Tennessee Nursing Homes Earn Low Grade

September 3, 2013 by Jim Higgins

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

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Overmedication Problems in Tennessee Nursing Homes

August 27, 2013 by Jim Higgins

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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Interview on Distrubing Nursing Home Statistics

August 6, 2013 by Jim Higgins

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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Memphis Jury Awards $33.5 Million for Birth Injuries

July 24, 2013 by Jim Higgins

The birth of a child is supposed to be a momentous occasion for any family. While there are a number of potential health issues with each birth, we have an expectation that the doctors will act accordingly to minimize the risks of any potential problems. Unfortunately, sometimes the doctors’ actions can result in avoidable birth injuries. A birth injury from a baby boy in 2005 has made recent headlines after a substantial award from a Tennessee jury. If your child has suffered a birth injury as a result of medical malpractice, we encourage you to contact a Tennessee medical malpractice attorney today to discuss your legal options.

Earlier this week a Memphis jury awarded $33.5 million to cover the future health care costs and other damages due to a boy, now 8 years old, who had suffered severe birth injuries. The injuries resulted from lengthy delays in performing an urgently needed cesarean section even after the prompting of other physicians. Because of the delays in performing the surgery, the child was born with severe brain damage that left him with cognitive impairments as well as a form of cerebral palsy, known as spastic quadriplegia. This type of cerebral palsy significantly restricts the body’s ability to use its arms and legs and control necessary functions. The child will have to struggle with the effects of this condition for the remainder of his life.

The jury, comprised of 10 women and two men, rendered a unanimous verdict against obstetrician Gary Lipscomb, M.D., and his employer, UT Medical Group, Inc. The case was heard in Shelby County Circuit Court in Memphis, Tennessee.

After being seen and tested by a doctor at UT Medical Group’s high risk obstetrical clinic, the mother of the child was sent by a doctor to hospital to deliver the child. Tests had shown that the fetus was showing signs of stress and would be subjected to significant risk of injury if not delivered quickly. However, the doctors did not have the mother deliver the child until six hours after her arrival to the hospital. Even after doctors had scheduled the urgently needed surgery for that afternoon, that deadline was missed by 79 minutes. Evidence presented at trial showed that even if the birth had taken place 20 minutes earlier than it actually did the injuries to the child would have been prevented.

The lead attorney on the case stated, “The jury delivered justice to this little boy, whose life was tragically and avoidably altered.”

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Disturbing Statistics Regarding Overmedicating Nursing Home Residents

June 27, 2013 by Jim Higgins

People across the country and here in Tennessee often turn to nursing homes for the care of their aging or disabled loved ones. However, there are a number of issues that arise in nursing homes. Specifically, nursing home abuse has become a real problem with one out of every three nursing homes in the country being cited for such mistreatment. Whether stemming from malnutrition, dehydration or even mental or sexual abuse, nursing home abuse can take a variety of forms. One of the more common forms of nursing home abuse in Tennessee and throughout our country is the overmedication of nursing home residents.

While one of the most important aspects of nursing home care involves determining whether residents are receiving the proper doses of their medication, nursing homes have all too often been found to overmedicate residents. With residents averaging between seven and eight different medications in a month, medicating residents can be a very involved process. If the nursing home staff is not attentive, overmedication of your loved one can easily occur. Even with federal regulations in place to ensure a system for the proper medication of residents, overmedication occurs much too often.

A number of recent statistics demonstrate just how prevalent overmedication is within nursing homes. In 2010, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that nearly 17 percent of nursing home residents were receiving antipsychotic medications that exceeded recommended levels on a daily basis. While this percentage varies from state to state, it has been found as high as 25 percent in California and an astonishing 71 percent in Florida. Another statistic shows that in 2010 as high as 40 percent of nursing home residents were given antipsychotic drugs despite not being diagnosed with psychoses.

Even with these alarming statistics about overmedication, a large portion of nursing home abuse cases go unreported. If you have loved ones being cared for in a nursing home facility, it is important to watch for any warning signs of overmedication. Some of the more common signs of residents being overmedicated may include:

• Erratic personality or behavioral changes
• Sudden reclusive actions toward staff, family, or friends
• Exhaustion or fatigue
• Confusion
• Oversleeping
• Other medical complications

The emerging trend of using medication, specifically psychoactive medication, to control residents is obviously alarming and extremely dangerous. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has estimated that nearly 15,000 nursing home residents die each year from unprescribed anti-psychotic medication. Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why nursing homes turn to using anti-psychotic medication, including nursing home staff shortages and even a “drug-first” mentality to treat residents.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Death of Nursing Home Resident

April 26, 2013 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the United States, people put their loved ones in nursing homes every day, expecting that they will be well cared for. However, many patients suffer from abuse, negligent, and in some cases patients even die as a result of medical malpractice and negligence. Tennessee Wrongful Death lawsuits can be filed for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: motorcycle or car accidents, defective products, an occupational hazard or medical malpractice or negligence. Medical malpractice is one of the most common causes for wrongful death in the United States. About 98, 000 Americans have died a wrongful death due to medical malpractice and 90, 000 of these cases filed for wrongful death claims.

According to this Nursing Home Neglect lawsuit, on December 13, 2011, a woman died after suffering a subdural and subarachnoid hematoma. Although devastated at her loss, it was a situation the family could understand. Sadly, this family was lied to, although the real facts were not revealed until they were watching the evening news. The newscaster announced that the coroner’s office ruled the cause of death a homicide because she was assaulted by an Alzheimer’s patient.
The family went to the nursing home seeking answers following the news report. They were avoided by staff members. The victim’s son doesn’t blame the other resident, but he was shocked by the lies and could not believe the lack of supervision provided by the nursing home staff. The altercation happened in the dining room, where no supervision was present.

According to the case, the family originally sought an apology and $30,000 to cover the woman’s hospital bills; however the nursing home refused to accept accountability. Now the facility is facing a wrongful death lawsuit. An inspection in January 2011 cited the nursing home for failure to provide adequate supervision to prevent a fall in the Alzheimer’s unit. In response the nursing home submitted a plan of correction and promised not to leave Alzheimer’s residents unsupervised in the dining room. The plan was never effectively implemented.

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Independent Living Company under Fire for no-CPR policy at senior center where woman died

March 7, 2013 by Nicole Barto

By now you have probably heard about the employee's failure to perform CPR on a resident because it was against the company's policy. Shocking to say the least. We know that families place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes each year. When doing so, they expect that their loved ones will be properly taken care of and looked after. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, overworked, and improperly trained. This can and unfortunately often leads to nursing home abuse and neglect for many patients. If you feel that someone you love has been injured or died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home neglect lawyer as soon as possible.

According to this case, a nurse at Glenwood Gardens which is operated by Brentwood-based Brookdale Senior Living Inc, refused to give CPR to Lorraine Bayless following her collapse last Tuesday in the dining room. She was barely breathing. The woman called 911, stating that it was against the facility’s policy for the staff to perform CPR.

Tracey Halvorson, the dispatcher who received the call, stated that, “I understand if your boss is telling you, you can’t do it,” but ... as a human being ... you know, is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?” The woman replied “Not at this time.” Bayless was declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital later Tuesday.

State officials said they did not know whether the woman who talked to the 911 dispatcher was actually a nurse, or if she just identified herself as one during the call. Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the Board of Registered Nursing, the agency that licenses health care providers, stated that, the consensus is if they are a nurse and if they are at work as a nurse, then they should be offering the appropriate medical care.”

According to the case, Bayless did not have a “do not resuscitate” order on file. Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of Glenwood Gardens, stated that, the woman did indeed follow policy. He also stated that, “In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. That is the protocol we followed.” Toomer stated that a “thorough internal review” of the incident would be conducted. Police are also conducting an investigation. Toomer also stated that, “residents of the home’s independent living community are informed of the “no-CPR” policy and agree to it when they move in.”

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Lawsuit filed against nursing home for an alleged sexual assault

March 5, 2013 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, families place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes each year. When doing so, they expect that their loved ones will be properly taken care of and looked after. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, overworked, and improperly trained. This can and unfortunately often leads to nursing home abuse and neglect for many patients. If you feel that someone you love has been injured or died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home lawyer as soon as possible.

According to this case, a lawsuit has been filed against a nursing home after one of the patients was allegedly sexually assaulted. The complaint states that around July 17, 2010, an elderly woman who lived at the Apple Rehab Bunker Hill facility was sexually assaulted by an unknown person. The attack allegedly happened in her bedroom, but does not specify if the suspect was an employee, guest, or another resident.

The lawsuit claims that the nursing home failed to protect the victim from sexual assault, failed to provide adequate security, and failed to report the assault to family members as well as police. However, a spokesperson for the facility says that, "The rehab's policy includes a full investigation into the facts and findings and continues to commit full resources to uncover the facts which continue to unfold."

The family is asking for the rehab facility to pay more than $15,000 to cover the costs of medical and funeral costs. The family claims because of the reported incident here, the woman suffered a fear of sexually transmitted diseases, conscious pain and suffering, severe emotional distress and eventually death. The criminal investigation to this is ongoing.

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Nashville Area Nursing Home, Imperial Gardens, Scheduled for Closure by Medicare

February 28, 2013 by Jim Higgins

Imperial Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center, located at 306 W. Due West Road in Madison, Tennessee has been found by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to be woefully non-compliant with federal regulations. Our Tennessee Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers are currently reviewing cases from this facility. Medicare has ordered that funding for residents placed in the home will cease in thirty (30) days and that no new residents will be admitted. The State of Tennessee has stepped in and begun making preparation for the transfer of residents still at the facility to alternate placements.

The thrust of the report issued by CMS centered around the widespread neglect observed at the facility. The most significant and consistent complaint was the failure to properly administer medications to the residents that were critically ill and in pain. In the inspection report (found here: http://www.tennessean.com/interactive/article/20130226/NEWS07/130226024/DOCUMENT-Imperial-Gardens-Inspection-Report ), many instances involving many different residents detail such failures of the home and its staff to give medication timely, to give the correct dose of medication and, in some instances, to give the right type of medication.

In our practice in Tennessee and throughout the Southeast, we represent victims of nursing home abuse and neglect and their families. Many times, the ability of nursing home nurses and assistants to provide care is hampered by the administration and management of the facility. The mentality of putting profits over people results in a nursing home’s unwillingness to spend money to provide enough skilled and trained employees to meet the needs of residents in the facility. The facility has a duty, once it agrees to accepts someone’s family or loved one, to provide the appropriate level of care to ensure that person’s well being. Unfortunately, that is not always done.

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For Profit Nursing Homes Overcharge and Patients Suffer

January 24, 2013 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, families place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes each year. When doing so, they expect that their loved ones will be properly taken care of and looked after. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, overworked, and improperly trained. This can and unfortunately often leads to nursing home abuse and neglect for many patients.

According to a federal report, the U.S. nursing home industry overcharges Medicare by $1.5 billion a year for treatments patients do not really need or fail to receive. Thirty percent of for profit nursing home claims were considered improper compared to twelve percent of claims from non-profit nursing homes. According to the report from the inspector general’s office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in nursing homes, seventy-eight percent of $105 billion in revenues go to for profit in 2010 which is up from seventy-two percent in 2002, according to the latest government report.

