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Nursing Homes and Assisted Living. Over the next 30 years the number of persons living beyond age 65 and 85 will continue to increase for a variety of reasons, including the aging baby boomer generation, decreased mortality at younger ages, improved healthcare, improved nutrition, etc. At some point many in these older age groups will develop physical, mental and emotional health issues that will require assistance, from family and/or healthcare professionals. Convincing an elderly family member (and yourself) that placing him or her in a nursing or assisted living facility is in their best interests can be a heart-wrenching process, especially since they are often in a physically or mentally vulnerable condition. When the time comes, you hope that your loved one is treated carefully and compassionately, and with utmost respect.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Some residents fall victim to inadequate care or worse, serious abuse or neglect at the hands of those hired to take care of them. Staffing can be a problem, both in terms of sufficient numbers to handle the essential care necessary as well as training and expertise to provide that care. A resident may need assistance with eating or drinking, and very personal matters such as bathing and using the bathroom. Failing to prove the necessary help in a timely and appropriate manner could be evidence of neglect. Disabled residents may need help with physical therapy or participating in beneficial activities. Failure of staff to provide that assistance can result in significant problems physically and mentally for your parent or grandparent. And of course, many elderly patients can have an increased fall risk, which if not properly assessed or protected against can result in broken bones, head injuries, and other issues related to ensuing decreased mobility.

Residents who have suffered even unintentional neglect can develop malnutrition, dehydration, bed sores, delayed healing, infections and more. These physical problems can wear them down mentally and emotionally as well, especially given that they are often at the home due to diminished abilities to take care of themselves. Also, it may be a sad truth but some abuse is intentional, by staff taking advantage of the debilitated condition of residents.

Signs of mistreatment or abuse may or may not be all that subtle. Residents may exhibit bruising or restraint marks, cuts or bleeding issues, changes in behavior, withdrawing or becoming non-communicative when staff are nearby. The staff may become somewhat numb to their duties and do whatever is necessary to complete their tasks even if he means causing distress or pain to the residents. 

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a responsibility to provide proper care and, to be frank, should consider it an honor to take care of senior citizens who have lived and survived through so much. When the care fails to meet the proper standards those entities must take responsibility for their actions and in some cases inactions. An elderly family member who suffers at the hands of his or her caregivers deserves better, and so does the family who made the difficult decision to entrust their loved one to the care of professionals.


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