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There was some good news in a 2005 study from the National [Nursing Home] Ombudsman Reporting System (“NORS”). Complaints involving physical abuse in nursing homes decreased from 5,426 in 1998 to 4,137 in 2005. According to the report, complaints of nursing home physical abuse ranked 19th out of 128 categories of complaints relating to nursing home conditions.

While any decline in numbers of abuse of nursing home residents, is obviously positive, nothing in the NORS report is cause for celebration. There are undoubtedly many cases of undiscovered and unreported incidents of nursing home abuse, for each incident that makes into the NORS database. One instance of abuse is too many. CBS News quoted a federal nursing home abuse investigator, as explaining that as serious as the statistics of abuse are, the actual conditions inside nursing homes, is far worse. The investigator, Paul Hodge, said that “[E]lder abuse is fast becoming one of the greatest law enforcement challenges of the next century.” Other federal officials interviewed noted that most nursing home problems, especially physical abuse of residents, go unreported. Congress is trying to address the problem, having enacted provisions in the Older Americans Act of 2006, aimed directly at nursing home abuse. States have to do their part, and families with loved ones in nursing homes have to be vigilant to the conditions in their loved one’s nursing home.

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