Elder abuse in nursing homes is a pervasive problem that is often difficult to detect, and often results in the over-medication, trauma, serious injury and neglect of its victims. Fortunately in New Mexico, a new partnership was recently formed between the state’s Attorney General, State Auditor and Ombudsman to address this issue.
After Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reached out to the Ombudsman to review nursing facility complaints during the current health crisis, the partnership was announced in September with the goal of increasing accountability and a standard of care for the elderly across the state.
Not only is the state launching more oversight into elderly abuse cases, the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor will step up efforts to identify cases of fraud and risk associated with guardianship and conservatorship cases.
The tragedy of elderly abuse
The decision by a family to put an elderly loved one into a nursing home is difficult enough. When that beloved family member, who may be suffering from dementia, degenerative disease or increasing immobility, is preyed upon or neglected while in the care of such a facility, it magnifies the suffering for all.
As of 2015, there were an estimated 1.3 million elderly residents of nursing homes, and that number is likely to increase to 27 million people by 2050. Nearly one out of three nursing homes in the United States has received citations of abuse, and according to the Office of the Inspector General, many more cases of nursing home abuse may go unreported. From 2017 to 2018, one in six people aged 60 or older suffered from abuse in a community setting.
Signs of nursing home abuse or neglect
While it can be difficult to know at first that your loved one is experiencing abuse, there are signs that present themselves over time:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises or broken bones, or repeated falls
- Complaints about staff, or markedly changed behavior such as anxiety, fear or depression
- Frequent illnesses, infection or bedsores
- Appearance of malnutrition or dehydration
Around 70% of nursing homes around the country are for-profit, and many of these outsource to related companies. Prioritizing profits sometimes leads to the understaffing of a facility, which can result in staff burnout, lack of supervision, neglect of residents, and in some cases, the hiring of unqualified nurses.
Being able to expose nursing home abuse or neglect can be challenging. Having compassionate and knowledgeable legal counsel is essential to help you pursue options if you suspect that your loved one is experiencing abuse.