Nursing Home Do’s and Dont’s – How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Abuse and Neglect

In 1996, the Knight-Tribune News Service reported, “thieves often use Vaseline to ease wedding rings off of the hands of sleeping patients in nursing homes. One case cited an eighty-six year old woman who awoke inconsolable one morning when she discovered her finger had been stripped of her last two life’s mementos: a diamond ring inherited from her mother and the engagement ring her husband slipped on her finger during a romantic canoe ride. She was heartbroken! Nursing home administrators often cover up for the employee doing the stealing by either denying that the theft occurred or by insisting to the victims’ families that their employees’ are honest; not dishonest. Because of this “hear no evil, see no evil ” policy police departments are hardly ever notified or asked to get involved in such trivial matters as a few missing blouses or pieces of jewelry valued under one hundred dollars. If caught, employees are usually fired, but they are not made to make restitution. As a result, neither the facility or the victim’s family criminally prosecutes them.

In July of 2001, CBS news reported a story about Helen Love, an elderly woman who was attacked by a caregiver at a Sacramento, Ca. facility because she soiled herself. “He choked me and went and broke my neck and broke my wrist,” said Love. According to additional reports, Love’s assailant received a year in the county jail. Further articles by the same newspaper revealed that three other employee’s employed by the same facility were convicted for abuse as well. Yet, none of them were ever kept from working in any nursing facility. So why has the nursing home network ignored the need for stiffer background checks? According to the CBS news report in 2001 and articles written by reporters employed by national and local newspapers, most reported abuses are physical, sexual, and verbal.

A congressional report written by Waxman, a top democrat on the house Government Reform Committee, which oversees spending and other operations, said he is introducing a plan that would require criminal background checks on nursing home staff and impose tougher standards on homes with violations. But, what do we call tougher standards when we allow older felons recently released from our prison system, with a history of sexual assaults or violent crimes to work and live in nursing homes, to victimize our senior citizens or disabled children? Congressional reports written between January 1999 and 2001 by Waxman report that over 30% of our nursing facilities were cited for abuse and, the violations were serious enough to cause actual harm, immediate jeopardy of death, or serious injury.”

Charles H. Roadman II, president of the American Health care Association (AHCA), a nursing home trade group that represents 12,000 non-profit and for-profit centers and homes for the elderly and disabled, stated to CBS news in an article written on July thirty-first, 2001 that he believes that “the great majority of long term care in our nation is excellent.” Reading articles such as these, makes me wonder if any of the congressional representatives, senators, governors, other than Jeb Bush, have ever taken time out of their busy schedules to personally visit any of the facilities that have been cited for these alleged abuses, or personally met any of the victims’ families screaming for justice and reform? When it is all said and done there are many simple warning signs that we should look for whenever we are faced with seeking short-term or long-term care. The list that I have provided in my booklet called “Nursing Home Do’s and Dont’s, by Brooke Jennings, is an easy read for the average layperson. Therefore, if you are considering placing your friend or a precious member of your family into the hands of strangers, I recommend getting a copy of Nursing Home Do’s and Dont’s @