Senior citizens deserve respect and proper care when they are at the point in life where they are no longer able to care for themselves. In too many cases, the quality of care given in nursing homes is a national scandal. The biggest issues are neglect and avoidable injuries, and they occur frequently enough to warrant the issuance of laws to protect elderly people and to prosecute those who break those laws.
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Nursing Home Internal Policies
It is important for nursing homes to develop their own internal policies with regard to patient care and handling, above and beyond the basic federal and state laws. The policies of individual nursing homes should not only be based on currently available common law but also on a need to prepare the future generations for seniors who live longer and are somewhat healthier than past generations -- and also with the thought in mind that as we all age, the day will come when we will need the same and better standards of care that we give to those who have come before us.
Nursing Home Reform Act
The Older Americans Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, set out specific objectives for maintaining the dignity and welfare of America's senior citizens, but it did not outline specific laws. In 1987, Congress enacted federal legislation with minimum compliance requirements that laid out specific laws for nursing homes receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Nursing Home Reform Act falls under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations under Title 42. The states use the act as a guideline for their own laws, but some enact tougher laws in addition to those under Title 42.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Assault and abuse are often hard to track. Seniors are often afraid or ashamed to tell family members what is happening to them, and many times, they cannot communicate at all. It is up to family members to look for and recognise the signs of nursing home abuse. Always check your loved ones every visit for unusual bruises or cuts, broken bones, unexplained hair loss not associated with any medical treatments or tests, changes in behaviour of the patient resident toward the staff or a staff member, or changes in the nursing home staff attitude toward family members or the resident.
Lawsuits and Claims for Neglect
Common nursing home lawsuits involve nursing home staff allowing bedsores (decubitus ulcers) to develop on a patient, because they are avoidable; failure of staff to make sure they properly feed patients and make sure they have enough water and liquids; abuse and assault (sometimes allowing patients to assault one another and not taking action); restraint injuries and strangulation; falls and fractures; allowing patients to wander and leave the nursing home facility without proper supervision; wrongful death; misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose; and giving wrong or bad medications to a patient.
For the most part, as much as they are able to, all residents of nursing homes have the right to private and unrestricted communication, including phone calls, mail and meetings with family, friends and other residents; access to entities and individuals that provide health, social, legal, ministerial and other ancillary services; and confidentiality regarding their medical, personal and financial affairs and histories.
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