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Report Uncovers Rampant Abuse in U.S. Nursing Homes

  • August 10th, 2001

Verbal, physical and sexual abuse in U.S. nursing homes is widespread and growing, according to a recently released congressional report. The report, 'Abuse of Residents is a Major Problem in U.S. Nursing Homes,' uncovered abuse violations in 5,283 nursing homes--nearly one out of every three nursing facilities in the U.S. In more than 1,600 of these homes, the abuse violations were serious enough to cause actual harm to residents or to place them in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.

The report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) by the Minority Staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, reviewed all state inspection reports and complaint investigations in the two-year period from January 1, 1999, to January 1, 2001.

The reviewers found 'many instances of appalling physical, sexual and verbal abuse of residents.' In one case, an attendant entered a female resident's room, shouted 'I'm tired of your ass,' and struck the resident in the face, breaking her nose. In a Missouri home, an 80-year-old stroke victim suffering from dementia was locked in a bathroom, hit with a belt, dragged on his knees, and hit in the head with a book by nursing home employees.

In many instances, nursing home authorities knew of abusive employees or residents but failed to step in to stop the mistreatment. In one case, a resident with a history of more than 50 instances of abusive behavior killed another resident by picking her up and slamming her into a wall.

The report also found that the percentage of nursing homes cited for abuse violations in annual inspections has tripled since 1996. Moreover, the reviewers note that state inspection reports most likely underestimate the magnitude of nursing home abuse in the country because most violations either go undetected or unreported.

One explanation for the rise in abuse in nursing homes, the report suggests, is congressional repeal of the 'Boren Amendment.' The Boren Amendment guaranteed that nursing homes would receive adequate Medicaid reimbursements to provide quality care to residents. Since the amendment's repeal, nursing homes have argued that lower Medicaid reimbursement rates have made it harder to retain quality staff.

The full report can be found by clicking on house.gov/reform.

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Last Modified: 08/10/2001

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