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Elder abuse almost twice as likely at for-profit nursing homes

Elderly New Mexico residents who live in a for-profit nursing home are nearly twice as likely to suffer health problems caused by poor care as those who live in nonprofit facilities, according to a study published recently in the medical journal Gerontology. The researchers say that many of their discoveries were consistent with severe clinical neglect. They included stage 3 and 4 bed sores, damaged feeding tubes and broken catheters.

The researchers came to their grim conclusions after scrutinizing the medical records of more than 1,100 elderly patients who were admitted to clinics in the Chicago area between 2007 and 2011 suffering from conditions that could have been caused by substandard care. They discovered that patients who lived in for-profit elder care facilities were far more likely to have been admitted due to dehydration or because their chronic underlying conditions had not been properly treated or medicated. The researchers found fewer signs of neglect among nonprofit nursing home residents, and elderly patients who lived in private homes were the least likely to have suffered abuse.

When asked why the standard of care at for-profit nursing homes was seemingly so poor, the lead researcher speculated that the high salaries paid to administrators could be playing a role. He pointed out that these facilities may not have the resources needed to adequately care for their residents after paying their management overheads. The lead researcher also called for far more stringent government oversight of nursing homes and extended care facilities.

The complaints made by victims of nursing home abuse are often ignored by their doctors, and even their families sometimes dismiss allegations of mistreatment as early signs of dementia. Attorneys with experience in these cases may take claims of abuse more seriously. If necessary, they could examine medical records for signs of mistreatment just as the researchers behind this study did.

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