In a fairly recent post, we explored a report released from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). That OIG report examined the rate of reporting, including the quality of the reporting, of abuse and neglect at nursing homes by those nursing homes themselves. The report showed how only 53% of allegations and findings from investigations into allegations were properly reported.
Furthermore, the majority, but certainly not an acceptable number, of nursing homes followed federal guidelines prescribed for those receiving money through Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs. The report effectively demonstrated how there is serious underreporting of abuse and neglect across the United States, and how in so many cases (one-fifth!) abuse was reported, but the origins of that abuse were reported as unknown or uncertain, making it more difficult to ferret out the perpetrators and wrongdoers.
The Under-Reporting Problem
Now, the issue of underreporting has hit closer to home in Beaver County, Oregon on the issue of elder neglect and elder abuse in general (i.e. not just in nursing homes). As reported in the Times Online, the county’s protective services unit there is in charge of looking into neglect, as well as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, as well as other types of exploitation of the elderly. As of recently, it was estimated that the agency deals with approximately 400 such cases. Furthermore, 75% of the reports phoned in to the agency turn out to be legitimate and substantiated.
Yet there is the glaring point that so many still go unreported as is the case in general across the country. As the article notes, much of the neglect can sometimes be self-inflicted as the elderly forget to take their medicine, or fail to engage in certain treatments they are supposed to use. This is obviously a significant concern, and demonstrates how important it is that the elderly receive the help they need to live as healthy a life as possible. But neglect by caregivers also ranks high on the list of cases in Beaver County, and as noted this can occur not just in private homes, but also in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
In addition to the typical neglect and abuse we unfortunately see all around, financial exploitation also remains a significant form of abuse. Such abuse can be easy for the perpetrator where the victim experiences mental disorders like dementia. Much as state investigators look into the civil and regulatory violations stemming from abuse and neglect – physical, sexual, emotional and financial – and in significant circumstances the police and district attorneys or state attorneys may also get involved when the abuse is of a more clearly criminal nature.
This is an important case study because the impact of elder abuse and neglect, whether at a nursing home or elsewhere, can someone be dulled when simply spat out as statistics from across the country. When considering a county or locality, one realizes how closer to home the problem hits, as well as the importance of state and local agencies in combating these problems. Elder abuse and neglect in general requires our attention whether in a nursing home or elsewhere, because as we have noted in the past, at-home and community-style care is increasingly becoming popular, but the chances for abuse and neglect remain.
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