The elderly population constitutes a very important group of people in every society. Ensuring their safety and comfort with regard to health issues is very crucial. It is customary for people to cherish and make every possible effort to ensure the wellbeing of the elderly members in society (McNamee, 2009). Most of them experience many challenges such as poor health and limited mobility brought about by old age. However, there is a certain percentage of this group that is very unfortunate, as they are often treated badly by their caregivers or family members for their selfish interests. Elders have a high vulnerability to physical, verbal, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse (Sage & Kersh, 2006).
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Caregivers are often highly criticized for the manner in which they disregard their ethical code of conduct by neglecting the elderly, which worsens their health. According to reports, cases of elderly abuse are very high in various care centers across the United States. The most common challenge that the elderly population encounter is medical negligence in hospitals, at home, or nursing homes.
Statistics released in 2011 by the federal government showed that 3.6 % of the elderly population lived in nursing homes (Shandell & Smith, 2015). In the same year, the state of Florida reported that over 3.3 million people of its population were elderly persons. This meant that the state was prone to having higher cases of medical negligence among the elderly population only behind the state of California, which was reported to have the highest number of elderly people. Medical negligence involves professional wrongdoing that results in injury or damage, as well as failure by nurses to act with prudence characterized by absconding responsibilities and lacking concern (McNamee, 2009).
In addition, it entails a failure by nurses and caregivers to meet the physical and emotional needs of their elderly patients. Some of the practices that qualify as medical negligence towards the elderly include lack of proper medication, food, clothing, hygiene, and safety measures (Sage & Kersh, 2006). There is an urgent need for relevant authorities, especially in Miami to come up with strategies that can effectively address this social challenge.
The problem and the significance of identifying it
The biggest problem with regard to medical negligence in the elderly population is the fact that very few caregivers understand the various needs of this group. In addition, other challenging factors such as lack of effective communication and bad attitude among caregivers or the patients can contribute to this problem (Shandell & Smith, 2015). Studies have established that addressing the issue of negligence would facilitate in echoing the grievances of the elderly population with regard to the provision of health care services (Cooper, Selwood, & Livingston, 2008). One of the common ways in which health care experts neglect the plight of elders is a failure to refer them to specialists.
Legal experts argue that most elders are prone to this problem because their custodial rights are often held and controlled by other people (Sage & Kersh, 2006). This means that for such an elder to receive specialized treatment, the decision is often made by their custodians who can choose to be malicious at times. The inability of the elderly people to make decisions on the kind of treatment options they prefer is a big contributing factor to the high number of medical negligence cases.
A study conducted to establish factors that trigger this kind of behavior among caregivers found out that such decisions are influenced by ill motives such as financial extortion (Shandell & Smith, 2015). In situations where the caregivers are related to an elderly patient and listed as a beneficiary in case they die, chances of medical negligence are often very high. Legal experts that have handled such cases, argue that elderly patients can have their medical needs ignored purposely if there are some underlying benefits connected with their deteriorating health (Reyes, 2016).
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The state of treatment accorded to elders in the state of Florida has attracted a lot of concern over the years. The concerns have heightened due to the high number of elderly people, especially in Miami (Reyes, 2016). This means that the number of nursing homes in the city is many, a phenomenon that translates to a high probability of medical negligence cases. In response to this concern, the state government established a department, which solely focuses on addressing the needs of the elderly population. In addition, the Florida state government also set up an elder abuse hotline to necessitate reporting of negligence towards the needs of this important group in the population. Despite the existence of these services, reports indicate that most cases of elderly abuse in nursing homes end up unreported because of factors such as intimidation and lack of awareness (Reyes, 2016).
A survey conducted by the Florida state government in 2012, established that many fraud cases are never reported because the majority of the elders are never realized when they lose their money (Bulman, 2010). The importance of identifying the various cases of medical negligence in the elderly population is that it will help in dealing with the influencing factors, as well as coming up with strategies for dealing with the problem in an effective manner.
Another significant step in identifying the best solutions for dealing with this challenge involves understanding the signs that indicate an elder is being abused (Cooney & Howard, 2006). Some of the notable signs include increased dehydration, unusual injuries, sores, wandering, and falls. Family members of the elderly people in nursing homes also aught to keenly, observe any personality changes such as social withdrawal, unfriendliness, and agitation as they may be indicators of a deeper-lying problem such as depression that could have developed due to negligence (Cooney & Howard, 2006).