Life Care, based in Cleveland, Tennessee, has denied wrongdoing despite a claim that a Life Care Center in South Carolina placed an eighty year old woman who could not keep her eyes open in a standing frame for eighty-four minutes of psychical and occupational therapy two days before her death. This case is just one in several where Life Care has overcharged for unnecessary care. Many U.S. for profit nursing homes have been faced with cases of pushing patients, having patients that were visibly soiled or had bed sores among other cases of improper care and treatment.

According to 2010 law issued during President Barack Obama’s first term, health care providers are encouraged to form “accountable care organizations” that combine doctor practices with hospital groups, which could add to their pricing power. The November study that found $1.5 billion in improper nursing-home bills equal to about five percent of total Medicare outlays to the facilities was by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office of inspector general. This study followed a 2010 OIG report that found for-profit nursing homes were nearly twice as likely as nonprofits to bill Medicare at the highest rate for patients of similar ages and diagnoses.

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Nashville Nursing Home Faces $240,000 in fines

January 15, 2013 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, families place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes each year. When doing so, they expect that their loved ones will be properly taken care of and looked after. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, overworked, and improperly trained. According to recent reports, a Nashville nursing home has received fines totaling $240,000 in the last year due to violations of state and federal regulations which placed patients in “immediate jeopardy” The citations were given on May 12th for and the other on Dec. 6th for $8,000 following an inspection by surveyors from the Health Department of Crestview Health and Rehabilitation Center. The May citation has been paid according to a spokeswoman for the agency but the $8,000 citation is still pending.

In May, the citations were given for failing to inform a treating physician of the deteriorating condition of one of his patients, who was later found dead. The patient's physical and mental health had deteriorated with "repeated behaviors, anxiety, agitation, repeatedly low oxygen, symptoms of swelling, dyspnea, coolness, paleness and abnormal lung sounds and elevated temperature."The report revealed that the failure to inform the physician placed the resident "in immediate jeopardy."According to the report, the physician told the state inspector that had he known about the patient's decline, he "would have sent him out," adding, "He needed to go back to the hospital."The physician said he also was not informed that his patient was found eating a topical ointment that contained a warning that ingestion of large quantities could be hazardous. The unnamed patient was found not breathing early on the morning of Jan. 19th of last year and was pronounced dead.

The inspection report also cited the nursing home for verbally abusing two incontinent patients and for failing to investigate and report suspected abuse and also for failing to treat a pressure sore that caused harm to a patient. They were also cited for failing to develop patient care plans. Robert Jordan, spokesman for Vanguard Healthcare, which owns Crestview, said all the deficiencies have been corrected and new management put in place at the nursing home. He also stated that, "We are restoring our high standards for quality care at Crestview." As a Nashville Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer I truly hope Crestview will do as promised.

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Tennessee Accumulated Sixth Most in Nursing Home Fines

December 22, 2012 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, families place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes each year. When doing so, they expect that their loved ones will be properly taken care of and looked after. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, overworked, and improperly trained. This can and unfortunately often leads to nursing home abuse and neglect for many patients. If you feel that someone you love has been injured or died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home neglect lawyer as soon as possible.

In a recent study, Tennessee has accumulated a little over $4 million in nursing home fines over the past three years, making it the sixth highest total of any state in the United States, according to data collected by ProPublica the non-profit news organization. Tennessee handed out eighty-six fines and the average fine amount is the second highest in the nation.

The fine amounts are between $2,015 and $525,188. They were handed out to forty-two of over three hundred licensed nursing homes in Tennessee. The largest single fine of $525, 1882 was handed to the Bristol Nursing home in Bristol. The second highest, $465,195 was handed to the Colonial Hills Nursing Center in Marysville.

The data found that forty nursing homes in Tennessee had serious deficiencies. The local nursing homes that received fines include: Ridgetop Haven in Goodlettsville at $83,115, Spring Meadows Health Care Center in Clarksville, which was fined $245, 735, Imperial Gardens Health and Rehabilitation which was fined $347,043, and The Health Center at Richland Place in Nashville was fined $2,633.
The Crestview Health and Rehabilitation Center in Nashville did not receive a fine but received citations for fourteen serious deficiencies. Lebanon Health and Rehabilitation was also cited for five serious deficiencies and Imperial Gardens in Nashville had three serious deficiencies that were cited.

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New Tools to Identify Potentially Dangerous Nursing Homes

November 11, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Over the years we have litigated Nursing Home Neglect cases in Tennessee and throughout the country. One difficult part of these cases is that by the time a family comes to our office the neglect has already occurred and the harm has been suffered. As such, anytime we find new tools to help a family avoid potential neglect we try to pass it along. One tool that we recommend is the Nursing Home Compare. Although these tools are helpful please remember there is nothing better than visiting the home on a regular basis.

The Nursing Home Compare tool was created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. They have uploaded full stats from 15,000 nursing home inspections reports. Historically, you would only be able view ranking and general inspections results but not the information is much more detailed. Specifically, you can view the full report and look at the details of the entire inspection. It is a great tool to start you search for a good home. However, it is crucial that you do not stop here.

Specifically, it is important to remember that even though information on the internet is helpful it is no substitute for visiting the actual nursing home you are considering. Here are some tips that may help in selecting a good home and making sure adequate care is being received:

1. Location -- Your loved one needs both your regular visits and your irregular ones. Studies show that unscheduled visits to nursing homes help insure good care. Though it is not always possible it best that a nursing home be a convenient trip for friends, relatives and physicians. The nursing home should also be fairly close to a hospital that can handle medical emergencies.

2. Observe- Although it sounds simple make sure it is a place that you would feel comfortable staying in for a few nights. Does it look and smell clean? Is the lighting, noise and temperature all at pleasant levels? Do the meals look appetizing?

3. Talk to Everyone.. Talk to both the staff and families of other residents. The staff should welcome your questions and be eager to provide information. There always needs to be an open line of communication.

4. Activities. Take notice of the activities offered. You are not necessarily looking for the number of activities but the type of activities. Are they the type your loved one would enjoy? It is important that we all keep busy doing activities that stimulate us physically and mentally.

5. Staffing. Staffing is one of the most critical issues we see in these cases. An insufficient number of staff or poorly trained staff will inevitability result in bad care. Ask how the staff is chosen and if criminal background checks are performed. Also, make sure there are enough employees around to care for the residents. Are call lights being answered? Food being delivered and cleaned up in a timely manner?

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Nursing Home Facing Accusations of Elderly Abuse

September 23, 2012 by Nicole Barto

In a recent case, a nursing home abuse lawsuit was filed against forty-seven year old nursing aide, Anthony Johnson who has been accused of groping a fifty-three year old patient in the nursing home in January. Johnson is also being accused of trying to force a forty-three year old patient to perform oral sex on him the spring before. Johnson was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery and a misdemeanor sexual battery.

Days following his arrest, forty-one year old Diane Renee Kline, a registered nurse and administer at the nursing home was arrested in connection with Johnson. Kline was charged with failing to report possible elderly abuse and neglect. The family of one of the victims ended up being the ones to report the incidents. A second worker is also facing criminal charges for alleged nursing home abuse; however, they have not yet been arrested.

Have handled hundreds of Tennessee Nursing Home Neglect cases, we have seen many tragic events. However, these depraved sexual attacks are just simple sickinging. The damage they cause not only to the resident but to also the children and loved ones of the victims is devestating.

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Elderly Resident at Nursing Home Overdosed

September 15, 2012 by Nicole Barto

In our experience of pursuing Tennessee Nursing Home Negligence Cases, we have unfortunately discovered that many nursing homes are understaffed, the staff overworked, and improperly trained.

In one case, Deborah Norman and her sister Elizabeth Marquis claim that their father had been overdosed while a patient of the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center. In an investigation conducted by Medicare, it has been revealed that their father was indeed given powerful medicines that almost killed him. He was taken to the hospital and went into a coma. He survived; however, the sisters are appalled and disappointed by the lack of care at the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center. The daughters have stated that they are considering filing a civil lawsuit against Sunbridge, the parent company of the nursing home.

Sunbridge runs another nursing home in the state, but there has been no evidence that the facility is being run improperly. The Department of Heath closed the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center in April. The Sunbridge Company denied comment on the Medicare investigation.

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Tennessee Department of Health Fines Nursing Home after Rape Case

September 6, 2012 by Nicole Barto

Our Tennessee Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers have been witnesses to disturbing events over the years. A recent news story highlights the potential dangers that residents sometimes face in these homes. According to a recently reported case, an investigation was started into a nursing home after an eighty-nine year old resident with severe dementia reported to two family members that on June 15, 2012, she had been raped by a man she did not know. The family member then reported this claim to a nurse who examined the patient and then as told by the nursing home’s doctor, transferred the patient to a hospital emergency room so a rape test could be performed. The Police Department interviewed family members and nursing home residents on June 16th and opened an investigation.

On August 29, 2012, the Department of Health as well as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded that the nursing home owned by Kindred Healthcare Inc., is accused of providing residents substandard care and of placing them in immediate jeopardy. The nursing home received a fine of $6,000 per day until the Department of Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are satisfied that the problems have been resolved. The Health Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited that the nursing home failed to notify the resident’s doctor so she could be tested for STD’s, and failed to properly question the male staff and to provide proper counseling for the resident.

The investigation is ongoing, and no one has been charged. The resident's family moved her to another facility.

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Can a New App Help with Finding the Right Nursing Home?

August 15, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Nursing home abuse and neglect litigation continues to be on the rise in Tennessee and around the Country. Many large nursing home chains have created a system to maximize profits at the expense of providing proper care. Additionally, State surveys of nursing homes reflect glaring deficiencies in care that are not apparent to a first time visitor to the home who is deciding whether or not to place a parent or loved one there.

People who have relatives that need nursing home care due to advanced medical conditions, dementia or other illnesses that require total assistance care have a difficult choice to make in deciding where to place their relative. Advertisements for nursing homes certainly do not provide detailed information about deficiencies or problems in the homes. For such a critical decision, and with such a large number of facilities that receive below average marks for care, it is important that one thoroughly investigates the nursing home when considering where to place a loved one.

One tool that has been recently opened to the public that provides some information is through ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism company. The tool is a Nursing Home Inspection database that covers nearly 118,000 deficiencies in 14,565 nursing homes. The database uses State surveys and information from Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare database and attempts to provide more detailed information about specific deficiencies. While it is not perfect, the database is a good starting point to help in the evaluation of any particular nursing home and to help in the placement decision.

The database provides a snapshot in time of deficiencies and does not focus on corrective action taken by any nursing home. However, if you know of a documented deficiency, that will help you in asking the right questions to find out if the deficiency has been addressed. This tool is helpful, but it is only as complete as the information that has been analyzed. State Surveys and the Medicare database provide additional information that may not be reflected in the database.

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Former Nursing Home Executive Sentenced to Prison for Accepting Kickbacks

July 30, 2012 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the United States, we expect working employees to be respectable and honest individuals, especially people in service positions such as an executive for a nursing home. Unfortunately, however, sometimes this is not the case. If you or someone you know has witnessed or may suspect a crime at your workplace or anywhere else, it is recommended that you contact the police and a Tennessee nursing home neglect lawyer as soon as possible.

