A recent investigative report uncovered widespread nursing home abuse and neglect at some of Georgia’s most expensive facilities that went unreported. Families should know the warning signs and keep close watch over loved ones living in care facilities.
Widespread Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect in Georgia
Through its “Unprotected” investigative series, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) newspaper exposed allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect across Georgia.
The allegations included 600 cases of neglect and 90 cases of abuse by caregivers occurring in the past four years at Georgia’s roughly 400 large assisted living communities.
Assisted living communities are for those who need help with daily care but do not need nursing home care. While nursing homes focus more on medical care, assisted living typically provides meals, help with medications, personal care, housekeeping, and laundry.
Residents usually live in their own apartments and share common areas. The communities typically offer security, 24-hour supervision, and recreational activities.
Nursing home abuse in Georgia is sadly a known issue. In fact, the AJC “Unprotected” series follows closely after a report provided by the nonprofit ProPublica, which listed Georgia as one of the top ten states for nursing home violations.
Families with loved ones living in care facilities in Georgia, and across the country, should stay current on reports of nursing home abuse and neglect. It could make the difference in keeping loved ones free from suffering at the hands of those who are being paid to keep them safe.
Atlanta Journalists Uncover Widespread Abuse and Neglect
Due to suspicion of unreported nursing home abuse in Georgia, AJC spent more than a year investigating the state’s 400-plus private-pay assisted living and senior care facilities.
AJC looked into 3,700 separate violations, which included police reports and incident reports. The investigation uncovered a lack of transparency not only on behalf of the facilities but also on the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH), the agency tasked with overseeing them.
AJC reported that while many other states’ policies are to notify the public about complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect even if they were found to be unwarranted, Georgia’s did not.
Being aware of all reported incidents allows families to make informed decisions when faced with the gut-wrenching decision of moving a loved one into a care facility.
“Unprotected” found that it was common in Georgia for incidents to go unreported. This means that even prosecutors trying to protect the safety of residents did not know of problems, which left those guilty of abuse and neglect still working in the communities.
Many of the private-pay facilities in question are compared to country clubs. The homes can cost anywhere between $3,000 and 8,000 per month out of pocket. Beautiful lobbies and slick marketing materials sadly give way to shocking cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Some of the AJC’s findings include:
- From 2015-2019, 20 residents died and more than 100 were injured due to inadequate care.
- A dementia patient was burned all over her body with cigarettes by a staff member.
- A WWII veteran died from suspected assault that led to murder charges.
- Repeated falls led to bruises, bloody faces, and broken bones.
National Data Confirms Patterns of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news source aimed to serve public interest, created an online tool called “Nursing Home Inspect.” The tool allows families and residents to quickly search nursing homes by state to identify those with serious penalties and deficiencies.
ProPublica findings on nursing home abuse in Georgia include:
- Roughly 10% of Georgia nursing homes were found to have serious deficiencies.
- Approximately 9% received payment suspensions.
- From 2016-2019, Georgia nursing homes faced $8.57 Million in penalties.
Important for families with loved ones living in facilities in Georgia to know, as of December 2019, 176 Georgia facilities were ranked “below average” or “much below average” in at least one area by “Nursing Home Compare,” Medicare’s national nursing home ranking tool.
Causes of Nursing Home Abuse in Georgia
Some common causes of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Lack of training
- Budget cuts
AJC reported that it is not uncommon for facilities to have one staff member responsible for 15 residents during the day and 25 at night. Oftentimes, employees lack training in common conditions such as dementia and are left unprepared to keep residents safe.
Another issue that AJC unearthed is that Georgia’s DCH may not properly respond to allegations of abuse.
Some deeper causes of nursing home abuse in Georgia are:
- In 2017, there was a backlog of roughly 140 complaints of abuse and neglect.
- The state was consistently late in investigating reports.
- Little action was taken against many of the homes, usually fining them only $600 for serious offenses, including sexual and physical abuse.
Other States with High Nursing Home Abuse Rates
According to the ProPublica database, some other states with high levels of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
Keep Your Elderly Loved One Safe from Nursing Home Abuse
The decision to move a loved one to a nursing home or assisted living community can be devastating for families. As loved ones age, it can, unfortunately, be the only option to keep them safe.
However, it is important to understand that nursing home abuse and neglect is a sad reality.
Steps families can take to keep their loved ones safe include:
- Look for notable signs of abuse, such as unexplained injuries or behavior changes.
- Use the AJC’s facility search tool to find dangerous facilities in Georgia.
- Search Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare site to find the safest nursing homes.
- Report any signs of abuse immediately to the police/local authorities.