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Nursing Home Patient Abuse - Realities and Remedies

NCJ Number
B A Close; M S Greenberg; B R Morgenstern
Date Published
82 pages
This report highlights persistent patient care problems in nursing homes discovered by New York State's special investigative unit from 1975 through 1980 and suggests amendments to the public health and penal laws, certification and training programs for aides, and safety regulations.
Following an overview of the history and functions of the Deputy Attorney General's patient abuse unit, the report details common types of complaints investigated. Approximately half the allegations concerned neglect and assaults while others involved rough treatment and unexplained physical injuries. After the Patient Abuse Reporting Law was enacted in 1977, the number of complaints has risen sharply and the State Department of Health has become the major source of referrals instead of friends and relatives of patients. During the past 5 years, the unit has examined over 1,100 cases of patient abuse and now receives about 300 complaints per year. Special projects conducted by the unit are reviewed, beginning with a Queens County Grand Jury investigation into deaths and illnesses of patients in a nursing home during a 1978 heatwave when the facility's air conditioning broke and a subsequent report on similar incidents during a July 1980 heat wave. Unit staff also joined the Department of Health in several rounds of unannounced nursing home inspections, participated in training sessions for ombudsman programs, and cooperated with community groups committed to bettering long-term care. The office has sought improvements in State and Federal laws regarding health care facilities. The report proposes amendments to legislation imposing criminal liability for acts of patient abuse which are currently unprosecutable and discusses similar laws in other States. Other recommendations address certification and training of nurses' aides and orderlies, suicide prevention, fire safety, misuse of restraints and guardrails, and the quality of medical care. The appendixes contain statistical tables, a Kansas statute on training unlicensed personnel, a curriculum outline for nurses' aides, and a glossary.