In a recent case, John D. Henderson has received a sentence of five years and three months in prison for accepting kickbacks from contractors and also for evading taxes. He has also been ordered to pay almost $700,000 in restitution, federal taxes, and penalties. Henderson is the former director of maintenance and renovations for the Medical Facilities of America which runs forty nursing homes. He has been convicted of demanding kickbacks for giving different companies contracts for construction work at some of those forty nursing homes.

He has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and two counts of tax evasion in a federal court in March. Four contractors have also been convicted of paying him kickbacks.

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Tennessee Nursing Home that was forced to Close by Health Department Now Facing Lawsuits

July 9, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Recently the Colonial Hills Nursing Home was forced to close after losing its Medicare and Medicaid contract because of six violations with the Tennessee Health Department. The nursing home is now being faced with from the families of some of the former patients. In one case, the family of Bettye Martin filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May claiming that she suffered from injuries, neglect, and poor hygiene that led to her death.

In another case, the family of Zelma Lou Gibson filed a nursing home abuse lawsuit in January which alleges medical negligence which caused injuries that eventually led to diminished physical and mental abilities. The Life Care Centers of America which ran the nursing home stated that, "At Life Care Centers of America, residents are our highest priority. We strive to provide a homelike atmosphere in each Life Care center,” in response to these and other lawsuits.
Cases just like this one occur all too often in Tennessee as well as all over the United States. Many people do not know what signs of abuse and neglect to look for until it is too late. Here is a list of the most common signs of nursing home abuse and neglect so that you can help make sure your loved ones are being properly cared for. Nursing home abuse is physical, emotional or just plain neglect. Some of the physical signs include:
• Bed sores
• Falls that occur with no explanation
• Dehydration
• Loss of Weight
• No appetite
• Wounds, bruises, broken bones
Some of the emotional signs of abuse and plain neglect include:
• Behavioral changes
• Unexplained or unusual behavior
• Withdrawn behavior or an unwillingness to communicate
• Poor hygiene
• Skin sores or discoloring
• Medication being withheld or an excess given
• Unsanitary conditions
• Poor diet
• Lack of needed assistance

Knowing these signs can help you be prepared to report abuse and make sure the ones you care about are getting the care they need.

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Nursing Home Resident’s Family received $3.2 Million in Negligence Lawsuit

May 3, 2012 by Jim Higgins

In a recent case, Henry Frazier who had advanced Parkinson’s disease started staying at the nursing home in September of 2010 when he was eighty-eight years old. Henry Frazier got a pressure sore on his bottom and they family stated that they were not told how severe the pressure sore actually was. His family visited Frazier often including his children. When the pressure sore developed an infection, a nursing aide at the facility finally informed his son that he needed to look at the severity of the sore.

The family then asked that Frazier be taken to the hospital and when he got there, he was diagnosed with being septic, dehydrated and malnourished. His pressure sore was also categorized as a Stage IV wound. The family decided to file a lawsuit against the nursing home because, they “just didn’t want this to happen to other people,” the lawsuit stated.
A jury awarded Frazier’s family $3.2 million because they found the nursing home negligent of Frazier’s care.

In Tennessee and all over the United States, people place their trust in nursing homes to care for and protect their loved ones. Unfortunately, many times nursing home facilities have under trained or overworked staff and this can result in the improper care and negligent of many of the residents. If you feel like someone you care about has been improper treated or neglected while in a nursing them, then you should speak with a Tennessee nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer as soon as possible.

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Tennessee Assisted Living Facility Failed to Report Cane Beating to Police

April 4, 2012 by Jim Higgins

In Tennessee and all across the country, people place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities when they can no longer care for them. People expect that their loved ones will be well cared for and protected from any harm. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many nursing homes and other living facilities for the elderly are understaffed and improperly trained. This can result in the abuse or neglect of loved ones. If you feel that your loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, it is important that you talk to a Tennessee nursing home abuse and personal injury lawyer right away. They can work with you to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.

According to this case, Donald Reeder, eighty-three was beaten on December 24, 2011 by his eighty-nine year old roommate who also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia like Reeder. Reeder died on January 10, 2011 and it was determined that it was caused by the after effects of the beating. Reeder roommate Orville Hayes was never charged and later died on February 12, 2011. Police found out about the beating when the ambulance driver for Reeder called them on the way to the hospital.

According to the police reports, it was later discovered that the assisted living facility failed to inform the police of the beating and also failed to investigate the incident. It was also discovered that the facility’s employees cleaned up the crime scene and removed the murder weapon before the police got there. The cane which had been broken in two and covered with blood was found near Hayes’ bed, according to police. The staff member that found Reeder told an investigator that when she asked Reeder about what had occurred, he said that Hayes was trying to kill him. According to the state report, Hayes said Reeder had beaten himself.

The facility has been cited with several violations including failing to report the incident to Adult Protective Services and also failing to provide proper care and staff to the facility’s twenty-two current residents. Other violations include permitting improperly trained staff to dispense prescription medications and failing to prevent patients from suffering from several falls which meant emergency hospitalization for some of them.

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Finding a Nursing Home

March 6, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Our firm has handled Nursing Home Neglect cases for years. Unfortunately, when the case gets to our office the damage has been done. Jim Higgins was recently interviewed about ways to find a nursing home that will care for someone's loved one. You can watch the interview below:

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Residents in Tennessee Nursing Home Relocated after Home Loses Certification

January 24, 2012 by Jim Higgins

In Tennessee and all across the United States, people rely on nursing homes to take care of and provide for their elderly loved ones. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed and their employees are improperly trained and this leads to sickness, abuse, and neglect of nursing home residents. In a recent case, more than one hundred residents at the Colonial Hills Nursing Center are being relocated following the nursing center losing its certification with the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services due to problems such as sexual assaults on two residents, incorrect medication being given out, and patients getting sick due to overly salted food all over the past year. Beecher Hunter, president of Life Care Centers of America, a company that operates nursing homes in several states, said they had corrected the problems when they got the termination order and will be refurbishing the facility with the goal of reopening.

In June, following an investigation of the nursing home, ninety-five pages of deficiencies were discovered and there was also the potential for harm to some residents found as well. Vincent Davis, director of health care facilities for the Tennessee Department of Health said that, “some residents on blood thinners were also given antibiotics, which could cause serious increased bleeding.” In another incident in August, an employee at the nursing home took a photo of a resident placing a diaper on their head. Then in November, one of the cooks at the facility put twenty-five pounds of salt into twelve pounds of pureed beats which were later eaten by nine residents. Of the nine residents who had eaten the beats, eight became ill and two were hospitalized.

Two days after the salty food incident, two eighty year old female residents were sexually assaulted by a male visitor who was not removed from the property and allowed to return the following day. Beecher Hunter stated that, “most of the residents have been relocated”. He said also they were hoping to finish the renovations in about 18 months. The nursing home will be permitted to reapply for certification in one hundred and eighty days.

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Roommate with Alzheimer's fatally injured Tennessee man with cane

January 24, 2012 by Jim Higgins

In Tennessee and all over the country, elderly loved ones are placed into nursing homes and facilities when they can no longer take care of themselves at home or when they may suffer with illnesses that leave them unable to remember most things. Some of these homes do a great job, however, some fail to provide protection that a resident needs. I recent case will no doubt warrants an investigation to determine if an unavoidable tragedy occurred or if the incident could have been prevented. This investigation should focus on whether there were prior warnings, appropriate staffing and appropriate care plans in place.

According to the news, Dorothy Reeder’s husband, Donald Reeder’s eighty-three was beaten with a cane by his eighty-nine year old roommate Orville Hayes while living at the Elmcroft at Twin Hills nursing facility. Both of residents involved in the incident suffered from Alzheimer's. According to police, the incident had occurred in Hayes’ room and the room had been found splattered with blood with a cane found nearby. The police believe Hayes used the cane to beat Donald Reeder about the head.

Donald Reeder was too badly injured and after being treated at a hospital was later transferred to a nursing home and finally to a hospice, where he died on January 10th. Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron said,”At present, the investigation shows that Mr. Reeder was struck with what we believe to have been a cane. When he was found he said that he had been beaten.”

According to an interview with the victim’s wife, Dorothy Reeder, she had feared for her husband’s safety when he got a new roommate. She had asked Elmcroft officials to move Donald to another room but was told that no other rooms were available. She stated that her husband’s roommate had arrived about six weeks ago and that the trouble started immediately.
The police spokesman Don Aaron has stated that, “Though the investigation is still ongoing, it was unlikely that any charges will be filed.” He stated that this is because,”The case is unusual and complicated. Both the 83-year-old and the 89-year-old suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The police are however looking into Hayes’ medical condition.

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Nursing Home Choking Lawsuit Results in $2.35 Million Awarded to the Estate of Victim

November 28, 2011 by Nicole Barto

According to a recent nursing home neglect lawsuit, a fifty-six year old man who was in a wheelchair, had type I diabetes and early stage dementia who had also suffered from a stroke like condition, was eating in the dining area of the nursing home when he started choking on a golf ball size meatball. His medical condition however, made it clear that he should have not been given that size food because he had problems swallowing.

The lawsuit also states that there was only one staff member in the dining area at the time of incident and that they did not know the Heimlich maneuver. The staff member wheeled the man forty feet to a nurse’s station which made the food get stuck even deeper into the man’s throat. When a nurse tried unsuccessfully to remove the food, an” ambu bag” was used to force air into the man’s lungs. Then the staff finally called 911 twelve minutes later but the man had been deprived of oxygen for too long. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

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Lawsuit against Health Facility Seeking $6 Million for Negligence Claims

November 28, 2011 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, when we have to put our loved ones in the care of others, we expect that they will receive proper medical care and treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes nursing homes and other facilities are understaffed and overworked and this can lead to injury or even death of a patient or a family’s loved one. If you or someone you love has been in a nursing home or facility and then been seriously injured as a result, you should speak with a Tennessee nursing home neglect lawyer right away. They will hear your case and make sure you get the compensation you deserve for your loved one.

In this case, a man claims that a nursing assistant from the health center where his mother was staying left a cleaning brush in his mother’s tracheotomy. According to the lawsuit, Josephine Rosario, seventy-four, came into the Lopatcong Center in May of 2010 after receiving treatment for a respiratory problem associated with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Rosario was rehabilitating at the facility before going home. Also the lawsuit claims that in January around one in the morning, a certificated nursing assistant checked on Rosario. An hour later according to records, the staff of the facility found her sitting on the side of her bed and leaning on a table, unresponsive.

The lawsuit goes on to state that a tracheotomy brush was sticking out of the tracheotomy opening in Rosario’s throat and she could not breathe. The brush was removed and the staff attempted to revive her and she was taken to the emergency room. At the hospital, it was determined that Rosario suffered bad brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and on January 28th, the family was told that this condition would most likely be permanent. Rosario was taken to another health facility, where she is staying, completely ventilated and tube-fed.

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Nursing Home Case Spotlights Malpractice Damages Cap

October 20, 2011 by Nicole Barto

In Tennessee and all across the country, our loved ones sometimes need more care than we can provide for them. This usually means that they have to enter a nursing home. However, when we choose a nursing home for our loved ones we expect that they will be properly cared for. Unfortunately, many nursing home patients can be seriously injured or die due to the nursing home neglect. This may be because many nursing homes are understaffed or improperly trained. Whatever the reason, if you or one of your loved ones has been seriously injured or died as a result of nursing home medical malpractice then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home and medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. They will hear your case and make sure you get the compensation you are entitled to.

