Articles Posted in Nursing Home Neglect

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will block nursing homes from federal funding should they use pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. What this means is nursing homes in Tennessee can no longer force their patients and families to sign away their rights to sue in court before being admitted into the facility. Nearly all nursing homes are federally funded in some way or another, so this agreement could likely have a massive impact on the industry as a whole.

Prior to this ruling being made, it has been commonplace for elderly individuals and families to have to agree to private arbitration over the United States legal system. This meant elderly people, who are being cared for in federally funded nursing homes, may have been prevented from seeking legal damages as a result of neglect, recklessness, endangerment or wrongful death.  Currently, these arbitration contracts have helped the nursing home industry reduce legal costs and total cumulative damages as well as prevent tarnished reputations and long lasting repercussions.

Unfortunately, elderly are often desperate for care and shelter and will be quick to sign something even if they don’t understand what is being noted in the contract. When certain people have attempted to seek legal assistance for a dispute, the arbitration has held up as a legally binding contract; thereby affecting some of the most vulnerable Americans. For all new contracts between nursing homes and residents, this arbitration clause cannot be included.

People entrust their elderly family members to a nursing home, placing a special trust in the staff to care for and nurture their family in the waning years of life. Unfortunately, we see time and time again that many nursing homes simply do not honor this trust, and take actions that cause harm to the patients, their finances, and their families. Whenever there is any accusation of misconduct by a nursing home, it is critical that you have an attorney who specializes in matters like this to deal with the investigation and the ensuing lawsuit, should it come to that.

Vanguard Health

Most recently, there was the case of the Brentwood, TN nursing home, run by Vanguard Health. The U.S. attorney’s office in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against the former nursing home based on allegations of widespread fraud and abuse of patients in Medicaid and TennCare. According to documents filed by the U.S. attorney, the employees at this nursing home regularly submitted false claims for Medicare and TennCare, forged signatures of physicians and nurses, and provided grossly negligent care for the patients who were in this facility. The parent company, Vanguard Health, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but this will not protect them from the False Claims Act lawsuit filed against them by the Federal Government.

The state of Tennessee is required to investigate reports of abuse on site within forty-eight hours if there is a risk of “immediate jeopardy”. However, according to an audit that was conducted, some investigations to up to one hundred and forty-six days to start. The Tennessee Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities which is supposed to oversee investigations of abuse has also taken too long to put abusive health care workers on an online registry intended to prevent employers from hiring them to work with patients again. One just one case, it took the board ten months to put someone on the state’s abuse registry.  This is clearly putting our most vulnerable citizens at risk.

According to the report issued by the comptroller during the audit, there are serious s in the oversight of hundreds of Tennessee’s nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and 24-hour care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities. The board has also allowed unlicensed staff to administer medications in assisted living facilities because its rules haven’t been clear on who is allowed to dispense them. Additionally, auditors found that fines are so low for breaking rules that some assisted care facilities “preferred to pay the fines instead of hiring higher paid licensed staff” to administer medication. The audit also discovered that the board is not ensuring that nursing homes meet fire sprinkler regulations. Many of the findings “jeopardize the safety and welfare of persons” in Tennessee’s licensed health care facilities.

The audit cited a large increase in the number of complaints for creating a backlog for existing staff to investigate. Since 2011, there has been a fifty percent increase in complaints filed against health care facilities. Between July 2014 and September 2015, there were 2,292 complaints. Of these, seven hundred and ninety-two still await investigations and two hundred and sixty-three of cases involve nursing homes.

According to this case, Doris Racher and her two sisters installed cameras into their mother, Eryetha Mayberry’s room at the Quail Creek Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center after they suspected someone at the nursing home of stealing from her. The video revealed that nursing home employees Lucy Waithira Gakunga and Caroline Kaseke forced Mayberry to lie down by pushing on her head and preventing her breathing. Gakunga was also shown shoving latex gloves into Mayberry’s mouth while Kaseke watched.

A lawsuit was filed against Quail Creek Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center for the abuse and the case went to federal court and the judge announced the verdict on February 13. Mayberry passed away in July 2012, a few months after the video was released. Gakunga and Kaseke were fired and now face criminal charges. The jury found the nursing home guilty of negligence and abuse. The family stated that, “All in the memory of our mother. All of us fought hard and are just happy that now we can relax a little bit, and mother’s probably smiling. I’m so grateful for the outcome, because we told the truth and the truth always prevails.”

Cases just like this one occur all too often in nursing homes all across the United States and even right here in Tennessee. It is crucial that if you have a loved one or someone you care about in a nursing home that you visit them as often as possible. If you notice that your loved one has bruises, cuts, marks, or any other injuries you should notify the nursing home staff right away. It is also recommended that you talk with the staff or the director of the nursing home about their training procedures and what they do to prevent injuries or neglect. These are simple things you can do to help prevent abuse or neglect.

In this case, Eliza Jennings worked until she was in her eighties. Then, she moved into Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2004. According to the lawsuit, Jennings developed severe pressure sores which caused her nerve endings to become exposed and she developed infections such as E Coli. She lost the use of her arms and legs due to them not getting enough motion and she was left sitting in feces and urine. She also had bad skin rashes. The lawsuit also found evidence that the nursing home had a policy to leave its residents in adult briefs for long periods of time without changing them in order to save money on those products.

Jennings’ family filed a wrongful death and neglect lawsuit in 2010. After an eight-day trial, Jennings’ estate has been awarded $18 million. The lawyer for this case stated that, “When she passed away, she was in the condition that no human being should be left in. No one deserves to suffer the way that she did. She was allowed to suffer needlessly. That was the number one thing that the family wanted to see is that no one ever has to go through this type of neglect, ever again.” An employee with Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Center said they would not comment on the outcome of the lawsuit.

