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Report: Nursing Homes Taking on Younger Patients

Although our population as a whole is growing older, an increasing number of nursing homes are taking on younger patients. This can lead to conflict and potentially danger for those most vulnerable. 

Recently on NPR Morning Edition, KRCC in Colorado explored this phenomenon, attributing the situation largely to the fact that there are very few long-term care facilities for younger people in need of constant care. These would include individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injuries who need around-the-clock care and assistance.

One case detailed by the station involves a man in his 40s. In 2015, he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he reportedly “head-butted a car” and “scrambled the old brain bucket” (those are his own words). Today, he struggles with speech. Daily tasks are a challenge. He spent several months in a nursing home, where the majority of residents were over the age of 65. However, he was one of a growing number of under-65 residents at the facility. This is not an isolated phenomenon, and we see it in Florida too. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report 16 percent of the nursing home residents in that region of Colorado who receive government funded nursing home care are under the age of 65. That figure has risen since 2012. It’s a figure that has risen both there and nationally every year since 2012, the agency reports.

As one nursing home ombudsman stated, “This isn’t your grandma’s nursing home anymore.” Many of these individuals may suffer substance abuse issues, major mental illness or traumatic brain injury. Many have been homeless. Part of the problem is many people lack the advocacy skills necessary to obtain in-home nursing care for themselves. So they wind up here.

But of course, mixing two separate age cohorts in one care facility can result in some significant challenges.

First of all, nursing homes were designed with the elderly in mind. They weren’t intended for people to constantly be venturing out, which is often what younger patients want to do because, well, they are young. They don’t want to spend their days cooped up in a single place. That doesn’t mean they don’t require care, but giving them their autonomy to whatever extent possible is important. But when there are different rules for certain groups of patients, that lack of consistency can throw off caregivers.

Another issue is that elderly populations may be vulnerable to abuse – financial, physical, sexual or emotional – from these younger patients, particularly if there is a lack of supervision.

A Reuters report last year revealed that 1 in 5 nursing home residents suffers abuse by other residents. There is no breakdown in age of that report, which examined data from 2,011 nursing home residents, 407 of whom suffered nursing home abuse by another resident in the course of the last month. Younger patients are more able-bodied, and thus more likely to inflict serious harm on an elderly resident, who may be more frail and less able to defend themselves.

If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at a nursing home in Florida, we can help you explore your legal options.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

With Few Options for Long-Term Care, Nursing Homes Take In Younger Clients, March 29, 2017, By Holly Pretsky, NPR Morning Edition

More Blog Entries:

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Disputes Go On Amid Injunction, March 27, 2017,  Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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