More than three million seniors live in nursing homes in the United States. Of that population, one in three has reported that they have suffered abuse, and more than 90% have reported that they have seen other residents suffer abuse. Physical abuse in nursing homes is a pervasive problem that causes serious injuries to thousands of people every year. Many of these injuries occur when nursing facility staff members use unnecessary force on the residents and cause significant physical injuries.
Unnecessary force is the use of excessive force when caregivers are touching and moving elderly patients. Unnecessary force can be used in a large number of situations such as when attendants are trying to help patients walk across hallways or into bathrooms and when they lift patients into other beds.
In most cases, the caregiver is not trying to cause physical harm to the patient, but he is just trying to move the patient more quickly than is safe. Because nursing home residents are often frail, have limited mobility, and might be on several medications that reduce their awareness, they are always at a high risk of falls and accidents. When walking or being moved, they must be given the utmost care in order to minimize the risk of injury.
Sometimes unnecessary force is used absent-mindedly, or by accident when the caregiver is not paying close enough attention. These types of accidents are more frequent in nursing facilities that are understaffed, because the caregivers in those homes are usually more stressed, exhausted, and prone to making mistakes.
There are other situations where unnecessary force was used intentionally or recklessly out of frustration. This is also more likely to happen when nursing homes are understaffed. When caregivers are tired, exhausted, or frustrated they are more likely to use unnecessary force when assisting or moving patients.
When a caregiver uses unnecessary force when lifting a patient, he may cause minor injuries to the arms or other areas he is lifting. The most serious types of potential injuries are those that occur if the patient falls or has an accident while being moved. These injuries can require serious medical attention, but because these injuries are sometimes caused by negligence, there is a risk that the medical staff will not report it. Some of the most common injuries caused by unnecessary force are:
As a medical staff member or another caregiver helping a senior citizen, you should always be patient and careful when assisting them. When you are helping them walk across a room, walk at their pace. Instead of being a pulling or pushing force, just try to act as a support to help them balance themselves as they safely move.
Nursing homes that want to reduce the risk of unnecessary force should increase the number of staff members working with patients. With more staff members, each individual would have less stress and more time to help the elderly with their tasks. This will reduce the amount of unnecessary injuries caused by exhaustion, carelessness, and frustration.
If you notice that your loved one has signs of physical abuse or a fall, you should always investigate what happened. If the medical staff refuses to explain the cause of the injury or if you find out that one of the caregivers used unnecessary force, you should ask that a different caregiver can be assigned to your family member. You might also want to look into moving them to another nursing home.
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“Elder Abuse: Prevention Strategies.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan 2014. Web. 14 Feb 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/prevention.html>.
“Statistics/Data.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 14 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Library/Data/index.asp&xgt;.