Volume 2, Issue 2

Susan H. Hemp

The widespread abuse of elderly residents by nursing home staff was brought to the public’s attention by median exposes in the 1970s. Although the publicity helped bring about heightened federal and state regulation — culminating with the nursing home reform provisions of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 — abuse of elderly nursing home residents still exists. Increasingly, lawyers and advocates for older persons call for expanded use of litigation as a useful way to address the problem. Ms. Hemp examines the history of nursing home abuse and the governmental response to it. She then weighs regulatory and tort solutions, considering which avenue is likely to best serve the needs of elderly residents and the other parties involved. Ms. Hemp concludes that litigation probably always will be needed as an ultimate recourse. Additionally, she proposes other ways in which the problem can be addressed, including further improving the regulatory structure, increased involvement by community groups, and more self-regulation of nursing homes through risk management plans.