WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nursing home patients have been dragged down hallways, doused with ice water, sexually assaulted and beaten in their beds, yet few prosecutions have resulted, a congressional investigation found.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging's 18-month review concluded that many physical and sexual abuse cases in nursing homes are not treated the same as similar crimes elsewhere, and it is presenting evidence that includes a dramatic deathbed interview with one victim.
Helen Love sat with a metal band pinned to her skull and described a 1998 beating she said was delivered by a caretaker at her Sacramento, Calif., nursing home after she soiled herself.
"He started beating me all along the bed," the elderly women said in a slurred voice as she described the attacks to lawyers. "He choked me and he went and broke my neck. He broke my wrist bones, my hand. He put his hand over my mouth."
Love died two days later from the trauma. The nursing home staffer eventually pleaded no-contest in the 1998 attack and served a year in prison.
The investigation found that nursing homes rarely call police for attacks that would bring an instant response if they occurred elsewhere.
"A crime is a crime, whether in or outside of a nursing home, where residents should not spend their days living in fear," said Sen. John Breaux, D-La., chairman of the aging committee.
About 1.6 million Americans are cared for in 17,000 nursing homes. The homes received $58.4 billion in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid in 2001.
Government figures show that from July through September 2000, nearly 26 percent of nursing homes were cited for violations that ranged from actual harm to residents to poor record keeping and failure to put into practice policies to prevent abuse. Fewer than 2 percent of the cases, however, involved actual harm.
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