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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Nursing Home Abuse: Baby Boomers Become Senior Citizens

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According to the 2009 Census, there are about 15,700 nursing homes and 1.4 million nursing home residents in the United States.  When compared to 2004 Center for Disease Control (CDC) figures, this demonstrates a decrease in nursing home residents and overall occupancy rates; in 2004, nursing homes were nearly 86 percent occupied compared to about 82 percent in 2009.  However, projections demonstrate that these numbers will increase dramatically in coming years because of the enormity of the Baby Boomer generation’s population; said generation saw its first group officially become senior citizens this year. 
The birth count for the Baby Boomer generation was 76 million Americans.  As of 2011, that population has remained basically the same despite deaths in that generation; this is due to immigration to the United States.  Currently, this generation is comprised of those aged 47 to 65.  According to the U.S. Census, the Baby Boomer generation presently represents 25 percent of the population.  By the time the last group of Baby Boomers is officially deemed “senior citizens,” in 2029, that generation is projected to represent 16 percent of the population.  Just to put this into prospective in regard to nursing home populations now and in the future:
• In 2010 (pre-Baby Boomer generation), senior citizens accounted for 11.15 percent of the total U.S. population.  As of 2009, over 1.2 million nursing home residents were senior citizens, according to npg.org estimates that 86 percent of nursing home populations are senior citizens.
• In 2020 the Baby Boomer generation will represent roughly half of the total senior citizen population; the senior citizen population will account for 15.12 percent of the total U.S population.  Due to the increase in the senior citizen population, nursing homes will see a projected increase of 27,000 to 30,000 senior citizen residents when compared to 2010.
• In 2029 the Baby Boomer generation will represent about 92 percent of the total senior citizen population; the senior citizen population will account for 18.39 percent of the total U.S population.  Due to the increase in the senior citizen population, nursing homes will see a projected increase of 45,000 to 50,000 senior citizen residents when compared to 2010.
*Note that “senior citizens” is used to describe only those between the ages of 65 and 84.  All projections assume that 86 percent of nursing home residents will be senior citizens in the future, though it is freely acknowledged that this is more than likely an understatement.
Abuse in Nursing Homes
The U.S. government does not collect nation-wide data in order to understand how often nursing home abuse takes place; as a result of this and non-standardized definitions of abuse, there is not conclusive national data on the problem.  The majority of elder abuse does not get reported; for every one case that is reported, 5 go unreported according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.  Additionally, according to a U.S. Representatives report, Abuse of Residents Is a Major Problem in U.S. Nursing Homes:
Over thirty percent of the nursing homes in the United States—5,283 nursing homes—were cited for an abuse violation that had the potential to cause harm between January 1999 and January 2001.  These nursing homes were cited for almost 9,000 abuse violations during this two-year period.  Many of these abuse violations caused harm to residents.  Over 2,500 of the abuse violations in the last two years were serious enough to cause actual harm to residents or to place residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury.  In total, nearly 10% of the nursing homes in the United States—1,601 nursing homes—were cited for abuse violations that caused actual harm to residents or worse.
Nursing home residents most commonly suffer from physical abuse (this includes sexual abuse), verbal abuse, and neglect.  A major factor that leads to nursing home abuse is understaffing, which results in an undertrained, overworked, and underpaid staff; currently, 90 percent of nursing homes are believed to be understaffed. 
With the Baby Boomer generation promising to increase the nursing home population by tens of thousands, the question is, will something be done to 1) encourage quality medical staff to work in nursing homes to appease the population’s increase; and 2) decrease the amount of abuse taking place in nursing homes?


Amber Paley is a guest post and article writer bringing to us information on the Baby Boomer generation’s effect on nursing home populations, and the prevalence of nursing home abuse in the U.S.
Amber spends much of her professional life writing about elder abuse in nursing homes.

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