Checking a family member or friend into a nursing home is a hard decision. Once that decision is made, it’s expected that the resident will receive the attention and medical treatment necessary to live out their days with comfort and dignity.
This is especially true with veterans from our armed forces. Unfortunately, investigations show the Department for Veterans’ Affairs (VA) provides undignified, substandard care.
Negligence in VA Nursing Homes
Residents of VA nursing homes have been found to regularly suffer malnourishment, sores and injuries preventable by proper medical attention, and even death from negligence, as was the case with Earl James “Jim” Zook, 72, who was admitted as a flight risk and then wandered off the facility grounds and into nearby woods.
In addition to negligence, VA nursing home abuse has included sedating residents through the pairing of sedatives with antipsychotic drugs. One visitor to a VA home interviewed by USA TODAY said, “Everyone looks like a zombie.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that antipsychotic medications may increase the risk of death in patients with dementia.
Internal Affairs Investigates VA Facilities
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has not publicly disclosed their ratings in detail since 2009 when a newspaper in Pittsburgh released a damning report of their quality, USA TODAY reports. Quality issues detailed in that report included poor resident grooming and pest control issues. Recently, President Trump is credited with ordering the release of these ratings to the public.
In a report released by the Internal Department of Veterans Affairs, provided by USA TODAY and The Boston Globe, the state of VA nursing homes is deplorable. Of the 133 homes listed in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, 32 were three stars or above, a ranking which can be assigned even if the home is found to be inferior to a private nursing home in ten out of eleven criteria. Additionally, only eight of those nursing homes ranked at four stars and two homes (one in Georgia and one in New York) managed to achieve five stars.
The VA declares that although the numbers are daunting, these facilities are slowly improving. The changes, however, may come too late for many of the 46,000 veterans currently residing in them.