There is an urgent need for the relevant authorities to come up with effective strategies for addressing the social problem of medical negligence in the elderly population. Although the Florida state government has also put in place a number of mechanisms to help deal with the problem, a lot still needs to be done in order to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our elders (McNamee, 2009). One of the most effective solutions to this challenge is affirmative action. This approach will ensure equality with regard to elderly people accessing health care services in nursing homes. In most cases of medical negligence towards the elderly population, caregivers tend to be selective when registering the patients in need of crucial services such as specialized treatment (Bulman, 2010). Therefore, this approach will help to bridge this gap, which has compromised the health status of many elders for a long time.
The second solution to the challenge of medical negligence in the elderly population is awareness creation among the elders with regard to their rights and the channels they can use to air their grievances (Berson, 2010). This will play a crucial role in ensuring that any caregiver that develops a tendency of abusing elders is dealt with, as well as revoking the operating licenses of nursing homes found to be neglecting the needs of elders under their care. Information is power, thus the need to empower the elders with the right and necessary information that will ensure their safety.
The third solution to this challenge is encouraging caregivers in nursing homes to be more vigilant, as well as driving increased performance through capacity building (Reyes, 2016). Research has established that some cases of medical negligence by caregivers are purely out of innocent causes such as lack of information and adequate training with regard to handling the needs of elderly people (Berson, 2010). Therefore, giving the caregivers better training would go a long way in ensuring that the elders get the right services and in the most appropriate manner.
Stopping cases of medical negligence in the elderly population also involves taking aggressive legal action towards caregivers and nursing homes found violating the rights of elderly patients (McNamee, 2009). There is an urgent need to develop better legislation that will provide guidelines for protecting the plights of this group in society. This should happen at the federal, state, and local levels. Therefore, the relevant authorities should ensure they promote effective implementation of various legislation passed to address this challenge.
In addition, the Florida state government should set up a legal department that will solely focus on helping elderly patients with cases involving abuse and negligence by their caregivers. Studies have established that some cases of elder abuse are never addressed because of the high cost of hiring a legal representative (Kessler, 2011).
Therefore, such a move by the state government will be very crucial in addressing this challenge because the elders will have the motivation and courage to come forward in case they are abused. Another approach that can be effective in addressing this challenge is encouraging transparency and accountability on the part of caregivers and nursing homes (Kessler, 2011). Health care experts argue that caregivers have an ethical responsibility of ensuring the safety and general wellbeing of their patients. Therefore, a program for ensuring that they account for action they do and are held responsible in case something bad happens to someone under their care should be put in place (Schiamberg, 2003). This approach will reduce cases of caregivers taking their work for granted or collaborating with other devious people to frustrate elderly people under their care.
Medical negligence in the elderly population is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Some of the indicators that an elder is being neglected include poor hygiene, malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions, poor clothing, as well as the existence of various occupational hazards such as faulty electrical wires and slippery floors. In addition, medical negligence can also involve healthcare fraud where caregivers collude with other staff to bill for tests not performed on an elderly patient, charge for medication not administered, as well as providing free services in exchange of favors such as medical insurance cover from wealthy elders. There is an urgent need for the relevant authorities to come up with effective strategies geared towards addressing this social challenge.
Berson, S.B. (2010). Prosecuting elder abuse cases. National Institute of Justice Journal, 265(3), 10-16. Web.
Bulman, P. (2010). Elder abuse emerges from the shadows of public consciousness. National Institute of Justice Journal, 265(2), 3-9. Web.
Cooney, C., & Howard, R. (2006). Abuse of vulnerable people with dementia: Can we identify those most at risk? International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(6), 564-571. Web.
Cooper, C., Selwood, A., & Livingston, G. (2008). The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect: A systematic review. Age and Ageing, 37(2), 151-160. Web.
Kessler, D.P. (2011). Evaluating the medical malpractice system and options for reform. Journal of Economic Perspective, 25(2), 93-110. Web.
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McNamee, C.C. (2009). Elder abuse in the United States. National Institute of Justice Journal, 255(4), 34-39. Web.
Reyes, C. (2016). At your defense: Respect and protect your elders. Emergency Medicine News, 38(2), 26-28. Web.
Sage, W.M., & Kersh, R. (2006). Medical Malpractice and the U.S. Health Care System. California: Cambridge University Press. Web.
Schiamberg, L. (2003). An ecological framework for contextual risk factors in elder abuse by adults. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 11(1), 79-103. Web.
Shandell, R.E., & Smith, P. (2015). The Preparation and Trial of Medical Malpractice Cases. New York: Law Journal Press. Web.