Why are neglect and abuse common in the nursing home setting?

Why are neglect and abuse common in the nursing home setting?

As our parents grow older, they grow increasingly dependent upon others to assist with basic needs, including transportation, housekeeping, and paying bills. Eventually, an individual may decide to move into a nursing home or assisted living facility. Ideally, these are places where people can live with regular access to nursing and personal care. However, this can also leave a resident vulnerable to neglect or abuse. Caregivers are often burned out from understaffing and lack of resources, making them more prone to mistakes, and less patient when it comes to the resident’s needs.

The Nursing Home Lacks Resources

Many nursing homes lack resources, both financial and logistical. Medicaid and Medicare are the primary sources of funding for nursing home facilities. However, those programs only cover up to 60% of health care costs per individual, and there are often disputes over various charges. Also, as nursing home costs rise, people are choosing more frequently to find an alternative to a nursing home or assisted living facility, such as in-home care or living with relatives. Unfortunately, these factors leave many nursing homes underfunded, and forced to cut costs. This can lead to outdated equipment, and fewer staff to assist the residents.

Burnout Among Caregivers

The caregiver has a range of duties, including providing medication, overseeing physical therapy, evaluating a resident’s wellbeing, making note of any necessary changes to the care plan, and assisting with dressing, meals, and social activities. However, staffing shortages mean that caregivers are often tasked with caring for more residents than they can reasonably accommodate, leading to burnout. This can lead to neglect, as the caregiver may be too exhausted – or too rushed – to provide the individual attention each resident needs. Unfortunately, a burned out caregiver may also have less patience with a resident’s needs, leading to other forms of abuse.

Lack of Oversight in the Nursing Home

Federal and state laws mandate that residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have regular access to skilled caregivers, with suggested times based on the level of care needed. Additionally, there are certain steps that nursing homes must take to remain in compliance with government standards, which cover everything from a resident’s admission, to the amount of time caregivers and medical staff spend with each resident. However, without appropriate oversight, certain warning signs may go unnoticed. Often, it is a friend or family member who notices a change in the resident’s demeanor or health.

What Can I Do About Suspected Abuse?

Many forms of neglect or abuse are the results of mistakes or missed warning signs: mistakes in medication, unnoticed conditions, bedsores, or unexplained cuts/bruises, malnourishment, et cetera. Often, residents don’t say anything about their abuse, because they are afraid of retribution from their abusers, or of being a burden to their families. Lack of oversight means that a resident’s family must be prepared to advocate on their behalf. A lawyer can provide invaluable help in navigating state and federal laws governing nursing home abuse, and helping protect residents of long-term care facilities. If you or a loved one has been injured due to neglect or abuse, notify the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at 1-800-252-4343 and then call the Rooth Law Firm today.


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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