When it comes to caring for those who fought to protect our freedoms, one would think it’s safe to assume our nation’s veterans are receiving the highest quality of care possible. Unfortunately, that might not be the case in many facilities across the country, according to a report published last July by The Boston Globe and USA Today. Veterans who risked their lives for their country shouldn’t have to risk their lives in VA nursing homes.
In July 2018, The Boston Globe and USA Today published data on VA nursing home facilities obtained through internal documents. The information measured the quality of care in 133 VA nursing home facilities that serve more than 46,000 veterans. The documents revealed that VA nursing homes have more residents suffering from serious pain and bedsores compared to private facilities.
The glimpse into the state of care of 46,000 veterans in 133 facilities showed high numbers of veterans suffering from potential neglect or medication mismanagement. In addition, the data showed that more than 100 VA nursing homes scored worse than private nursing homes on the majority of key quality indicators. This includes the rates of infection and decline in the quality of life.
In initial stories, both news outlets reported that 60 VA nursing homes received one out of five stars last year—the agency’s lowest quality ranking.
The study found that four VA nursing home facilities in Massachusetts, Ohio, Alabama, and Oregon gave antipsychotic drugs to its patients—nearly twice as many as in the private sector. The practice of administering antipsychotic drugs is linked to early death in elderly patients with dementia. Additionally, federal law has long banned the use of chemical restraints.
“They should be assessing individuals and doing what they can to manage it,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. “And if it’s not working, they should be trying different things.”
The VA has long argued that its residents are much sicker than those in private care facilities. Additionally, the agency has kept these files since 2011. The 2011 report found that 80 percent of the agency’s nursing homes had issues with medication management.
Click here to find specific information on your loved one’s VA nursing home.
The increased risk of elder abuse in veterans
Nursing home abuse and neglect leads to serious physical injuries, depression and even death. Although millions of seniors from all walks of life are subjected to nursing home abuse, the Boston Globe and USA Today reports show that a number of factors increase the risks of abuse and mistreatment for military veterans in VA nursing homes.
For starters, veterans aged 65 and older have an increased prevalence of physical disabilities. The severity of their disabilities put them at an increased risk for elderly abuse. Typically, their physical limitations make them defenseless against both physical and emotional attacks. There are approximately four million veterans had a “service-connected disability” in 2016. Of those veterans, 1.3 million had a disability rating of 70 percent or higher, based on the VA’s Disability Rating System.
Veterans also have an increased risk of mental health disorders. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a study in 2011 revealing that approximately one in three veterans of any age has at least one diagnosable mental health disorder. Such disorders include depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
After serving their country, veterans are commonly left without sufficient support systems such as friends and family networks, and mental and physical health care services. Although frequent underreporting makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact number of elder abuse cases, an increasingly aging veteran population is more likely to have an increased dependency on nursing homes and caregivers.
Forms of veteran elderly abuse and neglect
Elderly mistreatment is both widespread and underreported. Veterans left without family or with few visitors depend on nursing home caregivers to meet their most basic needs, as well as treat them with dignity. When these needs go unmet, veteran nursing home residents can endure some of the most traumatic forms of abuse and neglect. Veteran elderly abuse occurs in the following ways:
Neglect: Although nursing home neglect is similar to nursing home abuse in some ways, however, they are not the same. Nursing home neglect is defined as a breach of duty or form of substandard care that results in harm to the resident and has a foreseeable outcome of the nursing home’s negligent actions. This includes serious physical or mental harm that results from the failure of caregivers to provide the needed level of care to the nursing home resident. Types of nursing home neglect involve:
Emotional or social neglect– The resident is often left alone or repeatedly ignored.
Personal hygiene neglect– The resident does not receive adequate help with hygiene practices such as bathing, brushing their teeth, change of clothes, clean linens or other hygiene practices.
Basic needs neglect– Reasonable food, water are not provided as well as a safe and clean environment.
Medical neglect– The nursing home caregivers fail to provide adequate attention, prevention or medication for infections, bedsores, diabetes, cognitive diseases or any other illness that requires medication.
Depending on the type of neglect, there may not be any physical signs—making neglect difficult to detect. Some indicators that nursing home neglect may be occurring are:
- Frequent falls
- Sudden weight loss/malnutrition
- Changes in appearance
- Withdrawn behavior with staff
Physical abuse: Punching, shoving, scratching, suffocating, slapping, kicking and misuse of both physical and chemical restraint are only a few forms of elderly physical abuse. Physical abuse is one of the most common types of abuse seen in nursing homes and one of the easiest to detect. Warning signs that may suggest a resident is experiencing physical abuse include:
- Medical staff does not leave the resident alone with family
- Unexplained, recurring injuries
- Physical signs of restraint such as bruises and abrasions
- Resident’s sudden change in behavior especially when certain caregivers are around
Emotional and psychological abuse: Acts of verbal assault such as threats, humiliation, yelling at and ridicule that causes elderly residents to feel extreme sadness, fear and anxiety. This type of abuse can be more difficult to observe than physical abuse. However emotional and psychological abuse can leave lasting effects on the elderly and can even contribute to the decline of physical health. It is important to understand that psychological abuse can also be inflicted in a nonverbal manner. Some examples include ignoring the resident by giving them the silent treatment and isolating them from other residents and activities. Indicators of emotional and physical abuse include the following:
- Withdrawal from others
- Excessive fear or nervousness
- Sudden change in personality
- Unusual behavior such as rocking or sucking
- Loss of appetite
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
Putting your loved one in a nursing home care facility can be a difficult decision to make. You are trusting someone with your loved one’s life. When that trust is broken, it can leave you questioning if you made the right decision. But it is never your fault. You can hold the responsible parties accountable for your loved one’s nursing home abuse and neglect. If you want real accountability, contact our expert nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys today. The Carlson Law Firm is a veteran-owned and operated law firm. We take the living condition of our veterans seriously. We have more than 40 years of experience protecting the rights of those who have suffered from nursing home negligence. In addition to our success, our firm has the leading nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys in the country.
If you believe your loved one is suffering or has suffered from nursing home abuse and neglect, contact our firm today. Our team of nursing home abuse experts can help you, and your loved ones get the justice you deserve.