A Modest Proposal for the Elderly and Infirm

When families put their loved ones into a nursing home, they expect that they will receive adequate care for their physical, medical, mental, and social needs. Nursing homes have a responsibility and a duty to provide reasonable and adequate care, and when they fail in any area of that care, it may be considered neglect. Regrettably the nursing home industry is dominated by corporations who own and run the nursing home facilities whose main focus in profit. Those few nursing homes that refused to take Medicaid patients because of the rate for Medicaid reimbursement seem to provide an acceptable quality of care. Could it be that this is because their per patient fees are higher? Most elderly people cannot afford to spend $5000 or $6000 a month for nursing home care and are dependent on Medicaid to pay the bill.

Nursing home neglect may include any number of failures, from not providing adequate nutrition to actively ignoring patients who ask for assistance. Families of loved ones who were neglected can file lawsuits against the individuals and the facilities responsible for failing to provide expected care. Neglect in the nursing home is often considered a kind of abuse most seen in the form of inaction, or a failure to act. This failure to act may be unintentional and may result from either understaffing or staffing by unqualified individuals. This is sort of neglect often results from the efforts of the nursing home attempting to increase profits by cutting costs.

In the nursing home context, neglect may happen in several ways. Some of the more common are:

  • Failure to provide adequate medical mental health or dental care
  • Failure to monitor a patient’s health condition
  • Inadequate hygiene such as bathing, toilet use, and clothing changes
  • Failure to change or clean the patient after incontinence
  • Inadequate food, nutrition, or hydration
  • Not aiding the residents with their mobility
  • Failure to provide adequate equipment or assistance for the safety of the patient resulting in falls or other accidents which were preventable
  • An inadequate number of, or inadequately trained staff
  • Ignoring calls for assistance
  • Deactivating call lights

In summary, nursing home operators often treat the elderly and infirm as “commodities” rather than people. The difference between what the state pays the operator and the amount he spends to care for the patient is his profit and the amount of profit determines whether he drives a Chevrolet or a Rolls-Royce.

Sometimes injury is caused, not by the staff at the nursing home or by shortcomings in its’ physical facility, but by the physician retained by the nursing home to provide medical care to their patients. The way medical services are delivered today makes it impossible to find a family practitioner willing to come to see only one patient in a nursing home no matter the strength of their past relationship. Accordingly, the nursing home hires a physician to come in and make the rounds of patients whom the nursing staff indicate needs his service or the patient requests to see him. On average, the patient sees the doctor a few times each week and when a doctor fails to recognize or inappropriately treats injuries caused by a lack of mobility assistance or infections that result from poor hygiene, there may be a medical malpractice suit against the doctor.

So, what do you do upon learning that your loved one is being neglected?

  • Call the Ohio Department of Health complaint hotline at 800-342-0553
  • Email a complaint to the Ohio Department of Health that includes the following: 
  • Your name and address
  • The name and address of the facility
  • The names of the individuals involved
  • Names and contact information for witnesses
  • The name of the patient and room number
  • The date, time, and frequency of the incident
  • Your opinion is to whether the incident is an isolated event or systemic problem along with your reasons for that conclusion
  • And, a description of any other action you’ve already taken.
  • Fill out an Ohio Department of Health complaint form which can be downloaded from the department’s website.