Elder abuse is paramount to child abuse and people that prey on the vulnerable should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. That's why it's so disconcerning that a state run facility in Williamsburg, Virginia (VA), The Hancock Geriatric Treatment Center, lost its certification last September- because of deficiencies in patient care. Now the center wants its funding back. Consultants have been hired to review the facility, and staff has been retrained, the center says.
Frankly, if my parent's were one of the elderly in that facility I would hope that any staff that was present during past abuse would be let go, not just retrained. The report from The Virginian-Pilot named several reasons for the loss of certification and they include:
- A one out of five rating on care quality, largely for failing to "protect patients from injury and abuse."
- More than 80 "critical incidences" in which a patient's life was put in danger; many of the incidents were slips and falls.
- At least one patient suffering irreversible brain damage after a fall suffered because staff did not offer enough mobility support.
- Repeated physical abuse of patients observed by staff but unpunished by managers.
- Understaffing nursing stations and duty shifts.
It is terrible that patients may not be safe in a facility that's sole purpose is to care for them. Neglect and abuse of nursing home patients creates more than health problems. It makes many patients' last days their worst. It makes family members question their ability to protect and provide proper care for loved ones when they are at their most vulnerable.
So how can you protect your loved ones? Holiday visits, they say, offer a perfect opportunity to assess the needs and health of elderly relatives, whether they're living independently or in a care facility.
"You should visit with a checklist in your head," says San Francisco social worker Mary Twomey, who wears two hats - as a specialist in elder issues and as the daughter of a 78-year-old.
She advises people "to look for red flags: Has your parent lost weight, are they no longer interested in things they once enjoyed, are there any signs of physical abuse?"
Every patient deserves the best care possible. We hope the Hancock Geriatric Treatment Center will soon be one where patients and loved ones can count on staff to do their job.