According to this case, a jury awarded Dorothy Douglas’ family $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages after finding the nursing home indirectly responsible for causing the woman’s death. The family claims that Douglas died from complications from dehydration after being transferred to the nursing home three weeks before her death. During the trial, the lawsuit claimed that the nursing home did not have enough staff members and this claim was confirmed by former employees that stated because of the poor working conditions, they could not properly care for patients.

The lawyers for the nursing home are claiming that the $11.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages should be reduced according to the state’s medical malpractice law. In 2003, the state amended the law to place a cap of $500,000 plus inflationary adjustments, on non-economic damages for medical negligence. The Supreme Court ruled that the cap was constitutional. The lawyers for the nursing home also state that the $80 million in compensatory damages far exceeds what the facts justify in the case.

The lawyers for Douglas family claim that the law does not apply to nursing homes and nursing home aides.

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Jury Awarded $23 Million to Amputee

September 22, 2011 by Nicole Barto

When Tennessee residents and people all over the United States have to decide to place their loved ones in the care of a nursing home, they expect that their loved ones will be treated with respect and receive proper medical care and attention. Unfortunately, however, many nursing homes are understaffed and improperly trained and this leads to infections and serious injuries for the nursing home patients. If you or someone you care about has suffered from a medical condition or injury while in a nursing home, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home neglect lawyer right away. They will hear your case and help make sure you get the compensation you need.

According to this lawsuit, attorneys for a fifty-five year old woman claimed that a home care nurse failed to a report a bacterial infection in the woman’s feeding catheter. The woman was being treated for complications from Crohn’s disease and the delay in treatment for the infection led to a near fatal bloodstream infection in October of 2008 resulting in the woman losing portions of both of her legs.

The jury found the nurse and the St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care liable and awarded $23.1 million for medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering to the woman. The attorneys for the woman stated that the woman hoped that, “the verdict would result in St Luke's redoubling its efforts to help prevent such infections during home care.”

St Luke’s spokesman, Ken Szydlow conveyed sympathy for the woman but stated that the jury award was, “excessive” and that the nurse "provided appropriate care and practiced within applicable standards of care."

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Nursing Home Funds at Risk after Health Officials found it to be Putting Patients at Risk of Injury

April 20, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee residents and people all across the United States want to make sure their friends and loved ones are going to be well cared for when they have to go into a nursing home. Family members usually want to check out the nursing home facility and check up on their loved one to make sure they are receiving the proper standard of care. Unfortunately, too many nursing homes are understaffed, improperly trained, and overworked and these conditions often lead to a lack of good medical care for the patients. If you feel that your loved one has received improper care or has been subject to nursing home abuse, then you should speak to a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will work with you and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

In this case, a Tennessee nursing home’s funding is in trouble due to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services giving the facility a notice of termination for the programs after an inspection in April found that the nursing home staff was failing to perform tests ordered by a doctor for a patient that had to be prescribed a blood thinner. Also, the inspection revealed that the facility failed to inform the doctor of the patient’s blood clotting times. The spokeswoman for the Health Department is currently working with the nursing home to correct these problems. If another inspection finds that the nursing home is following the plan then the funding will not be cut.

The reports filed by the health inspectors that found that staff had failed to report test findings to a patient’s doctor left the patient at risk for uncontrolled bleeding during high blood clotting times. The Tennessee nursing home had also received citations for failing to properly report another patient’s bruised arm and another patient’s skin tear was not properly investigated.
The Tennessee nursing home received a termination notice for an April 24th cutoff for federal funding for new patients and a May 24th deadline for a full cutoff. In the nursing home’s new plan, there will be training and monitoring programs put in place to make sure these violations do not happen again.

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Family Used Hidden Camera in Elder Abuse Case

March 22, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee residents and people all across the United States want to make sure that their elderly loved ones are well taken care of when they have to be placed in a nursing home facility. Unfortunately, many nursing homes across the country suffered from being understaffed, improperly trained and overworked. These conditions can lead to nursing home abuse and elder abuse of many people’s family members and loved ones. If you suspect that your loved one may be suffering from nursing home or elder abuse, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will hear your case and make sure that you and your loved ones get the compensation they deserve.

In this case, Gloria Diaz had repeatedly discovered bruises on her eighty-seven year old mother, Modesta Alvarado, and had questioned the nursing home officials several times but nothing was done. Diaz then contacted the Department of Health and Senior Services who came to investigate in her mother’s room followed by the nursing home officials. When the official did not see any injuries that was the end of the investigation, according to Diaz. This led Diaz and her son to buy a hidden camera which could be hidden in clock radio and hide it in her mother’s room. On March 21, 2011, Diaz was shocked to see her mother being slapped and beaten by an aide at the nursing home, an aide who, according to Diaz said was “like a co-worker and friendly.”

The police reported that the video revealed Julia Galvan, a 59-year-old a resident of the nursing home, slapping Alvarado in the head then giving her two more severe blows on January 15th. Galvan is also seen taking off Alvarado’s oxygen mask. Alvarado had suffered from a stroke in the last year and could not defend herself. Alvarado was found dead by the nursing home staff less than twenty-four after the attack claims were made.

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Nursing Home Named in Malpractice Lawsuit

January 7, 2011 by Jim Higgins

People in Tennessee as well as people all across the country want the very best for their elderly loved ones. We want to know they are going to be well taken care of and kept safe even though we can no longer care for them by ourselves. This is why many Tennessee residents visit many nursing homes trying to decide on the best one for their loved ones and friends. Unfortunately, sometimes even the nursing homes we think are the good ones face problems, accidents, and malpractice with their patients. If you feel that your loved one has been the victim of abuse or malpractice, then you should talk to a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will hear your case and make sure you get the compensation you and your loved ones deserve.

In this case, Cynthia King is filing a lawsuit against the Park Manor Humble nursing home claiming negligence and wrongful death. According to the lawsuit, King claims that in November 2008, her mother needed to be hospitalized after her leg was fractured and her shoulder dislocated due to falling out of her wheelchair while under the care of the nursing home. In February 2009, King’s mother had to have surgery because she developed a stage IV pressure sore on her back due to the nursing home failing to turn her in bed regularly. Also, according to the lawsuit, King’s mother died as a result of multiple surgeries and wounds she had to endure because of the nursing home failure to provide her with proper care. Cynthia is seeking damages under the wrongful death statue and court costs.

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Elder Abuse Settlement Leads to an Investigation of Home Care Providers

November 14, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Many of us in Tennessee and around the country that cannot afford nursing home care for our loved ones turn to agencies that provide care for people at their home. This seems like a good option for many people because it allows their loved one to stay in their environment and to be comfortable and feel secure. However, unfortunately many home care provider agencies face the same kinds of problems that nursing homes do. If you feel like you or someone you care about has been the victim of elder abuse in a nursing home or in your own home, then it is important that you speak with a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will work with you and make sure you get the care and compensation you deserve.

After a case was settled over elderly abuse of a woman, it was found that a shocking number of home care providers for seniors, have felony convictions on their records. It was also found that a simple way to guard against this that was approved by legislature is being ignored by the state.

Two years ago, Rose Michael, 92, and her family lost $30,000 from a home provider hired by an agency. The care provider Wessa Tanubo pled guilty in 2009 to felony financial abuse after it was found out that she had been signing checks to herself and making fraudulent purchases on Rose’s credit cards. After this, the family learned the care provider had previous felony convictions due to drug charges in 1994. After that, she was in and out of prison from 2000 to 2004 for parole violations. In 2008, she was also had a restraining order put against her so that she would stay away from her own child. Then the Home Care Assistance Company put Tanubo into her home to be her home care provider.

The family trusted that the Home Care Assistance agency had performed national and criminal background checks as well as local criminal background checks on their care providers like they were told. However, the agency’s background check failed to bring up Tanubo’s criminal record and history. The family then sued Home Care Assistance for elder abuse, based on false advertisements about proper background checks. The agency after reaching a settlement with the family now does criminal background checks through the Department of Justice on all their care providers.

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Nursing Home Abuse Prevention Tips for you and your loved ones

November 9, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee residents and people all across the United States hear about reports of nursing home abuse constantly and many people wonder why it is not be taken care of. One of the reasons is often because professionals have not been properly trained and do not know how to properly care for the elderly in order to prevent the abuse from occurring in the first place. Here are some nursing home abuse prevention tips to know about to help make sure your loved ones are getting the best care possible. If you still have concerns or would like to report a claim of nursing home abuse, it is important to speak with a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will work with you and your loved one to make sure you get the compensation and care you and your loved one need.

When we are decide to place our loved one in a nursing home we are placing their care in someone else’s hands but that does not mean there is nothing we can do to help prevent problems or abuse. If you are concerned family member or friend you can do the following to help prevent abuse of your loved ones and others’ loved ones as well:

• Look for possible signs or symptoms of abuse when you visit (i.e. bruises, sores, restraint marks, soiled clothes or bedding)
• If you suspect abuse report it immediately to a local agency or to the police and also alert the nursing home itself
• Pay close attention to your loved one’s medications and make sure the amount matches or closely matches the prescription date
• Ask your loved one if you may look over their financial records to make sure that everything is in order
• Call and visit often so your loved one knows you are there for them
• Tell the caregiver you do not mind staying with them if the person needs a break whenever possible

If you are a caregiver and are concerned about being overworked or not receiving enough training and need tips to prevent nursing home abuse, you may find these tips helpful:

• Request help from family, friends, relatives or your place of employment about break times and training options
• Look into adult day care and respite care programs a couple hours each day
• Make sure to stay healthy and active and to see a doctor when you need to
• Find support groups or counseling to help with stress or depression
• Call a nursing home abuse hotline when and if needed
If you are the loved one receiving the nursing home care or other health care and want to know if there is anything you can do to make sure you do not become a victim of nursing home abuse, these tips may help you:

• Make sure your financial and legal matters are taken care of properly or hire a professional to help if needed
• Stay in touch with family and friends to avoid becoming isolated which may increase elderly abuse
• Speak up about your care if you are unsatisfied or would like things handled differently (i.e. tell someone you trust, call a hotline, or contact a lawyer if needed)

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Nursing Home Care: Tips for Choosing the Best Nursing Home for your loved one

November 3, 2010 by Jim Higgins

When we decide to put the ones we love in nursing homes, this is a really difficult and emotional decision and we all want to make sure we choose the best possible place for them. However, for many people, including Tennessee residents, the process can seem overwhelming and it is tough to know where to begin. Here are some tips for choosing the right nursing home to help make the difficult process a little easier for everyone. If you have any legal concerns or questions, it is a good idea to speak with a Tennessee nursing home lawyer right away. They will hear your concerns, answer your questions and work with you to make sure your loved one receives the best care possible.

• First it is a good idea to check things out
Look at the atmosphere, and make sure it’s warm, inviting, and the kind of place your loved one would feel comfortable in. Look at how the staff treats their patients. Are they compassionate, kind, and considerate as well as respectful? Do the residents seem happy? Check out the living conditions. Are the rooms spacious? Does the dining area provide healthy food items and special diet program? Are there activities for the residents? What kind of training does each staff member receive? Who handles problems or concerns? Do not be afraid to ask these questions and more and also be aware of your surroundings, making notes when needed.

