It's about time we start giving a hoot about the treatment of senior citizens - Generocity Philly

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Aug. 5, 2016 8:55 am

It’s about time we start giving a hoot about the treatment of senior citizens

Although Pennsylvania has made some improvements to how elder abuse complaints are handled, another concern is the underwhelming amount of public outcry.

All-too often ignored.

(Photo by Flickr user Pennsylvania DMVA, used under a Creative Commons license)

Edit 8/5 @ 10:50 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect that Community Legal Services' report found the Pa. Department of Health lowered their standards for what constitutes abuse, neglect or mistreatment of nursing home residents, not abuse alone.
Unnerving data has been unearthed throughout the past year revealing a blatant mistreatment of senior citizens living in Pennsylvania nursing homes.

Last summer, Community Legal Services released a report that found the Pa. Department of Health lowered their standards for what constitutes abuse, neglect or mistreatment of nursing home residents. The readjustment led to a sharp decrease in violations against nursing homes — between 2012 and 2014, former Governor Tom Corbett‘s Department of Health dismissed 92 percent of complaints in Philadelphia alone.

On paper, it seems nursing home conditions have improved: PennLive reports a steep decline in penalties over the past 14 years, partially due to Corbett’s administration barring anonymous complaints in 2012. That year, sanctions imposed on nursing homes fell from 41 to two.

The number rose again when Governor Tom Wolf lifted the ban last year. Still, a recent PennLive analysis concluded that out of 259 nursing home deaths investigated by the state between 2013 and 2015, only 46 were related to negligent care.

Experts who spoke to PennLive say the number is too low to believe.

Besides a small group of activists, most of whom have relatives in nursing homes or had relatives who were victims of abuse, public concern around elder abuse is scarce.

Where’s the public outrage?

“While I believe that the vast majority of people are and would be outraged to hear about these issues, there is often an issue of avoidance,” Diane Menio, executive director at statewide advocacy group CARIE, told Generocity in an email. “Unless it affects someone personally, they don’t always want to think about issues related to the elderly. ”

That could be due to the fact that many of us don’t want to face our own aging, said Menio, let alone that of our parents, grandparents and immediate relatives.

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The question persists: How much data exposing the dark flaws of nursing home care will it take to wake up the public to demand some change?

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Tony Abraham

Tony Abraham is Technically Media's special projects reporter, where he currently edits Technical.ly's Grow PA series. He reports for both Technical.ly and Generocity and was a Philly News Award winner for Community Reporting of the Year in 2016. A proud native of Allentown, Pa., the Temple University alumnus calls Fishtown home.

  • Ann Stanton

    There is no public outcry about this because people who are older or disabled don’t really count in our society. My sister died in 2012 in a Pittsburgh nursing home and another woman in the Lancaster area died from the same negligent action in 2015. It involved nursing homes not having glucagon (emergency diabetic medication) on hand. My sister was given an oral gel instead of an injection causing her to aspirate along with going into a coma. The other woman in 2015 went into a coma because they also waited too long to provide necessary medical care. If the state department of health had done their jobs in 2012 in requiring this medication to be in an emergency cart, then it may well have prevented another death. Well, I’ll be doing their jobs for them since it seems government can’t get the job done. More people will be finding out about this since it’s now become my job.

  • Lynne Mack

    This has been my life long concern and fight I have a sister who has a disability and a mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. I have to visit Mom every day to make sure she is okay.I am a strong presence in her life. My sister lives with me. I stated a blog about the visits to the nursing home http://www.lynnemariemack.com.

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