Gallup Poll Highlights Eroding Trust in U.S. Nursing Homes
A Gallup poll conducted in July 2023 revealed that most Americans are reluctant to admit their loved ones into a nursing home. The poll asked participants to grade the overall quality of nursing home care, and the results were grim: 36% rated nursing facilities as poor, 33% as just satisfactory, and 6% as failing. Only 1% of those surveyed rated nursing homes as excellent.
Most participants mentioned quality of care, safety risks, and concerns for residents’ emotional and mental health as top concerns. Breaking down the Gallup poll’s findings and what to expect from nursing home care in the United States can help you safeguard your family members from abuse and neglect.
The Gallup Poll Results
The Gallup Panel ran a web poll from July 5 to July 24, 2023, asking participants nationwide to grade the overall quality of care in local nursing homes.
Only 9% of respondents gave nursing homes a positive rating, with 8% grading them B and just 1% grading them A. On average, these ratings show nursing homes have a nationwide average grade of D+.
Poll participants expressed numerous concerns in the poll, including:
- Reluctance to live in a nursing home. 70% of poll participants said they would be uncomfortable being admitted into a nursing home, with 41% saying they would be very uncomfortable. Only 18% expressed positive opinions about living in long-term nursing care.
- Discomfort with admitting a family member. Poll participants expressed similar concerns about sending a relative to a nursing home. 61% responded negatively, while only 20% favored the idea.
- Poor quality of care. 70% answered with concern about the quality of care in local nursing homes, making it the most commonly expressed concern.
- Health risks. 45% feared living in a nursing home would harm their emotional or mental health, and 27% stated concerns for their physical safety.
- Loss of rights. 34% expressed that living in a nursing home would cause a loss of independence, and 21% said it would deprive them of their privacy.
- Excessive costs. 49% of participants felt living in a long-term care facility would be too expensive or impact family finances too much.
Only 26% of poll participants believe nursing homes are safe places for older adults in the United States, with 41% who perceive these facilities as unsafe. Highlighting this distrust of nursing homes is the number of reported incidents of residential neglect and abuse that occur to residents.
Nearly 10% of people aged 65 or over in the United States experience elder abuse, with only 1 in 14 cases being reported. Some of the most common forms of abuse and other avoidable harm in nursing homes include:
- Resident neglect. Neglect can take many forms. For instance, leaving residents isolated, depriving them of social contact or activities, or failing to address bedsores, hygiene, and nutrition. Common causes of neglect in long-term care facilities include understaffing, undertraining, institutional inefficiencies, or intentional and malicious behavior.
- Physical abuse. This occurs when residents are harmed by staff or other residents, often due to inadequate staffing or lack of proper supervision. Visible signs may include unexplained injuries, bruises, or fractures, as well as sudden issues with walking or moving.
- Emotional distress. This can arise from overworked or underqualified staff verbally mistreating residents. Signs to watch out for include increased stress levels, abrupt changes in behavior, and symptoms of anxiety or depression.
- Sexual abuse. This could be a result of lax security measures or inadequate staff screening. Indicators may include bruising around genital areas or the presence of unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
- Financial abuse. The nursing home may levy unexplained charges or hidden fees, or unauthorized withdrawals may be made from resident accounts. In some instances, personal belongings may go missing, possibly taken by other residents or staff.
- Medical abuse. This typically stems from inadequate training, harmful staff behavior, or poor record-keeping. Warning signs can involve medication issues such as overdosing, underdosing, or receiving incorrect medication.
What These Results Mean for You and Your Elderly Loved Ones
The results of the Gallup poll reveal a concerning lack of public confidence in these institutions that can make it challenging if you have an elderly relative who lives in or may soon need to transfer to a long-term care facility. Here’s what these findings mean for you and your elderly loved ones:
- Evaluate alternatives. Given the low levels of confidence in nursing homes, you may want to explore other options like home care services or community-based solutions that offer a more familiar environment and potentially higher levels of personal care.
- Be proactive in your research. Before settling on a nursing home, thoroughly review ratings, ask for recommendations, and even consider personal visits to assess the environment and care provided. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers a nursing home comparison tool and quality rating system that allows you to look up facilities to assess quality measures and performance. The California Department of Public Health also provides tools for researching nursing home quality.
- Advocate for improvements. Ask questions about staffing ratios and the availability of medical resources, and be prepared to speak up if you notice areas that need improvement.
- Keep an eye on policy changes. Legislative measures aimed at increasing staffing and improving resources could boost the quality of nursing homes. Being aware of these can help you make a more informed choice and may alleviate some concerns.
- Report abuse immediately. If you’re in California and suspect abuse or neglect, report it as soon as possible. Contact the CDPH to file a complaint, following the procedure outlined online. You can also work with a qualified nursing home attorney who can help you with the reporting process or file a civil suit on behalf of your loved one.
Safeguard Your Loved Ones’ Well-being
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are charged with keeping elderly residents safe from harm. When they fail in this duty, it’s the most vulnerable population who suffers.
To safeguard your loved one’s well-being, compare nursing homes and choose the best option based on performance and quality indications. It’s also vital to know the signs and symptoms of abuse and take action to hold the facility responsible if you suspect mistreatment.
A nursing home abuse attorney can help you file a complaint, gather evidence to prove negligent or malicious actions by nursing home staff, and protect your loved one’s rights to keep them safe.