• Look for cleanliness

A good nursing home facility should be clean and also keep their patients and their rooms clean as well. Ask how often the residents receive a bath or shower and if special care is taken for their medical needs. Ask how often bed linens are changed and how often bed ridden patients are bathed, changed and their medical needs tended to. If you have any concerns about the cleanliness speak up.

• Consider the population of the nursing home

Does the facility have adequate space to meet the needs and wants of all of its residents? What kind of therapy, social and emotional activities or guidance is available to the residents? Is there space for them to sit outside and be safe? What kind of medical units does the facility have for specific medical needs? What is the facility’s visiting policy?

• Find out about Safety and Emergency Plans and Polices

What is the facility policy concerning safety? What kind of emergency and medical plans are available? How many doctors, nurses and specialists are available? Is there a pharmacy? How is the giving out of medication handled? Are there hospitals or medical clinics nearby?

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Tennessee Nursing Home Abuse: Signs to Look For in your Loved Ones

November 3, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Trusting other people to care for our loved ones when we can no longer do so ourselves can be very tough and emotional as many residents in Tennessee and across the country already know. However, trusting those people to care for our loved ones can be even more difficult if we fear they may be suffering from nursing home abuse and neglect. Sometimes recognizing the signs of abuse can be difficult, especially since it is not always physical. However, if you feel that your loved one may be suffering from nursing home abuse, it is important to speak with a Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyer right away. They will work with you and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve.

Although physical abuse may be the most easily recognized form of nursing home abuse, there are several other types of abuse that can and unfortunately do occur. These include emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, financial abuse and fraud. It is important to know how to recognize each type of abuse so that you can report it immediately and get things taken care of for not only your loved ones but others family members as well.

Common signs of physical abuse might include:
• Bruises, scars, sores, and bumps that do not have a reasonable explanation
• Broken or dislocated bones
• Drug overdoses from taking medicine improperly
• Care provider not permitting you to see your loved one

Common signs of emotional abuse might include:
• Seeing a care provider threaten or talk down to a loved one or another patient
• Nervous behavior from a loved one (i.e. rocking, sucking ones’ hands or fingers, and mumbling)

Common signs of sexual abuse might include:
• Bruises near the breasts or genital area
• Vaginal bleeding or scarring that has no reasonable explanation
• Unexplained infections
• Torn clothes

Common signs of neglect from a care provider or of oneself might include:
• Rapid weight loss
• Improperly treated medical conditions and sores
• Dirty room, bed, clothes, or body
• Leaving a loved one unsupervised in public
• Hazardous living conditions (i.e. improperly heated, no water, fire hazards)

Common signs of financial abuse might include:
• Large withdrawals from a loved one’s’ account
• Rapid changes in a loved one’s financial standing
• Items or money missing from room or house
• Services or items being given to a loved one that they do not need

Common signs of nursing home fraud might include:

• More than one bill for the same item or service
• Inadequate care even though bills are being paid
• Signs of being improperly medicated
• Few or no responses to questions concerning a loved one’s care

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Rape Victim in Rhea County at the Life Care Center Nursing Home

May 14, 2010 by Jim Higgins

When we turn on the news or read the newspaper, it is unfortunate when we hear about the crimes that happen daily to people all across the country. It is even more unfortunate and scary when we hear about people being physically and sexually abused right here in Tennessee. This rape victim case is no exception.

A spring County man, Zephenia Nakia Cooper, was charged with rape Monday, May 10, 2010, after he allegedly went into the Life Care Center nursing home in Rhea County and raped a patient in her late 80s. Dayton police were able to catch him an hour after receiving the call at 5:40 that morning and he was charged with rape later that same day.

Executive Director Kate Swafford of the Life Center in Rhea County said later that, “an unknown male entered our facility around 5 a.m. and entered a female resident's room. As the man left the facility, associates quickly called the police, who took him into custody." She also stated that, “We are fully cooperating with the police investigation, and we will vigorously assist the police in the investigation and prosecution of this case”.

The police and the nursing home are now investigating how someone could have gotten into the center at that hour. Copper, has been in jail thirty-three times in recent years for public intoxication, theft, and drug possession. He is being held in the Rhea County jail without any bond. The rape victim has been treated and released from the Rhea County Medical Center.

This case may make many of the residents of Tennessee and people across the country sad and angry about the kind of crimes that happen every day. It is important to ask questions in a case like this as to whether on not this could have been prevented? Hopefully a thorough investigation can develop answers as to how to prevent such a tragic event from happening in the future.

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Abuse charges filed against Nursing Assistant at John M. Reed Nursing Home in Limestone, Tennessee

March 3, 2010 by Jim Higgins

According to the Johnson City Press, a nursing assistant formerly employed at John M. Reed Nursing Home in Limestone, Tennessee has been charged by the State of Tennessee with five counts of willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult arising out of incidences at the nursing home.

Amanda Tibble, 34, has been charged with abuse and neglect arising out of several instances at the nursing home. Ms. Tibble was supposed to be a caregiver at the facility in charge of providing care to elderly residents. Instead, the indictment shows that Ms. Tibble was abusive, neglectful and a danger to the residents at the nursing home.

The majority of the abuse apparently stems from Ms. Tibble’s continued use of profanity toward the residents that were under her care. At least one incident alleges that Ms. Tibble physically assaulted a resident by twisting a 75 year-old resident’s arm behind his back while cursing him. According to the report, Ms. Tibble has admitted to using profanity and being verbally abusive to at least four different residents of the home.

These allegations are particularly troubling given the access that a nursing assistant has to the elderly under her care and the trust that families put in nursing homes to ensure quality care and treatment of their family members. According to the website for the facility, they pride themselves on “maintaining the dignity and self worth of each of their residents.” Families are drawn to the facility through a website that promotes “spiritual enrichment” and professional quality care in a “secure home-like environment.” Nursing homes, such as the one here, have a duty to hire, train and supervise their employees in charge of giving direct care to the resident to ensure that abuse and neglect do not occur.

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Nursing Home Inappropriate Cell Phone Photo Allegations

February 16, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Allegations of nursing home staff taking inappropriate cell phone photos of nursing home residents is again making news, this time in Washington State.

Previous TN nursing home neglect blogs had tracked the developments in the case against two Tennessee female employees at Pigeon Forge nursing home inappropriate nursing home photo investigation where a cell phone was used at the Tennessee nursing home nursing to record nude images of nursing home residents.

In the most recent case of nursing home photos, three employees at a Bremerton nursing home were fired from Kitsap Health & Rehabilitation Center. The nursing home reported the alleged abuse to police and the state Department of Social and Health Services is conducting an investigation. Prosecutors for the County are not charging the three nursing home employees as there appears no crime committed.

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Tennessee Nursing Homes rank Fifth Worst in Country

February 3, 2010 by Jim Higgins

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS), as outlined in a recent article in the Tennessean, almost 60% of the nursing homes in Tennessee scored below average ratings in staffing levels. Of the 319 nursing homes in the Tennessee, fully one in four received a one star rating out of a possible 5 stars. Patrick Willard, AARP advocacy director, cited this statistic as a sign that we are not doing our job in Tennessee to protect the elderly.

These results come from an annual survey done by the CMMS. Last year, Tennessee nursing homes ranked third worst in the country. That Tennessee inched up the list is not necessarily a sign of improved conditions in the State’s nursing homes and certainly we should not be proud that our nursing homes rank as the 45th best as opposed to the 47th best out of 50 states.

According to the Tennessean, the staffing levels are once again the most detrimental factor in pushing the ratings down in Tennessee’s nursing homes. One factor that plays into the low staffing levels in Tennessee is that state law requires facilities to have less staff than are recommended by Medicare. Medicare sets guidelines on staffing levels that it feels are necessary to properly care for the residents of each particular facility. In Tennessee, the State has largely ignored these staffing recommendations and requires even less staffing than Medicare feels is necessary to properly function and care for patients. According to the survey results, nursing homes in Tennessee have followed suit and mostly staff at levels that Medicare finds insufficient to meet the needs of patients.

Not having a sufficiently number of trained and dedicated employees makes it almost impossible for a nursing home to provide the kind of quality care that the residents deserve. If the home is understaffed and the staff that is available has to work beyond what should be expected of a normal employee, that can lead to the errors in medication and treatment that lower the overall scores for the facilities.

Continue reading "Tennessee Nursing Homes rank Fifth Worst in Country" »

TN Nursing Home Law Blog Follow-Ups:
Madison Manor Sentencing and Nursing Home Restraints

January 15, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Following up on our 2009 law blog on Neglect in Kentucky Nursing Homes, a nursing home nurse's aide formerly employed at the Madison Manor in Richmond, KY pled guilty Monday to reckless abuse and neglect of an adult. These acts were caught on a camera hidden by relatives in their loved one’s nursing home room at Richmond Health and Rehabilitation Complex.

Lamb, the second nurse's aide at Madison Manor to plead guilty, was sentenced to 12 months in the Madison County Jail, a sentence which may be postponed or commuted if the defendant cooperates in pending cases against other former employees at the Kentucky nursing home.

In other nursing home abuse and neglect news, ABC World News ran a report last week titled Nursing Home Patients Killed by 'Chemical Restraints' to bring attention to chemical restraint use in nursing homes. California Attorney General Jerry Brown (previously making an appearance in the Tennessee Employment Law Blog) is pursing charges of elder abuse against three nursing home officials who could face up to 11 years in prison.

Continue reading "TN Nursing Home Law Blog Follow-Ups:
Madison Manor Sentencing and Nursing Home Restraints" »

Admissions to Nursing Home in Greeneville, TN suspended by TN Department of Health

January 10, 2010 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Department of Health suspended admissions to Signature Healthcare in Greeneville, Tennessee effective January 5, 2010. According to an article on TriCities.com, the nursing home was recently surveyed by the department of health and severe shortcomings and violations were found in administration, performance improvement and nursing services.

The act of restricting or suspending admissions to a nursing home is only exercised by the State, through the health department, in drastic cases. The department has the several options available when faced with a noncompliant nursing facility, ranging from citations, fines, orders for re-inspection, and ultimately, closure of the facility. In the instant case, the department suspended admissions and imposed a $1,500.00 fine on the facility. The state has requested a fine of $4,550.00 per day against the facility for the duration that the violations continue.

From a practical standpoint, the facility will continue to operate while they attempt to resolve the violations found by the Tennessee Department of Health; they will simply not be allowed new admissions. This remedy does not provide recompense for people that are already residents of the facility who may be receiving or may have received inadequate care during their stay. This point is important as the violations giving rise to the closure involve the care of the people already in their facility. The department of health will suspend admissions only when violations are found that are or can lead to conditions that are detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the residents.

Continue reading "Admissions to Nursing Home in Greeneville, TN suspended by TN Department of Health" »

Bedsores and Severe Neglect Lead to Nursing Home Death,
First NY Nursing Home Lawsuit to Award Punitive Damages

January 8, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Survivors of a 76-year-old nursing home patient who died of bedsores from nursing home neglect was awarded $18.7M by a New York jury a few days before the new year. The nursing home lawsuit was filed by the family of John Danzy, the deceased, after their father died in a Brooklyn nursing home.

Danzy died in 2003 of an infection the nursing home neglect lawsuit claims was caused by nursing home bedsores. In his short nine months' stay, Danzy, according to the lawsuit, developed more than 20 nursing home bedsores on his body when the family removed him from the environment of neglect and into a better home.

