In These Times recently reported on the troubling reality of senior citizen neglect faced by many aging community members. The problem is particularly severe for those on a fixed income, with minority community being hit harder than most. The article shares the story of one senior who was forced into a poorly run facility in her golden years where she was subject to fierce nursing home neglect. Shortly before her death the woman’s body was severely malnourished, she had a blood infection, and a pressure ulcer had grown on her body that was an unbelievable eleven inches wide. The victim’s family filed a nursing home abuse lawsuit to hold the negligent facility accountable. The case was ultimately settled out of court. However, it garnered attention because it used a civil rights statute as the basis for the suit.
Many observers believe it may set the trend for the future as more and more seniors age, the “gray wave” may place many seniors is situations compromising their well-being. The story explains how in roughly a decade and a half, one in five Americans will be over the age of sixty five. This ratio will be double what it is now. Undoubtedly those seniors will need a wide range of assistance to help with the everyday problems of aging. One study explained that half a million new nursing home beds will be needed by that time. Yet, over the past few years the number of available nursing home beds has actually shrunk by five percent. Things are headed in the wrong direction. The problem could be exacerbated even more is lawmakers enact further cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid systems as some are proposing.
Many worry that the increasing need for senior care and its lack of availability will ultimately lead to significant increases in elder abuse. Certain segments of the population-including minorities-may be hit hardest. This is a concern because statistically minorities are less able to pay for costly senior care, with those seniors often on fixed incomes. One researcher said that there is a “tiered system of nursing home care that concentrates blacks in marginal-quality homes.” There is a concern that the quality of the nursing home where one is sent is influenced, indirectly, by race because of geographic differences.
Living in a poor facility often results in more subtle forms of neglect. One Illinois nursing home neglect victim explained that “the worst thing about living in a nursing home is that you lose your freedom and people don’t think you know your own mind.” To combat the day-to-day challenges faced by those in these facilities, many advocates are calling for alternatives to the traditional nursing homes, such as less-restrictive community based systems. These new formats would focus on quality of life considerations, allowing seniors to keep their pets, celebrate birthdays with families, and eat home-cooked meals. Some steps in this direction have already been taken with projects like PACE-Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. The federal and state program allowed providers to use public assistance to pay for community-based support services as an alternative to regular nursing home care. Trends in that direction should continue.
In Other News: Two of our companion blogs–The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog–were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.
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