Often these homes  do not have enough employees for all the residents or they are improperly trained in how to care for the residents. When considering a nursing home for someone you care about it is always  smart idea to visit the homes you are considering and check them out. Make sure you talk to the staff about how they are trained, meal plans, and daily schedules for the residents. Another good thing to do is to note how the residents appear while you are visiting. If the residents seem like they are in pain or have poor hygiene, then you may want to ask the staff additional questions or consider another nursing home. Finally, you should visit your loved one often while they are in the nursing home to check for signs of physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect such as bruises, scars, cuts, scrapes, your loved one seeming distant or withdrawal or if they seem agitated or worried.

According to a recently filed lawsuit, Donelson Place Care and Rehabilitation Center put patients into immediate danger when the nursing staff failed to follow doctors’ orders to make sure that patients received breathing assistance from physician-prescribed devices. One patient had to be hospitalized and had to have a tube inserted into his trachea as a result of this failure.

During the May 19th through 22nd the nursing home received a revisit inspected where state surveyors cited Donelson Place Care and Rehabilitation Center for violations in the standards for administration, nursing services, social work services and resident rights. Their failure to pass this revisit survey last month resulted in punitive actions on June 4th of this year. These actions include a three thousand dollar fine and being put under a special monitor after a series of quality care failures. These problems began in December according data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It is disturbing to hear that a Memphis Nursing Home has so many care issues that its federal funding has been cut and residents forced to move. News sources discovered that the harsh sanction was related to deficiencies state surveyors found during a recent visit. The news source visited the facility in order to speak with an administrator after a concerned family member sent an email about the issue. An unidentified employee asked the news source to leave. The Signature Healthcare Company was then emailed and contacted by the news source.

The Signature Healthcare Company confirmed that beginning on April 11th, it would no longer be paid by the federal government or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for Medicare and Medicaid resident care. This is important because many nursing home residents and patients are receiving Medicare and the facilities get reimbursed for their care. The move by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid seems to be a disciplinary action.

Signature Healthcare’s Media Relations Manager Ben Adkins stated that instead of issuing the facility a monetary fine for the survey findings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid decided to cut the funding. “We are working through appropriate channels of recourse to try and get this rarely-used remedy changed, or at least delayed for the safety and well-being of our residents,” stated Adkins. The administrator who answered our questions at the time is no longer in that position at Saint Francis. Officials with the Tennessee State Department of Health would only say at the time, that it was related to an extended, annual survey and multiple complaint investigations.  Adkins states that the company is offering to relocate residents to other nursing homes in Memphis, including Signature facilities until the state finds the facility corrected the violations, at which time the nursing home will be eligible to receive federal funding again. Signature states that it will also transfer some of its staff to other facilities it owns in the area so no jobs are lost. According to Adkins, the company plans to inform the state as early as next week that the facility is back in compliance.

A recent report has cited Tennessee nursing homes as earning a barely passing grade in a national nursing home study. Families For Better Care is the organization that conducted the study grading each state on the quality of its nursing home. Families For Better Care is a non-profit advocacy group that is dedicated to creating public awareness of conditions in nursing homes throughout the country. In the report issued by the organization, the states were given letter grades corresponding to their total rank out of the 50 states. The top ten states including the top ranked Alaska earned A’s while the bottom ten ranked states including the worst ranked Texas earned F’s. Tennessee ranked 38th in the country, earning a D in the report. If your loved ones have experienced first-hand a lack of care in a nursing home, contact our team of Tennessee nursing home abuse attorneys.

What trends did the national report find?
The report conducted an analysis of a number of different issues across the country. The staffing of nursing homes played an integral part of the study. States that had an abundance of nurses and other caregivers earned higher marks than states with lower staff numbers. The report also looked at the time of professional nursing care that a nursing home resident received each day. Nearly 96% of states including Tennessee offered residents fewer than three hours of direct resident care per day. The report also found that nearly 90% of nursing homes had deficiencies. Another disturbing issue that the report cited was the widespread trend of abuse and neglect. Approximately 1 in 5 nursing homes abused, neglected, or even mistreated its residents in nearly half of all states.

What about Tennessee nursing homes?
Tennessee nursing homes did not measure up very well according to this report. Ranking 38th overall, Tennessee earned an overall grade of a D. According to the report, Tennessee is among the poorest staffed nursing home states and failed in every staffing measure. Residents on average received only 40 minutes of professional nursing home care per day. On a more positive note, though, Tennessee is one of the states with the lowest percentage of nursing home deficiencies.

How do I know if my loved one has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect?
Your loved one may have adversely experienced nursing home abuse or neglect due to staffing issues. However, you may be wondering how you can tell if your loved ones have. There are a number of common warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect that may include:
• Bedsores • Open wounds or cuts • Bruising • Sudden weight loss • Dehydration • Infections • Malnutrition • Poor personal hygiene • Signs of insects or other pests within the room • Other related health issues Continue Reading

We have represented families in Nursing Home Neglect cases for years. One problem that we frequently see involves the over-medicating of residents. Obviously, medication can be necessary but for less scrupulous nursing home employees it can be also be easy means to sedate your residents so the are less of a “bother”. A recent study revealed just how common this problem is across Tennessee.

I was recently interviewed on this topic. If you would like to watch the interview here it is:

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It is illegal to use physical restraints in a Tennessee Nursing Home without legitimate medical reasoning and oversight. This makes obvious sense. You don’t just tie someone down because it would make it easier to take care of them. However, what most people don’t know is that some poorly operated nursing homes can restrain people with medication. Of course, this can be just as cruel as a physical restraint.

Recently, I was interviewed regarding some disturbing statistics on over medicating Nursing Home Residents. You can watch the interview below:
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