Continue reading "Bedsores and Severe Neglect Lead to Nursing Home Death,
First NY Nursing Home Lawsuit to Award Punitive Damages " »

Nursing Home Neglect Begins with Nursing Home Policy - NHC's Latest Disgrace

December 11, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Nashville, TN’s own Nashville Scene uncovered some startling news about a Bristol, VA nursing home run by Tennessee’s own infamous National Healthcare Corp (NHC). The Murfreesboro, TN nursing home chain has been the subject of previous Tennessee Law Blogs as a means to spread the word about nursing home falls and signs of neglect after a resident died shortly after his one-month stay at NHC McMinnville, TN. (This was two years after the NHC nursing home chain’s fire at its Nashville, TN facility for which the company was found liable. Read original Tennessee Law Blog on NHC nursing home death.)

In recent news, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services surveyed the Virginia NHC nursing home's employees after a sexual abuse complaint was filed against a staffer, a survey that the Scene reporters procured and whose results were shocking. Instead of the sexual abuse allegations leading to swift education to address the persistent problem, the survey found that 21 of the 35 nursing home employees interviewed were oblivious to their legal requirement to report suspicions of abuse to state agencies.

Continue reading "Nursing Home Neglect Begins with Nursing Home Policy - NHC's Latest Disgrace" »

State of Kentucky Nursing Homes

December 5, 2009 by Jim Higgins

News last week that Madison Manor in Richmond, KY might lose its Medicare/Medicaid certification drew the attention of nursing home advocates and our KY nursing home abuse lawyers at the Higgins Firm.

A year-long study concluded last August by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) listed Richmond Health and Rehabilitation Complex — a.k.a. Madison Manor — among the worst nursing homes in the nation.

Madison Manor nursing home was not alone.

Continue reading "State of Kentucky Nursing Homes " »

Nursing Home Falls Covered in Series on Nursing Home Abuse

December 1, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Readers of the nursing home abuse blogs at our Tennessee Injury Law Blog may be interested in an ongoing series by the Star Tribune entitled “Deadly Falls”. The Minnesota newspaper article details the dangers of these forms of nursing home neglect, which include permanent injury and life-threatening injuries, as well as the profit-based logic that defines many nursing homes’ decisions to have plans to prevent falls that do not include increasing staffing.

Each year, over 100 nursing home residents die in Minnesota after suffering a fall in the nursing home. According to the Star Tribune’s investigation of death certificates of MN nursing home residents from 2002-2008, the state averages a nursing home resident death every two days from nursing home falls, for a total of over 1,000 nursing home deaths in Minnesota alone in this period.

Some of these nursing home deaths from falls are quick, such as when severe internal bleeding occurs or fragile bones break in a resident’s neck. More often, the fall causes long-term, deleterious injury, leaving the resident bedridden in extreme pain, if conscious. Too often, the fall sets off what the reporters call, poetically and accurately, “a deadly systemic chain reaction, hastening the end of life."

Continue reading "Nursing Home Falls Covered in Series on Nursing Home Abuse" »

Memphis, Tennessee Area Nursing Homes well below national standard

November 12, 2009 by Jim Higgins

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as outlined in a recent article in Memphis’ Commercial Appeal, nearly half of the nursing homes in Shelby County, Tennessee scored well below average. Of the 31 nursing homes in the County, 15 received scores of 1-2 stars out of a possible 5 stars.

The most common errors bringing the scores down included, but were certainly not limited to, medication errors, mislabeled medications, understaffing, improper use of physical restraints, and unnecessary use of catheters. Shortcomings in these areas can lead to drastic results for nursing home residents. Sadly, nursing home neglect is easly avoidable.

According to the area’s long-term care ombudsman, Sandy Smegelsky, who is an advocate for nursing home patients and their families, the lack of quality nurses is a major issue and contributing factor to the low scores in the area. The lack of a sufficiently sized, trained and dedicated nursing staff makes it almost impossible for a nursing home to provide the kind of quality care that nursing home residents deserve. Naturally, if the facility is understaffed and the staff that is available has to work beyond what should be expected, that can lead to the errors in medication and treatment that lower the overall scores for the facilities.

Abuse and neglect are the natural result of systematic problems within nursing homes. The lack of adequate staff, poorly trained and/or supervised staff, and overworked staff all contribute to an environment where care and treatment of the elderly is jeopardized.

Continue reading "Memphis, Tennessee Area Nursing Homes well below national standard" »

Nursing Home Sexual Predators Arrested –
Tennessee Law Blog Follow-Up

September 24, 2009 by Jim Higgins

SEVIERVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be pursuing criminal charges against two TN nursing home employees accused of taking pictures of residents in the nude and in degrading situations. Both female former employees of Pigeon Forge nursing home, ages 35 and 50, were arrested yesterday after each being indicted by a grand jury on four counts of health care abuse.

Tennessee Law Blog had previously reported on this nursing home sexual abuse at Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center. Then, it was reported that in early May 2009 authorities had discovered one of the aids was using a cell phone camera to record images and video of nude or seminude nursing home residents. Even more disturbing, the nursing assistant had allegedly defended her actions by stating that residents were "my babies" and that she "I meant to delete the ones that are nude."

These two certified nursing assistants were booked yesterday into Sevier County Jail, each on $20,000 bonds. Arrests were made by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A 55-page document released by the Tennessee Department of Health outlines alleged incidents at the Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center and states the 12 abused residents were subject to a total of 47 still images and 27 videos taken from 2007 until May 2009.

The nursing home has since banned staff members using cell phones in resident areas.

As a nursing home attorney hearing cases of abuse in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia, the most disturbing element to me about many of these sexual abuse cases is that often nursing home victims of sexual abuse do not recall the event. Many times, abusers target patients with dementia or other mental impairments on purpose, and it will take a skilled legal team with plenty of nursing home abuse experience to prove incidents of sexual abuse. If you believe your loved one has been a victim degrading activity at a nursing home, contact my Nashville, TN law offices online or by calling (615) 353-0930.

Chattanooga Nursing Home Admissions Supended

August 19, 2009 by Jim Higgins

New patient admissions at Life Care Center of Chattanooga Nursing Home have been suspended by the Tennessee Department of Health. The facility recently underwent a complaint investigation and survey and multiple deficiencies were found to exist that jeopardize and potentially jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of residents. The deficiencies cited were in the areas of administration, performance improvement, physician services, nursing services, medical records and pharmaceutical services.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have terminated the nursing home's Medicare provider agreement effective August 14, 2009. Fines were levied by the State Department of Health for $7,500.00 and a federal civil penalty in the amount of $6,300.00 per day.

As we find in many of our nursing home cases, it appears to be a matter of profits over people. The facility has chosen to not have an adequate staffing level to ensure that the needs of the residents are being met. We find in many cases that the record-keeping associated with the care does not always match the care given and that residents are not receiving the level of care that is purported to be given by the facilities. This closing is simply another in a long line of facilities that have had their ability to operate suspended or terminated because they were not giving even the minimal level of care that is mandated.

If you feel you or a family member has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, we represent victims and their families to assist them in getting the help they need and compensation for past wrongs. Please feel free to contact us at the Higgins Firm for a free evaluation.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse National News

July 9, 2009 by Jim Higgins

It’s not a been week since I posted “Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Disturbing Trend in Tennessee, Neighboring States” on Tennessee Law Blog that national news was made again by another sexual predator lurking in a nursing home. This time, the sexual abuser was an unmonitored male nursing home resident.

In Illinois, the state Department of Public Health issued a 61-page report finding that LaSalle County Nursing Home failed to prevent a male resident from sexually abusing 10 female residents. The sexual abuse included groping of female residents' breasts, kissing them, and sexually explicit language. According to the report, the resident abuser would roam the nursing home, often exposing himself to, and preying on, female residents who couldn't speak or with dementia.

Estimates very, but the alleged nursing home sexual abuse likely began in December and may have lasted until last month when the accused sexual predator was moved to an inpatient psychiatric unit.

The report concluded the IL nursing home failed to recognize or prevent the abuse.

No criminal charges have been filed against the nursing home or resident, though fines against the caregiver are likely.

To contact the Higgins Firm about suspected TN nursing home abuse or negligent care, fill out our nursing home injury form or call our Nashville law team at 615.353.0930 or toll-free at 800.705.2121.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Disturbing Trend in Tennessee, Neighboring States

July 2, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Yesterday, a KY nursing home nursing assistant was indicted on accounts of video voyeurism and adult abuse for recording nude video of one of the nursing home residents under her care. The western KY nursing home where this occurred was Dawson Pointe in Dawson Springs and had previously been cited by Kentucky state officials. The guilty nineteen-year-old nursing assistant recorded at least two videos on her cell phone prior to her arrest.

Continue reading "Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Disturbing Trend in Tennessee, Neighboring States" »

Nursing Home Lawsuit Caps Fail TN House of Reps

April 23, 2009 by Jim Higgins
Following up to earlier Tennessee Law Blogs' call to arms: Victory!

Despite the best efforts (and money) of nursing home industry lobbyists, the measure to place limits on nursing home abuse/neglect cases died in the Tennessee House of Representatives today in subcommittee thanks to elected officials like Rep. Henry Fincher of Cookeville who voted against what he’s called the "Kill Old People Cheap Act."

A companion bill, the lovechild of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville, TN, still awaits vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Tennessee State bill, if passed, would dictate the amount a jury can compensate victims of TN nursing home abuse and neglect. The nursing home industry mobilized its Tennessee nurses and other employees by suggesting that nursing home attorneys’ sole purpose is to slander their profession. Instead, what the bill would allow, if passed, is Tennessee nursing homes to continue understaffing their long-term care facilities, which studies have found time and again is the number one cause of neglect and preventable injury in nursing home care.

Sufficient nursing home care should never take second seat to nursing home profits as Tennessee Law Blog has warned of in its article, Nursing Home Ownership May Determine Abuse. Understaffing is one suggested reason for TN nursing homes statewide poor conditions. Before proposing this bill again, our state representatives who voted yeah should look the children of Linda Darlene Carter in the eyes and say what dollar value their mother’s death in a TN nursing home by negligent dehydration is worth x amount of dollars, and not a penny more.

If your loved in a Tennessee nursing home has suffered abuse or injury from neglect, call (615) 353-0930 or fill out our nursing home attorney form for a free initial consultation with myself or another Higgins Law Firm Nashville, TN lawyer.

Kentucky and Tennessee Nursing Home Deaths Make News

April 16, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Nursing home deaths from abuse or neglect in Tennessee do not always make the nightly news, especially while an investigation is ongoing. Perhaps the recent reporting of nursing home deaths in this week’s news comes on the crest of TN nursing home industry's anti-lawsuit legislation or maybe, finally, nursing home deaths from negligence are being treated with the importance they deserve.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, acting on a Knox County medical examiner’s opinion that her death was caused by poor nursing home treatment, is investigating the possible homicide of Hillcrest North nursing home resident Linda Darlene Carter. Ms. Carter suffered the horrors of dehydration due to inadequate care.

Ms. Carter had been injured in a car crash and had been transferred from the University of Tennessee Medical Center to Hillcrest Healthcare North to recover. Instead, the nursing home allegedly neglected to provide adequate care, namely, she received insufficient hydration for her to live, much less heal from her injuries.

