The children and relations of elderly people expect a nursing home to care for their loved ones. On the other hand, the owners of the nursing home expect to make a profit. When profit comes ahead of patient care, seniors can suffer.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a National Nursing Home Initiative. This criminal and civil effort targets the worst nursing homes in the country.

Abuse, neglect victims need advocates

Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable citizens. Abuse takes a life-threatening toll on their physical, mental and emotional health. Unfortunate situations range from residents who are in pain to others who lie in their own waste for hours.

Besides abuse, neglect is a major issue. Nursing home residents who do not have regular visitors have no one watching out for them. They are, in effect, at the mercy of facilities that lack staffing and training for their proper care.

These elderly people are often unable to care for themselves and may not understand what is happening to them. They also may feel they have no course of action without opening themselves to further abuse.

Government addressing abuse, neglect

The federal initiative will seek out nursing homes that:

  • Lack proper staffing
  • Fail to follow hygiene and infection control
  • Do not offer healthy nutrition
  • Make medication errors
  • Use physical or chemical restraints

The facilities that house elderly residents also are under scrutiny. Problems range from leaking roofs and mold to rodents found in the same rooms as residents.

Abuse and neglect take many forms. They can be obvious, such as signs of physical mistreatment. However, some are less visible, such as when patients are the victims of verbal abuse when no one else is around.

What loved ones can do about abuse, neglect

The government initiative, while encouraging, falls short of immediately addressing gross negligence. Investigations get caught up in red tape and often are slow to spur corrective action.

In the worst cases, residents live in filthy and dangerous conditions. A senior’s family is the first line of defense when a nursing home is failing to serve their loved one.