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Nursing Home Neglect Encompasses Elderly Patient Dental Hygiene

A recent New York Times article brought to attention the growing oversight and neglect of dental hygiene in elderly residents in nursing homes. While the Elder Abuse Act states the failure to assist in personal hygiene constitutes an example of neglect, family members are finding their loved ones in nursing homes suffering from such neglect as oral health is not prioritized. Elderly residents in nursing homes all over the United States currently suffer from a range of dental hygiene issues, such as gum disease and cavities, partly due to the failure to maintain proper dental health. Several states conducted surveys to assess the oral health of nursing home residents, finding many suffered from substantial oral debris, along with broken teeth.

While the number of elderly residents in nursing homes continues to increase, understaffed nursing home workers struggle to provide even basic oral hygiene such as brushing residents’ teeth twice a day. Regrettably, it appears that such care falls secondary to providing other basic care such as providing food and repositioning residents to prevent bedsores. However, nursing home employers must provide medically necessary care and this includes oral care and hygiene, a requirement that is mandated in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987.

Unfortunately, many elderly residents in nursing homes also suffer from dementia along with other medical issues. Thus, many of these residents must take prescription drugs which can have the effect of drying out the mouth and reducing saliva. As a result, without proper oral hygiene, these elderly residents are particularly susceptible to rapid deterioration of oral health.

These issues not only lead to unnecessary and terrible pain, but may also result in pneumonia. Pneumonia is a major health concern for the elderly population, particularly those who reside in hospitals and nursing homes. Researchers found a link between poor oral health and the occurrence of pneumonia in the elderly. Therefore, proper oral hygiene may reduce the risk of acquiring pneumonia in these settings.

Some elderly residents may also have difficulty obtaining necessary oral care due to financial reasons. Medicaid will provide some dental care in some states, and Medicare will not finance routine dental care. However, dental hygiene issues that arise may be addressed through basic dental hygiene practices, such as brushing teeth. Many elderly residents, particularly those with dementia, frequently forget to brush their teeth as well. A study in New York revealed that only about 16% of nursing home residents received oral care by having their teeth brushed and mouths rinsed. Even in such cases, standards that required brushing teeth at least 2 minutes, rinsing with mouthwash, flossing, and having workers wear clean gloves while providing oral care were not met. As such, neglect by nursing home workers contribute to their residents’ declining oral health, thus contributing to further complications.

Your loved ones residing in nursing homes deserve to receive the highest quality of care possible. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi believe it is unacceptable for nursing homes to neglect residents and overlook signs of deterioration in their residents’ health. If you feel that your loved one is being neglected, give us a call. Our lawyers specialize in nursing home neglect and will fight fiercely to bring justice to those who have been neglected by a skilled nursing facility. We have locations in both Southern California and Northern California and serve communities across the state. Please contact us for a free consultation today.