Discreet violence in Austrian nursing homes

According to the Austrian Ombudsman Board, care is inadequate in over 60% of homes for the elderly.

Roxane Seckauer
Roxane Seckauer Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Discreet violence in Austrian nursing homes - NewsMavens
Old woman, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Subtle forms of violence are easy to miss, and nursing staff may not perceive their behavior as violent.

"Violence begins when someone enters a room, pulls off a blanket and begins washing you without asking," says Gabriele Thür, deputy director of two geriatric centers and eight nursing homes in Vienna.

This type of abuse can encompass many seemingly harmless, yet disrespectful behaviors, like condescending speech, neglect or inapproriate touch.

Medication management also appears problematic, and Ombudsman Günther Kräuter reports it is assessed as inadequate in 56% of nursing homes.

Many patients are given 13 to 16 drugs a day, a conspicuously high number of permanent medications. In addition, psychotropic drugs are often administered  for commonplace matters such as "hiccup", "pressure in the head" or even "before showering".

In Thür's opinion, the situation is directly linked to a growing lack of qualified personnel and support workers.

Details from the story:

  • In 2030, there will be a shortage of approximately 30,000 trained nurses, according to calculations by the Austrian Health and Disease Association.
  • This figure does not take into account untrained citizens who care for ill relatives. These often lack necessary expertise, and are not subject to quality controls.  The explicit right to respectful and professional care is present only in the legal frameworks of the Austrian provinces of Vienna and Tyrol.
  • Caregivers are sometimes exposed to aggressive behavior and insults from patients, and they should also be provided with coping strategies for these cases.
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