This case involves sustained abuse of a nursing home resident. A male resident of the Defendant nursing home had lived in the home for several years before experiencing any abuse. Shortly before the abuse began, the nursing home underwent a period of financial instability, which resulted in sweeping changes to staff. After being assigned a new caretaker, the Plaintiff began complaining of physical and verbal abuse. Initially, the Plaintiff’s claims were ignored by his family, due to a history of degenerative mental disease and a lack of witnesses. However, physical signs of abuse including bruises and cuts were soon noticed by the Plaintiff’s family. At the family’s request, the nursing home launched an investigation into the caretaker’s behavior, which discovered that the caretaker had struck the Plaintiff on numerous occasions.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. What are the typical causes of elderly abuse in a nursing home setting, and what are some ways that nursing home administration can prevent this kind of abuse?
Expert Witness Response
Staffing levels, resources, and quality vary between nursing homes, and no one factor is proved to cause abuse. However, there have been certain factors or combinations of factors that seem to correlate with nursing staff abuse. For example, cases of elderly negligence and abuse in nursing homes are often linked to understaffing. Like any organization, nursing homes have to cut overhead expenses from their budgets, and sometimes that results in diminished staff. However, since nursing and certified aides provide almost all of the patient care, when the staff is decreased, supervision of residents suffers, which usually has a negative effect on the quality of care the elders receive. Elder abuse tends to be more common in facilities with a high percentage of elders with dementia in conjunction with a low staff ratio. Also, aides that are poorly trained are not as likely to give quality care to residents with dementia and exhibit violent behavioral symptoms such as hitting or kicking residents. Quality of care suffers for these residents especially when the staff ratio is low and they are being asked to work double shifts. This seems particularly pertinent to this case, as the elder in question suffered from dementia and her nursing home recently cut its budget and fired staff. It is extremely important for nursing homes to maintain a healthy staff-resident ratio to cultivate a safe, friendly environment for residents. Well trained staff should be the top priority, and the last thing to be reduced in case of a budget cut.