Many people in New Mexico are deeply concerned about the threat of nursing home abuse or neglect, especially if their own loved ones are cared for in a facility. U.S. Congress is looking into the problem across the country after media attention has shed new light on the types of abuses that people can suffer inside nursing homes. In particular, a woman in a coma for 14 years gave birth at a nursing home, proving that she was subject to rape and sexual assault while in the facility.
New Mexico residents depend on nursing home staff to provide competent, professional care to their loved ones. However, it doesn't always turn out that way. Incidences of nursing home abuse and neglect are relatively common throughout the United States, and knowing the signs can help protect family members from serious harm.
With millions of people in New Mexico and across the U.S. living in long-term care facilities, the possibility of abuse is a serious one. A CNN investigation found that between 2013 and 2016, the federal government cited more than 1,000 nursing homes either for failing to prevent cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities or for mishandling those cases. Of those, nearly 100 were cited multiple times.
New Mexico families who entrust their loved ones to nursing facilities have been unsettled by the news out of a neighboring state about a woman in a vegetative state giving birth in a nursing home. The 29-year-old woman had been in nursing care since she was a toddler. Her conditions included quadriplegia, persistent pneumonia and seizures. According to anonymous sources in touch with staff members at Hacienda HealthCare, the woman would not have been able to defend herself from sexual advances or communicate her condition.
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.
Families in New Mexico place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes with the expectation that residents will receive compassionate care. Unfortunately, abuse of residents is widespread in regards to dosing people inappropriately with antipsychotic drugs according to a report from Human Rights Watch. The practice is especially widespread among people with dementia despite a strong Food and Drug Administration warning against the practice. The drugs act as chemical restraints to subdue people that nursing home employees find difficult to manage.
New Mexico residents who rely on nursing homes to care for elderly loved ones may be interested to learn that, in some states, the majority of elder abuse allegations are not investigated. For example, in 2016, 97 percent of abuse allegations made in state-licensed senior facilities in Minnesota were not ever investigated. Hidden cameras may help address the problem; however, there are privacy and compliance concerns that often go along with this type of technology.