You may have seen nursing home abuse coverage in the news or read about shocking stories online. If a member of your family has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you know all too well the reality of the situation. These headline-grabbing incidents actually reflect a more widespread national problem in the senior care industry.

According to the National Center on Elderly Abuse, “a comprehensive review article found the prevalence of elder abuse to be approximately 10% including physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.” Nursing home abuse statistics vary between different states and organizations, but almost all studies concur that abuse and neglect are more prevalent than previously thought. What is worse, and what recent sample studies confirm, is that a great number of abuse and neglect cases go unreported.

In a 2016 study, The Office of the Inspector General sampled 134 cases in which harm to residents in skilled nursing facilities may have been caused by abuse or neglect. They found that 100 of the 135 cases (74 percent) indicated reports of potential abuse and neglect. In 20 percent of these cases no evidence of reports to proper authorities was ever found, despite state and federal laws requiring staff to do so.

A large part of the nursing home abuse issue has to do with government regulation and facility standards. In 2011, Social Security and The Department of State Office of the Ombudsman bolstered federal regulations regarding nursing homes and long-term care facilities reports in an attempt to control the growing number of abuse cases. It states that suspected abuse of a nursing home resident causing serious bodily injury must report to local law enforcement in two hours or less. If their suspicion of abuse does not involve serious bodily injury of the nursing home resident, they have 24 hours to report it. In each case, failure to report suspected abuse cases can result in fines of up to $300,000.

While steps like this are certainly improving the senior care industry, it is becoming harder and harder to enforce and regulate the growing number of nursing homes in country. The “baby-boomer” generation is now the largest elderly population the United States has ever seen, with no signs of decline. This increase in elderly population is a major concern for the senior care industry.

National statistics give cause to concern:

Current elder population is at 40.3 million – 13% of the total population.
By 2050 the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million.
Nearly 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day over the next 15 years, fueling the aging population explosion.
Over 38 percent of those aged 65 and over had one or more disabilities in 2010, with the most common difficulties being walking, climbing stairs, and doing errands alone.
A 2009 study revealed that close to 50% of people with dementia experience some kind of abuse.
One out of 10 older adults experience some form of abuse or neglect by a caregiver each year.
15,600 nursing homes in operation as of 2014.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that between 2010-2014 only about 9% of nursing homes was deficiency free when surveys were conducted.
Adult Protective Services (APS) cases found that investigated reports increased by 16.3% and that substantiated reports increased by 15.6% from 2000 to 2004.
The average number of consumer complaints reported per home increased by 21% from 2005-2014, (government accountability office).
Healthcare spending per person is nearly 5 times higher for those aged 85+ than the national average of $7,097 per year.

What can be done?

Nursing home abuse and neglect is preventable and manageable. Firstly, family members of nursing home residents should be on vigilant alert for signs of abuse. If you suspect abuse in any form, immediately report your suspicion through the proper channels. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and the National Adult Protective Services Association, are always available to hear your case. If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home facility and wish to seek legal advice, call Smith Mohlman Injury Law at 816-866-7711 as soon as possible for a free consultation. Our only goal is providing justice for victims of abuse.