Growing old in America is not what it was, let’s say, 100 years ago. It used to be the case that age was venerated in society. Today, however, there is a negative perception associated with aging that is fostered by our culture. For the most part, the experience of the elderly is discounted by the media, or it is not represented at all–very definitely, youth and prestige have gained superiority over experience. Age has diminished as a distinguishing element among the elderly as it pertains to their worth. Without argument, the message in society today is this: to be worthwhile, you must be young. Consequently, as the negative image associated with aging is continually perpetuated throughout society, it leaves the elderly with a sense that they are worthless. Sadly for some elderly, the feeling of worthlessness is compounded when they are placed in a nursing home, especially if it is not a well functioning one. Without proper care at nursing home, the elderly commonly suffer from what we consider “nursing home abuse.”
Medicare and Medicaid have had a large impact on the use of nursing homes and the changes in patterns of financing have encouraged the construction of nursing homes. Despite Medicare and Medicaid funding and laws created to protect the elderly, there are few safeguards to ensure that a standard of patient care is maintained. Countless nursing home studies have found that proper staffing is one of the main factors to a well functioning nursing home. Investigators usually find that understaffing leads to verbal abuse and neglect. When nursing homes cut staff, pay lower wages or let caregiver levels slip below a state mandated minimum, the residents suffer. State inspectors continually undercover a litany of violations, such as neglecting bedsores and giving patients the wrong drugs. There is an implicit good faith agreement between staff and residents that they will receive proper care. Yet some nursing homes house, as part of their business plan, a high percentage medically fragile patients in order to receive higher reimbursements–which is dangerous when combined lower staffing rates.
A common injury due to understaffed nursing homes is the development of pressure sores–a telltale sign of neglect. Some patients, especially diabetics or those with high blood pressure, can develop pressure sores on ankles and tailbone. Sores can become so deep to the point that bone becomes exposed and then becomes severely infected. When a bed sore develops, nursing home staff must be quick to identify the wound and implement the use of medical equipment, such as pressure relieving mattresses and heel protectors, to prevent the wounds from worsening. When bed sore are not treated in their initial stage, they progress and become difficult and more costly to treat. A stage 3 or 4 bed sore typically requires aggressive medical treatment. In some cases, though, by the time significant medical treatment his utilized, many patients are already suffering from serious complications. In the most extreme cases, gangrene can set in and a patient has to have their leg amputated. And the worst cases of all are those that result in the death of a patient.