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What Other Types of Abuse Are Happening in Our Nation's Nursing Homes?

On May 4, 2010, in Kingsport, Tenn., a licensed nurse was indicted by a grand jury and arrested for stealing patients' prescription narcotics from the nursing home where she was employed.

The nurse, Summer Brook Lane, 33, worked briefly at the Holston Manor Nursing Home in Kingsport during the summer of 2009. Her crime was discovered when an officer in southwest Virginia made a traffic stop on her vehicle. The officer located narcotics in Lane's car that were not prescribed to her. The officer was able to trace the drugs to the nursing home where Lane was working in Kingsport.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigations was notified and they assigned their Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to investigate the crime. The investigators found that Summer Lane had been taking the prescription narcotics that were intended to be distributed to patients at the Holston Manor Nursing Home. She was indicted by a grand jury for one count of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a dependent adult; obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, deceit or theft; and theft of property under $500.

Theft is one form of abuse in American nursing homes, but many other types of abuses occur regularly. A 2007 survey indicated that 420,000 people in America live in nursing homes. With so many elderly patients dependent on nursing homes for their care, it puts them in a precarious position to be mistreated and abused by those who are paid to look after them.

Other types of abuse that occur in nursing homes include theft of patients personal property, lack of proper medical care, failure to provide safe and adequate care, and physical abuse and neglect.

These different types of abuse are horrible for the patients to experience and can sometimes be difficult to recognize and prove. For some of the patients, once they are admitted to the nursing home, they receive very limited, if any, visitation from family and friends.

If you notice that a patient's personal belongings are disappearing, do not disregard it. Contact the nursing home administration to let them know what is going on. If you notice bed sores or bruises on the patient, it is important to act immediately. A person who truly knows the nursing home patient is the patient's best ally. You can contact the nursing home administrator or police if necessary to investigate any allegations of theft, abuse or neglect.

The nursing home patient should not be left in dirty adult diapers, and should be bathed and fed regularly. If the patient is telling you that someone is being mean or mistreating him or her in any way, take it seriously.

The vast majority of nurses and health care workers in nursing homes are terrific people who have the patients' care as their top priority. Nursing home workers are often paid low wages for doing a very difficult job. Their job is actually made easier by concerned friends and family taking an active role in the care and well-being of the nursing home patient.

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