October 20, 2021 | Nursing Home Abuse
Many nursing home residents live in long-term care facilities because they have medical conditions that require a certain level of medical care or intervention. Among these are conditions that many older adults tend to develop, such as rheumatoid arthritis, back and neck pain, and joint problems. These conditions are painful and may limit a person’s mobility.
Elderly adults may also be more likely to experience falls, broken bones, dislocated hips, and certain forms of cancer. What do all these conditions have in common? They can cause extreme pain and discomfort and may require prescription drugs to help ease symptoms. Opioids are one of the most prescribed classifications of drugs meant to treat pain. Unfortunately, residents who have been prescribed opioids for their pain may become targets of nursing home abuse and theft.
Kentucky’s Opioid Crisis
It is no secret that Kentucky has an opioid problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that in 2018, Kentucky medical providers wrote 79.5 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. The national average is 51.4 prescriptions. A Kentucky Health Issues Poll estimates that in 2017, the state’s drug overdose deaths reached 1,566. That gave Kentucky the fifth highest death rate due to drug overdoses in the country.
What Does the Opioid Crisis Have to Do with Nursing Home Abuse?
A Minneapolis family recently decided to share their heartbreaking story with the world. The Borsheim family entrusted the care of their loved ones to a local home health aide. LaVonne Borsheim suffered rheumatoid arthritis and had recently undergone ankle surgery. The woman complained that she was in constant and intense pain, but family members couldn’t understand what the problem was. It was during a visit to a pain clinic where doctors found no sign of opioids in her blood or urine that things suddenly clicked for the family. The woman’s caregiver had been stealing her prescription drugs.
In 2019, the National Consumer Voice surveyed 137 state and local long-term care facility ombudsmen and found that more than half reported complaints from nursing home residents and family members about drug diversion and drug theft. Researchers also interviewed law enforcement officials in several states, including Kentucky, who indicated that they had also seen problems with elderly adults not having access to the pain relief drugs they needed.
There are even more stories outlining how the elderly may be at risk of having their medications stolen and sold for profit or to prop up the abuse of an addicted individual or caregiver. Residents and their family members should know that medication theft is illegal. Withholding prescribed medication is also a form of abuse that can result in long-lasting physical and emotional side effects.