It is not accurate to say that every nursing home is dangerous and every nursing home resident endures abuse. However, it is accurate to say that many nursing home residents experience some form of abuse. Abuse of the elderly is a difficult problem to understand because so much of it goes unreported.
According to a Health and Human Services (HHS) Report in 2008, 91 percent of U.S. nursing homes were cited for deficiencies between 2005 and 2007; about 17 percent of nursing homes in 2007 were cited for deficiencies that either caused harm or that put residents in immediate jeopardy of harm.
According to a 2003 HHS report between 4 and 5 hours of patient care per day was found to maximize quality of care.
“Thresholds at which the quality of care is maximized range between 2.4 and 2.8 hprd for CNAs, 1.15 to 1.40 hprd for RNs and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) combined, and 0.55 to 0.75 for RNs, depending on the resident population. Significant quality improvement is seen with incremental staffing increases up to these ratios, while no improvement is seen with levels above them.”
If those thresholds became implemented standards of care, the HHS found, “97% of all nursing home facilities would fail to meet one or more of the standards.” A 2002 New York Times article stated that HHS found that residents in understaffed nursing homes are, “more likely to experience bedsores, malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, pneumonia and serious blood-borne infections.”
With nursing homes already understaffed and atrocities occurring to residents already, it’s hard to picture what the future will look like if nothing changes. Now that the first year of Baby Boomers have officially entered the senior citizen age group, the nursing home industry will find in the coming two decades a sharp increase in demand for its services. Not only is age expectancy projected to increase in future years due to medical advances, but the enormity of that generation is astounding: In the mid 1990’s, the Baby Boomer generation made up almost a third of the U.S.
According to a 2008 HHS testimony report:
“Americans are growing older and living longer – many with complex, chronic medical conditions. As increasing numbers of our nation’s baby boom generation retire, the need for high-quality long-term care, both in the community and in nursing homes will grow commensurately.”
In 2006, pre-Baby Boomer subversion, there were about 3.8 million nursing home residents between the ages of 65 older in 2006; this includes both long-term and short-term stays. Based U.S. Census projections, the senior citizen population will increase from over 40 million in 2010 to almost 55 million in 2020 and to over 72 million by 2030.
[box type=”important”]If the percentage of those 65 and older who utilized nursing homes in 2006 remains constant in the future, this means nursing homes will see over 5 million patients in 2020 and 6.6 million in 2030. Given that medical advances will allow people with diseases and ailments to live longer, it is probable that nursing home populations will actually be bigger.[/box]
Amber Paley is a writer who has devoted her life to educating the public about the problems of elder abuse in the United States. She spends much of her time writing about abuse in nursing homes.
 Levinson, Daniel R. Memorandum Report: “Trends in Nursing Home Deficiencies and Complaints” Rep. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 Sept. 2008. Web. <http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-08-00140.pdf>.
 “State-Initiated Nursing Home Nurse Staffing Ratios: Annotated Review of the Literature.” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2003. Web. 13 Dec. 2011. <http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/2003/ratiolit.htm>.
 Pear, Robert. “9 of 10 Nursing Homes in U.S. Lack Adequate Staff, a Government Study Finds – New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 18 Feb. 2002. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/18/us/9-of-10-nursing-homes-in-us-lack-adequate-staff-a-government-study-finds.html?pagewanted=all>.
 “In the Hands of Strangers: Are Nursing Home Safeguards Working?” United States Department of Health and Human Services. 19 Apr. 2011. Web. <http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/2008/05/t20080515a.html>.
 “THE NEXT FOUR DECADES, The Older Population in the United States: 2010 to 2050.” U.S. Census Bureau, May 2010. Web. <http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p25-1138.pdf>.