Ken Connor

"Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD." -Leviticus 19:32 NIV

Old age ain't for sissies—especially if you happen to be living in one of America's 15,000 nursing homes.

While there are some fine facilities for the long term care of the elderly, many nursing homes have become dangerous places for the residents who live there. I know because I have seen their suffering up close and personal. As a trial lawyer, I represent many victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

A recent Department of Health and Human Services report found that 94% of America's nursing homes have been cited for violating federal health and safety standards. Perhaps even more disturbing, however, is a study by Consumer Reports that found that state regulators fined only 50% of nursing homes whose misconduct warranted fines.

Pressure ulcers (bed sores) are all too common among the elderly in nursing homes. They develop as a result of leaving a resident in one position for too long without turning or repositioning them. Pressure from a mattress or chair on a bony prominence deprives the resident's tissue of blood flow and the skin breaks down. While "bed sores" sound benign, they are not. I have seen countless pressure ulcers that penetrate to the bone. They are gaping wounds that are often infected and foul smelling as a result of contamination with urine and feces. They develop because short-handed staff frequently don't have enough time to turn or reposition residents, or even to clean them up after they have soiled themselves. Malnutrition is estimated to plague up to 65% of nursing home residents and countless others suffer from avoidable dehydration—all because harried staff don't have time to assist with feeding or to provide fluids to thirsty residents. Still others suffer broken bones resulting from falls and the lack of supervision. Often this occurs when the resident's call light isn't responded to in a timely fashion and the resident attempts to get to the bathroom without assistance in order to avoid soiling themselves.

Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.