As nursing homes across the United States continue to proliferate, managers of these facilities find themselves coping with the same problems faced by any other business — cost overruns, insufficient funding, high turnover, inflation, and the like. Additionally, nursing homes are subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as by local state agencies; complying with regulations costs money. And their targeted customer base is not a happy one — residents in rapidly failing health, often suffering from dementia and other forms of mental disease as well as physical disease, with visiting family members in varying states of grief, distress, anger, and denial. It’s not an easy business.
Regretfully, this situation takes its toll on nursing home staff as well as administration, and abuse is frequently the result. Usually, nursing home abuse is a matter of neglect, but willful abuse is all too common. This compilation of nursing home abuse statistics, covering nursing home facilities nationwide across the United States, paints a disturbing picture.
• There are nearly 17,000 nursing homes in the United States, with a total of 1.8 million beds. Occupancy hovers around 85 percent.
• In the mid-2000s, about 1.5 million Americans lived in nursing homes.
• The average length of stay in a nursing home is 835 days — more than two years.
• Of Americans aged eighty-five and older, some 25 percent have spent time in a nursing home.
• About 66 percent of nursing homes in the United States are for-profit; 27 percent are nonprofit, and 7 percent state-administered.
• One in three nursing homes countrywide have been cited for nursing home abuse and related infractions.
• Some 11 percent of all nursing homes have been cited for dispensing unnecessary medication.
• About a quarter of nursing home workers who have been prosecuted for abusing residents have previous criminal records; 5 percent of nursing home workers nationwide have previous criminal records.
• From 1 million to 2 million Americans over the age of 65 have been neglected, mistreated, or abused by their primary caregiver, whether a nursing home, hospital, or homecare worker.
• Nearly half of all nursing home residents suffer from untreated pain.
• In 1999, about 5,000 death certificates for residents at nursing homes listed, as cause of death, bed sores, malnutrition, dehydration, or starvation.
• According to news media reports, some 90 percent of all nursing homes across the United States are understaffed. Staff shortages almost inevitably lead to some measure of negligence and often to outright abuse.
• According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than 80 percent of abuse cases are never reported.
• Of abuse cases that are reported, 20 percent involve emotional abuse; 16 percent involve physical abuse; 3 percent involve sexual abuse; and 12 percent involve caretaker neglect.
• Injuries from falls account for the largest number of preventable emergency room visits by nursing home residents, at 36 percent. Falls by nursing home residents are considered preventable, by providing adequate rails and grips along walls and in bathrooms, ensuring proper height for beds and toilet facilities, distributing proper footwear, and ensuring a safe environment (for instance, nonslippery floors).
• According to a survey taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2004, 8 percent of all nursing home residents in the United States had a visit to the emergency room of a nearby hospital during the three-month survey period; of all these ER visits, it is estimated that 40 percent were preventable.
These statistics are troubling; obviously, as a society, Americans need to provide better care for their senior citizens. If you have a loved one residing in a nursing home or continuing care facility, the best you can do is monitor his or her environment and daily life as carefully as you can, promptly reporting any irregularities you see to the management.