Continue reading "Kentucky and Tennessee Nursing Home Deaths Make News" »

Tennessee Nursing Home Bill in TN House Vote Today

March 31, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Tennesseans with loved ones in a TN nursing home should be very concerned with a bill pending vote later today in the Tennessee House of Representative. The bill, called the “ChooseCareTN Act,” threatens to put a price tag on nursing home neglect and abuse in the State of Tennessee.

HB 2243, filed by Rep. Jon Lundberg (Bristol), would dictate the amount Tennessee judges and juries can award victims of Tennessee nursing home abuse and neglect. This proposal does nothing to acknowledge the poor state of or improve Tennessee nursing home care, which ranks 47th in the U.S. HB 2243 does nothing to reduce the leading factor in nursing home abuse and neglect injuries: understaffing. Instead, this bill allows out-of-state and large nursing home companies to profit from conditions conducive to nursing home resident neglect and abuse.

Continue reading "Tennessee Nursing Home Bill in TN House Vote Today" »

TN Nursing Home Neglect Damages Restored on Appeal

March 3, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Despite nursing home abuse lawsuits’ setback last week with the discovery that the previous Administration had secretly signed an executive order that prevents Medicare and many nursing home inspectors from testifying against nursing homes in negligent or abuse lawsuits (read more in the original article, “New Rule… Impedes Cases Against Nursing Homes”)--despite this serious setback to preventing nursing home abuse, there was good news for at least one Tennessee family whose loved one was seriously injured by a Murfreesboro nursing home's neglect. A Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled against a Warren County Circuit Court judgment last week that reduced damages a Tennessee branch of major nursing home chain had to pay for its neglect of its Tennessee resident. The Circuit judge wanted to reduce the original $4.1 million punitive damages previously awarded to $163,000.

Understanding this Tennessee nursing home neglect lawsuit requires us to return to 2005 when Tennessee resident Cheatum Myers, age 90, died less than month after his one-year stay at NHC McMinnville, a Tennessee nursing home owned by National HeathCare Corporation (Murfreesboro-based) which is in turn owned by National Health Corporation. Myers v. NHC McMinnville et al was filed by Mr. Myers’s family claiming that numerous nursing home falls, one resulting in a fractured hip, pressure sores (bed sores) at the Stage IV level, urinary tract infections (urosepsisepses), untreated pain, and other signs of neglect were proof of mistreatment (grossly negligent conduct) by the Tennessee nursing home. The plaintiff’s attorney claimed that the nursing home company had put profits over resident care, which led to understaffing resulting in part to the nursing home neglect, and that this negligence was responsible for Myers’ untimely demise (wrongful death) and constituted malpractice.

Continue reading "TN Nursing Home Neglect Damages Restored on Appeal" »

Nursing Homes Attempt to Change Tennessee Law -
Put Price Limit on TN Nursing Home Injury, Neglect & Abuse

January 21, 2009 by Jim Higgins

Nashville Business Journal reports Tennessee nursing home officials are pressuring Tennessee Legislature to limit damages awarded to plaintiffs in courts.

Tennessee remains 1 of 16 states without caps on damages on how much abused TN nursing home residents, or their survivors, may recover, leaving such decisions to Tennessee juries and Tennessee judges to determine. But last year, the Tennessee House and Senate saw a nursing home bill that would limit non-economic damages, such as severe pain, emotional distress, and disfigurement, and limit the amount of punitive damages a company operating a negligent/abusive Tennessee nursing home would pay. Now, in 2009, Tennessee law makers will see another such nursing home bill.

The nursing home special interests have an interesting argument. They believe negligent and abusive nursing homes should only be liable for “real” damages, that is, only the abused’s hospital bill for broken bones or the ointment used to treat the pressure sore (click here for more signs of TN nursing nursing home abuse). In other words, bruises from being punched or kick or roughly handled might result in no emergency room treatment or hospital stay, so there’s no real “damage” being done. Their other argument: paying their nursing home abuse damages makes running a nursing home in Tennessee more expensive.

So, instead of improving care to reduce abuse/neglect lawsuits, nursing home companies want to cap their losses.

After the closing of the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro last year and Tennessee nursing homes' dismal CMMS ratings (third worst in the nation), it’s a shock to me that nursing home representatives think they have a foot to stand on. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) evaluated data from 319 Tennessee nursing homes and gave over a third its lowest rating of one star (10 of those Nashville-area nursing homes).

Tennessee’s nursing homes need real improvements, not get-out-of-jail free cards. When you’re dealing with nursing home owners, you’re primarily dealing with large nursing home chains owned by investment groups who are looking to cut corners and increase profits for investors. As I’ve blogged here on the Tennessee Law Blog and spoken about on Tennessee Mornings in an effort to get the word out, nursing home companies don’t listen to angry letters or change their minds after seeing pictures of bedsores or unsanitary conditions, they listen to dollars and cents.

If you suspect a loved one to be a victim of a nursing home abuse or neglect in a Nashville nursing home or any facilitated care facility in Tennessee, contact me, Jim Higgins, attorney-at-law for a free consultation. Call our Nashville, TN offices using our toll-free nursing home abuse hotline at 1.800.705.2121 or fill out our TN nursing home abuse/neglect form to speak to an attorney.

New National Nursing Home Rating System Confirms Poor State of Tennessee's Nursing Home Care

December 26, 2008 by Jim Higgins

In the first government effort on a federal level to rate our nation's nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released its evaluation of 16,000 U.S. nursing homes. That same day The Tennessean was quick to jump on what experienced
Tennessee nursing home lawyers
have known for years: Tennessee nursing homes are some of the worst in the nation. According to the nursing home ranking system, Tennessee nursing homes are the third worst. Only Louisiana and Georgia nursing homes managed to be worse ratings than Tennessee’s.

Nearly one-third of the ranked 319 Tennessee nursing homes received the worst possible rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Only 7 percent of Tennessee nursing homes were judged to be well above average. Over 41 percent of Tennessee nursing homes had the lowest score for adequate staffing, one of the key factors that can prevent nursing home abuse and neglect.

Continue reading "New National Nursing Home Rating System Confirms Poor State of Tennessee's Nursing Home Care " »

Tennessee Nursing Homes Rated Under New System

December 22, 2008 by Jim Higgins

The federal government has implemented a new nursing home rating system. Ratings on Tennessee Nursing homes has now been released. In the next few days I will submit a blog explaining the new system and how Nursing Homes have been rated in Nashville and throughout the state.

If you would like to see how Tennessee nursing homes performed you can go to medicare.gov to check it out. If you have a legal question regarding a nursing home feel free to contact one of our lawyers that focus on nursing home neglect cases.

Alleged Sexual Assault at Tennessee Nursing Home

December 15, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating reports of possible nursing home abuse at a Tullahoma, TN care facility where a condom was allegedly found in a 88-year-old resident’s bed. The female nursing home resident is presently being treated at a local Tennessee hospital for numerous infections.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was told by the examining physician that the nursing home resident showed signs of sexual assault.

The Tennessee nursing home in question is the Life Care Center of Tullahoma. Life Care Center operates more than 200 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement living communities, and Alzheimer’s centers with over 25 such nursing care facilities in Tennessee. The executive director of the national nursing home company has stated that Life Care performs pre-employment Sex Offender Registry checks on all nursing home staff.

Last Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health, which licenses nursing homes in Tennessee, found no deficiencies related to performing background checks on employees at the Tullahoma, TN nursing home, though Tennessee Bureau of Investigation continues its investigation of nursing home sexual abuse.

This year, Life Care Centers in Elizabethton, TN and in Jefferson City, TN have been ordered by Tennessee Department of Health to suspend admissions until they corrected safety, welfare, and/or health dangers posed to the Tennessee nursing home residents.

As a fighter for the improvement of our country's and Tennessee's nursing homes and the treatment of our elderly citizens, I urge anyone who suspects their loved one in a TN nursing home has suffered any form of abuse, whether physical, sexual, or neglectful abuse, to contact my Nashville law offices at (615) 353-0930 or fill out our Tennessee nursing home abuse form to speak with me or another of our TN nursing home attorneys.

Knoxville Nursing Home put on Special Focus List

December 1, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Hillcrest West nursing home in Knoxville, Tennessee has been flagged by the Federal government as a chronically poor performer which recently placed the facility on its Special Focus Facility list. According to a recent article by Scott Barker in the Knoxville News Sentinel, of the 319 nursing homes in Tennessee, Hillcrest West is one of only three that received this designation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In order to receive the designation, the facility must consistently and repeatedly have serious administration, health and sanitation violations over a significant time period. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigates nursing homes to determine if they have problems with administration, sanitation, quality of care and abuse and neglect. If any of these problems exist, the facility is cited with a violation. In its most recent study of the Hillcrest West nursing home, the facility was cited with 11 violations. The three year record for the facility however included 23 violations found in 2007 and 37 in 2006. Some of the violations included failure to notify family when a nursing home patient was injured, the need to instruct staff not to steal from patients and an incident involving slapping of a nursing home patient.

The attorneys at The Higgins Firm is a Tennessee Law Firm that represent patients in nursing homes and their families in actions against nursing homes when there are matters of abuse and neglect. The federal government inspects nursing homes to address the overall care of residents, but cannot effectively address individual patient needs and concerns. If you have a relative in a nursing home who is suffering from abuse or neglect, you may need to contact a lawyer to address your specific concerns

Etowah, TN Nursing Home Abuse Halts Admissions

November 28, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Etowah Health Care Center, a 120-bed nursing home in Etwoah, TN, has been ordered by Tennessee Department of Health to cease admissions after alleged physical nursing home abuse by one female nursing home staff member. Fines against the nursing home for violating residents’ rights have been levied and local investigations into the criminal abuse concluded. Tennessee Department of Health officials have assigned a special monitor to review the Etowah, TN nursing home’s operations.

The abuse charges are being made against 37 year-old Joyce Stanley, a certified nursing assistant who allegedly struck a blind nursing home resident with a clipboard and an incontinence pad. It is alos alleged that the resident was slapped and had her hair pulled, though it is unclear from reports when these incidents of abuse occurred. Stanley has been charged by local police with willful and physical abuse and fired from the nursing home.

The abused patient is reported as having suffered no lasting physical harm. Since the nursing home receives Medicare, Medicaid, and VA patients, federal authorities are also conducting a federal investigation of the Tennessee nursing home. No confirmation as of this writing if corrective measures have been taken against other nursing home employees who failed to immediately report the abuse.

Again, as in other nursing home abuse cases Tennessee Law Blog has reported, other nursing home staff was complicit with, or at least kept quiet about, the alleged abuse.

For more information on Tennessee nursing home abuse law, contact our Nashville law offices online or call us at 800-705-2121 for a free consultation with Higgins Firm attorneys to discuss your legal options.

Chattanooga Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit

November 4, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Thirty-three year old cerebral palsy sufferer, Robert A. Young, died while under the care of a Chattanooga health facility, though if you'd asked his family members for the month after his death, they'd say he was doing fine. That's because that's what the Chattanooga facility's staff told with each call, though they knew of Young's death. This quiet, and the reason for the quiet, is the subject of his family's $35 million lawsuit filed last week against Health Care Center at Standifer Place, a continuing care retirement community in Chattanooga, TN.

