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Abuse in the Nursing Home:

Your Worst Fears Come True

Why do we have to talk about this sad subject? It is real, and it wonít just disappear because we want it to go away. There has been a lot of talk about nursing home abuse in the media, so letís take a closer look at what it is, and how to deal with it.

Physical abuse is hitting, slapping, kicking, pinching or beating. Neglect is a form of physical abuse, involving depriving a person of needed medical treatment or care, or failure to provide the basics of food, clothing or hygiene. Specific to nursing homes, physical abuse includes leaving a person in urine or feces, isolation persons in their rooms, or failing to answer call lights.

Verbal Abuse is the use of statements that criticize, sneer at or degrade the person. Verbal abuse includes swearing or unkind gestures.

Involuntary seclusion is confining or locking up a person in a restricted space.

Financial abuse is the use of an elderly personís money by another person.

Mental abuse includes threats and inducing fear in an elderly person of punishment, humiliation, harassment, or deprivation of the necessities of life.

Sexual abuse includes harassment about sex or forcing a person to perform sexual acts out of fear of punishment.

How do we stop these forms of abuse? First, by learning what abuse is, and watching for signs of it. Abuse is against both Federal and State laws, and must be reported if it is suspected. Sometimes it is difficult to help abused elderly people, and the victim of abuse may not want it reported, fear they will not be believed, or think that the care they are receiving is better than no care at all.

There are Federal and State laws in place that provide safeguards. Nursing homes must do background checks, and sometimes require fingerprinting, to avoid hiring anyone convicted of abuse or neglect. Criminal background checks are also a part of the licensing process for nurses, and certification for nurseís aides. References and work histories are also carefully checked. Guidelines are strictly adhered to when abuse is suspected or reported. And perhaps most importantly of all, continuing education should be provided by the nursing home to its staff on a regular basis on the identification and reporting of all forms of abuse, and on how to deal with difficult patients or potentially violent situations in the workplace.