Faculty voice:

Carolyn Ziminski Pickering: A Voice for the Voiceless

Nov. 4, 2015

Carolyn Ziminski Pickering is an assistant professor in the College of Nursing with research expertise in elder abuse, injury and safety, long-term care, policy and forensics.

A nursing home is a place where your senior and elderly parents, grandparents and other loved ones should feel safe. Yet sadly, abuse and neglect cases in senior care facilities are rising at an alarming rate.

It has been repeatedly documented that abuse and neglect in nursing homes can lead to numerous adverse outcomes for the physical and mental well being of residents. Research has shown that elders who have experienced abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death when compared to those not abused.

The number of adults in the United States who live longer is growing. It is estimated that 72 million Americans will reach the age of 65 or older by 2030.

Among community-dwelling older adults:

  • Elder abuse affects one out of 10 individuals.
  • Among those with dementia, abuse affects one out of two.
  • Only one out of every 26 cases is reported to community agencies.

When loved ones need living assistance, many families turn to care facilities. This is a growing reality and I intend to better understand the causes of abuse so we can develop elder abuse prevention strategies.

Because of a grant from the American Nurses Foundation, I can now take a closer look into the $1 billion nursing home industry to find out what causes such treatment and the preventative measures needed to put a stop to it for good.

My research seeks to discover how the work environment, specifically a hostile or unsafe work environment, has a direct impact on the ability to provide safe, quality care. My focus is to identify policies and procedures to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, abuse and neglect in nursing homes, in addition to improving worker safety, wellness and job satisfaction. 

I feel strongly about this research because the elderly are particularly vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation, since nursing home residents require around-the-clock care and can’t always advocate for themselves.

That’s why using the power of nursing research, one voice – my voice – will work to protect those who are often voiceless.