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Governments can't stop all nursing home abuse

As a society, we can often accomplish more collectively than we can individually. Utilizing a wide range of organizational tools, modern civilizations create entities responsible for helping maintain the health, comfort and well-being of their citizens, from police forces to trash collection to regulatory agencies that ensure air and water quality. Connecticut, like most states, has state departments that are tasked with regulating long-term care facilities and nursing homes. One of the facets of this is inspecting institutions, surveying patients, and investigating reports of abuse.

While generally, the people who work in these types of departments do the best they can, the unfortunate fact is that resources are limited, and these departments are often not a high-priority for lawmakers come budget time. This means that the state regulatory apparatus may not be able to catch all instances of abuse, or always effectively correct those that occur. In fact, the federal General Accountability Office conducted a study in 2008 that showed that 70 percent of state surveys fail to report a deficiency in an institution and in 15 percent of these cases, what is missed is a case of actual harm to a nursing home resident.

This means that residents and their family members cannot rely solely on the state regulatory apparatus to protect facility residents and seek redress for injuries that occur. This blog has written about warning signs of abuse and the use of patient care plans, and it is important that family members remain vigilant for signs of problems.

It is also important, however, that when there are indications of nursing home abuse, that the perpetrating individuals and facilities be held accountable. While civil suits against abusive nursing homes will help compensate victims and their families, they also do a service to society by creating economic incentives for facilities to police themselves even if the state regulatory agency isn't looking over their shoulders.

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