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Report: Nursing home abuse widespread

A new report details widespread abuse in U.S. nursing homes  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost one of every three nursing homes in the United States has been cited for an abuse or violation, according to a government report released Monday.

The report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, found that over a two-year period from January 1, 1999 through January 1, 2001, all violations reported in nursing homes "had at least the potential to harm nursing home residents." Of the more than 17,000 nursing homes nationwide, 5,283 nursing homes had been cited for an abuse violation.

According to the report, more than 1,600 of those homes with violations were considered serious enough to cause actual harm to residents or place residents in immediate danger of serious injury or death. The report says an additional 256 homes were cited for violations that resulted in death or serious injury.

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This is the first comprehensive report to look at incidences of abuse by analyzing state inspection reports from all over the country. The report did not look at the individual number of nursing home residents who have been victims of abuse. The report said in some abuse violations, only one resident in a nursing home was victimized, and in other instances, a single abuse may have affected multiple residents.

State inspection reports and citations reviewed describe many instances of "appalling physical, sexual, and verbal abuse of residents." Also, in some cases, nursing homes were cited for not protecting vulnerable residents from violent residents.

The number of nursing home abuses is increasing. In 2000, twice as many nursing homes were cited than in 1996.

Rep. Henry Waxman commissioned the nursing home report
Rep. Henry Waxman commissioned the nursing home report  

The report prepared by the Special Investigations Division of the Minority Staff of the Committee on Government also said the findings in the analysis most likely underestimate the magnitude of nursing home abuses in the country because most violations either go undetected or unreported.

The major findings of the report were:

-- Over 30-percent of nursing homes in the United States were cited for abuses, totaling more than 9,000 abuse violation during the two year period.

-- Ten-percent of nursing homes had violations that caused actual harm to residents or worse.

-- Over 40-percent, or 3,800 abuse violations, were discovered after a formal complaint was filed.

-- Many verbal abuse violations were reported, including one instance described in the report: "a nursing home attendant walked into a female resident's room, shouted 'I'm tired of your ass,' hit the resident in the face, and broke her nose."

-- There were reports of sexual abuse, such as a case in California where a male nurse molested two elderly residents while bathing them and another case in a Texas nursing home reported a male nurse attempting to rape a resident in her room.

-- There were reports of physical abuse causing numerous injuries such as a fractured femur, hip, elbow, wrist, and other injuries.

• National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
• AARP Webplace: How to Choose a Good Nursing Home

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