Abuse in Nursing Homes: What All Nurses Should Look for

Healthcare Training Resource
December 10, 2013 — 1,145 views  
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Prevalence of Elderly Abuse

Elder abuse is either the harming or putting an elder at serious risk of any harm. It includes many different types of abuse such as physical, psychological or sexual abuse. Caregivers who are unable to cope with the stress associated with the demands of taking care of an elder might take out some of this stress on a vulnerable elder. Elder abuse is quite a serious and prevalent problem in the United States. It is quite difficult to determine the exact prevalence of elder abuse as there has been very limited research. However, there is evidence that suggests it’s nearly as widespread as child abuse.

The elderly in nursing facilities are one of the most vulnerable members of our society as they are completely dependent upon the their nursing operators for food, medicine, beds, baths and even to the extent of virtually every daily routine activity. The risk of abuse increases with the level of dependence that elders have on other people. In various different nursing homes around the country, staffs themselves have reported witnessing explicit instances of abuse. These elderly people are victims of nursing home abuse such as neglect and rude behavior.

Kinds of Abuse/Neglect

Physical abuse commonly includes hitting, pushing, slapping, or striking with an object. In a nursing home this can also include actions such as physical and chemical restraints. Physical abuse also includes sexual abuse that can range from unwanted touching to indecent exposure. The Certified Nursing Assistants have defined abuse to be actions that include physical, verbal and psychological abuse. Examples of these actions are:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Handling a resident roughly
  • Pulling too hard
  • Yelling or shouting in anger
  • Threatening
  • Punching, kicking, slapping, hitting, striking with an object
  • Speaking harshly and cursing a resident

Another area that needs to receive more attention is the neglect of older persons. Neglect includes a caregiver that refuses or fails to fulfill obligations and duties towards an older person, such as providing food, clothing, shelter, medicine, supervision and medical care. This also includes any other services that may be deemed essential for the well-being of a person. Examples of neglect at a nursing home are:

  • Not changing residents after incontinence episodes
  • Not keeping elders hydrated
  • No scheduled toileting
  • Lack of oral and dental care
  • Not giving regular baths
  • Turning off light calls and not acting on requests from residents
  • Not performing prescribed wound care
  • Performing a one-person transfer when the situation requires a two-person transfer
  • Not providing cuing or task segmentation to those that require it

Prevention of Nursing Home Abuse

It is important that awareness is created so that the chances of such abuse are greatly diminished. Frequent visits to assess the care provided at different times are a great way to ensure that the caregiving process is going on smoothly and consistently. If you are not happy with the care that you are receiving and do not have family members that can assist, you can always call the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman to act as an advocate and help you. Family members can watch for warning signs that direct to abuse; such as bruises, fear, agitation, etc. They can gain trust of the older person to ensure that they open up to them with regard to any grievances. The management should also play its part to reduce elder abuse with proper screening and training of employees. Residents and families should be provided with clear information on who they can contact in the case of such an event. Identification of abuse signs and consistent investigation should also take place.

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