continue to be sites of resident neglect and abuse. A CNN report indicated that between 2013 and 2016 federal regulators cited over 1,000 instances of assault, sexual abuse, and rape at U.S. institutions. These types of incidents are believed to often go unreported because the majority of the victims are older and often have memory problems or other cognitive impairment. It is estimated that roughly half the victims suffer from Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia.
Arizona Facility Incident
At a long-term care facility in Arizona recently, a 29-year-old woman who has been incapacitated for many years was found to be pregnant. A licensed practical nurse that had provided care for her was charged with rape in the incident after DNA evidence revealed he was the father. Other staff at the facility claimed that they were unaware that the woman was pregnant. The state has since intervened and many of the facility's leadership have resigned.
The Arizona Department of Health says they have imposed “strict requirements” on Hacienda Healthcare following the incident. Perry Petrilli, the company's acting CEO, explained that they have “work to do to restoring our credibility.” A third-party monitor is now in place at the facility and daily resident safety checks are made. The facility is also in the process of drafting a written plan of new provisions to be implemented. There have been no major incidents at the facility since.
The National Center on Elder Abuse says that the most commonly seen problems include physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Other concerns include gross neglect and that some residents are exploited financially. Incidents of resident-on-resident abuse are also increasingly common. Some of the key “warning signs” that may suggest that a resident is being abused include:
- Physical abuse: Unexplained bruising, bedsores, or broken bones
- Sexual abuse: Bruises in the resident's private areas, detection of a sexually transmitted disease, or stained undergarments
- Other abuse or neglect: Abrupt weight loss, inadequate hygiene, being dehydrated, and failing to administer needed medications
Screening and Training of Employees
All employees and volunteers at facilities that provide care should be subjected to a thorough background check. Those with a prior history of neglect or abuse should definitely not be working in these settings. New employees should be educated about the facility's policies regarding these issues. Ongoing educational programming should be put in place to remind staff of the importance of these issues. All staff should be knowledgeable about the Resident Bill of Rights.
Prevention and Reporting
New residents should be assessed to determine if they are vulnerable to forms of abuse. Unannounced facility inspections should be made with some regularity to better evaluate the conditions and treatment of the residents on a day-to-day basis. Employees should be reminded of their duty to report any instances of abuse that they witness. An anonymous means of reporting potential abuse may be implemented. Allegations of neglect or abuse should be taken seriously and timely follow up actions taken.