The circumstances surrounding Young’s death while under the care of the Chattanooga facility have been unclear. According to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s office, Young died in 2007 from a blunt force trauma to the head. However, exhumed, an autopsy this week is expected to rule his death a homicide. At the time of death, Young was under the care of Tennessee Adult Protective Services and The Health Center at Standifer Place.

The survivors' lawsuit alleges that not only did an employee of the Chattanooga facility kill Young, but that other nursing and staff employees covered this up when Young’s family would call to check on him. According to the lawsuit filed in Tennessee court, “Standifer Place told each [family member], on each call, that [Young] was okay, and to come see him,” for more than a month after Young had died. Meanwhile, Tennessee APS staff had Young buried in a pauper’s grave at Cofer cemetery after his death at Erlanger Hospital where he was admitted for a fever and seizure and where his doctors discovered internal bleeding that neither a seizure or a fever could cause.

The lawsuit filed in Tennessee court says the Chattanooga health facility should be held liable for wrongful death and fourteen other accounts, including assault, battery, fraud, violation of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act, violation of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Standifer Place representatives state that their staff caused no harm.

Cases of abuse like this, if true, break my heart and are why I quit as an insurance company lawyer defending and protecting the profits of negligent companies and persons and became a personal injury lawyer. I’ve heard all the lawyer jokes, and even a few specific to Tennessee personal injury lawyers, but at the end of the day, I rest better knowing that my work and the work of my plaintiff’s attorney colleagues in Tennessee and across the nation help bring to light injuries and injustices against the weak and elderly and the unfairly treated worker and help reveal the wrongs of those companies that neglected others’ safety or personal security or that recklessly and dangerously put profits before safety.

If you or your Tennessee loved one has suffered serious injury or, God-forbid, a death under the care of a Tennessee nursing home or long-term care facility, let me and my colleagues at the Higgins Law Firm offer our legal help. For more information on Tennessee nursing home abuse, contact our Nashville law offices online or call us at 800-705-2121 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

TN Department of Heath Fines Murfreesboro Nursing Home, 90% of Nursing Homes Nationwide Cited for Violations

October 3, 2008 by Jim Higgins

A Tennessee nursing home investigation uncovered violations in administration and nursing services for Boulevard Terrace Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 100-bed nursing home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Health has suspended all new admissions and imposed a $1,500 penalty and recommended a federal penalty of $4,000 a day until the major violations are corrected.

While Tennesseans with loved one in nursing homes await specifics of this Murfreesboro nursing home's violations, some knowing the Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner may only suspend a Tennessee nursing home’s admissions when conditions are determined to be "detrimental" to Tennessee nursing home residents’ “health, safety or welfare,” Tennessee Law Blog would be remiss if it didn’t cover a shocking New York Times story earlier this week on the epidemic of nursing homes nationwide in violations of federal health and safety standards.

The Times article by Robert Pear reports on a recent Department of Health and Human Services report revealing that 94% of the nation’s nursing homes were cited in 2007 for violations. Interestingly, for-profit homes had on average a higher incidence of safety or health violations than other types of nursing homes.

Overall, about 17% of U.S. nursing homes had violations that caused, according to the inspector general of DHHS, patients “actual harm or immediate jeopardy.” These violations often indicated the presence of widespread and/or persisting nursing home abuse.

From the 37,150 federally filed nursing home complaints, DHHS nursing home investigators were able to take action on 4 out of 10, with 2 out of 10 confirming reports of abuse or neglect of nursing home residents.

The primary cause for nursing home neglect or abuse, according to the report, is because nursing homes “have systematically failed to provide staff in sufficient numbers and with appropriate clinical expertise to serve their residents.”

In our own state, and too often the case, Tennessee nursing home abuse remains hushed by nursing home staff and administrators. A native Tennessee nursing home attorney under the process of discovery can uncover the depth of abuse and neglect occurring in a Tennessee nursing home. If you believe your loved one has suffered some form of nursing home abuse or neglect, let our qualified TN nursing home attorneys at our Nashville office know. Initial consultation with a HHP nursing home lawyer is always free of charge.

5 Years Since Tennessee Nursing Home Fire

September 27, 2008 by Jim Higgins

It has been five years since 16 people died in a nursing home fire at the NHC home in Nashville. The fire brought to the forefront the need for facilities to have mandatory fire evacuation plans and better systems to get residents to a safe place in case of a fire. According to the Tennessee Department of Health every nursing home is in compliance when it comes to fire safety.

Unfortunately, problems with basic care still exists. These quality problems led to admission suspensions in 24 facilities in 2007. The number stands at 19 for this year. So often the care issues are a result of simply not having enough quality staff at the homes. Without enough staff at these homes the basic needs of the residents can't be meet and our loved ones suffer.

Maybe this year the Tennessee legislature and the nursing home industry can work on cutting these quality of care problems. We only ask that our loved ones be treated with dignity. My office sees to many neglect cases they could have been easily avoided if the nursing home would have worried less about profits and more about caring for the residents.

Teen Suspects in Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case

September 2, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Last Friday, Minnesota shocked the world of nursing home abuse with a report of 15 residents who had been sexually and emotionally abused in heinous and humiliating ways by four nursing assistants. While abusive nursing home staff working in collusion is not unknown in nursing home abuse cases, what was most shocking was who these four abusers were: teenage girls.

The typical profile of a nursing home sexual abuser remains male and a person working alone, though coworkers at the nursing home may be made accomplices in his depraved abuse of the elderly for whom he cares. Physical abuse and emotional abuse is slightly more common among both sexes as stress and mental disorder can lead to resident abuse. Four teenage girls is unheard of. And, unfortunately for the nursing home residents at Good Samaritan Society in Albert Lea, MN, went unheard for months.

What saved the day was the confession of a fifth girl who knew of, but was not party to, the abuse. And she spoke out only after she was fired, explaining during her exit interview how the four abusers operated.

Their targets under their charge, like many sexual predators, were residents with severe Alzheimer’s or dementia. Allegedly to make work more fun, according to newspapers, these four teenage girls fondled the nursing home residents’ breasts, buttocks, and genitals, inserted foreign objects in their anuses and mouths, simulated sexual acts, spit into their mouths, stuck fingers in their mouths and noses to keep them from screaming, and exposed themselves and otherwise sexually abused and teased them, many times while physically restraining the abused nursing home resident.

The adolescent (three juveniles, one an adult) girls would laugh when residents became upset, according to news reports. The four bragged about what they did, according to one employee. Though staff was told to report suspect situations right away, they were not trained to and failed to report. Some at the nursing home stated they knew of what the four were doing but did not know what to do. The four abusers reportedly treated their abuse as a joke and openly talked about what they were doing with other nursing home employees.

Minnesota Department of Health officials have told local reporters that the nursing home will keep its license because it addressed the abuse issues and contacted the proper authorities. The criminal case is awaiting the county attorney's bringing charges against these four nursing home aides. The four abusers have since been terminated by the nursing home.

The nonprofit Good Samaritan Society maintains 230 care locations across the country, including one in Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, west of Knoxville.

Not all nursing home sexual abuse is as blatant as what these four teenage girls did to those under their care, though many times it is even worse, much worse. I urge anyone who suspects their loved one of suffering sexual abuse at a Tennessee nursing home to contact the Nashville law offices of Higgins, Himmelberg & Piliponis at (615) 353-0930 or fill out our suspected TN nursing home abuse form to speak with me or another of our nursing home attorneys.

Too often these abuse cases remain quieted by the Tennessee nursing home and are only brought into the open, and victims given justice, when a nursing home attorney begins the process of discovery. If you're reading this because you suspect your loved one in a Tennessee nursing home has suffered some form of abuse or neglect, let us know so our attorneys can take a look. Our initial consultations are always free of charge.

Doctors Rarely Report Suspected Nursing Home Abuse

August 26, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Apparently, “Do no harm,” means keeping a tight lip on suspected nursing home abuse if you’re among the thousands of U.S. doctors who every year fail to report the abuse found to affect an estimated 2.1 million older Americans. This according to the Providence Journal, Rhode Island's most prestigious newspaper in article reviewing the recent failures in the medical community on reporting elder and nursing home abuse. The article reveals what too many Tennessee nursing home abuse attorneys know firsthand: Doctors are rarely the persons who report elder abuse.

What’s startling, even to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer like myself, is the percent reported: Only 2% of all cases of suspected nursing home or other elder abuse/neglect is reported by doctors. Some studies find the number even lower, despite it being the law in most states, including Tennessee, to report any suspicion of elder abuse.

As our nation's elderly population grows, such a minute portion of reported abuse is appalling. Not every person in a Tennessee nursing home has a loving family who makes frequent visits. If doctors bound by oath will not protect their patients, who can we hope will?

Despite the graying of America, not all doctors know what signs to look for to detect abuse and neglect in the elderly and fewer physicians still have specialized geriatrics training. Cases of Tennessee doctors turning a blind eye are not unknown to lawyers. Doctors sometimes do so out of loyalty to the abuser (family member, nursing home staff, etc.), sometimes from fear of a legal hassle of having to testify on a suspicion or because the injuries or warning signs are not conclusively from abuse. Although there is no specific nursing home abuse legislation solely for doctors, the adult abuse law in Tennessee is quite clear: Any person, including physicians, must report his or her suspicions.

If you suspect your loved one of suffering nursing home abuse, do not sleep on your suspicions. Too often clients in Tennessee nursing home abuse cases suspect something is wrong but took no action under their loved one suffered serious injury or met an untimely death. Do not wait for doctors, staff, or others to speak up.

    To report a suspicion of elder abuse in Nashville contact Tennessee Adult Protective Services at (615) 532-3492 or call 1-888-APS-TENN to report suspicions of elder abuse in other parts of Tennessee.
    If you believe your loved one in a Tennessee nursing home has suffered injury from nursing home abuse or neglect, contact our Nashville attorneys to discuss your case with qualified nursing home abuse attorneys.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Sparks Drive for New Laws

July 25, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Earlier this month, Tennessee Law Blog reported on a nursing home sexual abuse case just across the Tennessee border in Hopkinsville, KY. There, a male attendant confessed to sexually abusing two nursing home residents, one who was mentally incoherent and the other physically handicapped; this was suspect not to be the only instances of sexual assault. (Click to read the original Tennessee Law Blog.)

Recently, I can’t mention nursing home abuse to other nursing home lawyers without having my fellow attorneys weighing in on resident-on-resident sexual abuse. Various state and federal proposals are now being considered that would isolate nursing home residents who are known sexual predators to separate care facilities.

Lawmakers in Florida are considering legislation similar to measures passed in Kansas that will require criminal background checks on nursing home applicants. One advocate for the change in nursing home admittance, Sandy Banning in Florida, has been working for this nursing home measure ever since her mother in Jacksonville nursing home was victim to sexual abuse. The assailant, who had been arrested 58 times during his 83 years of life, was a fellow nursing home resident. Banning’s mother had dementia and did not remember the sexual assault, but nursing home staff stumbled upon the sexual predator in the mother’s bed after the wheelchair-bound man managed to gain access to her room and use his cane to bar entry into the room where the sexual abuse took place.

Banning, quoted in one article, has stated, “I’m mad. I’m mad because nothing has been done.” Ms. Banning has every right to be mad and to get things done. What’s to be done, though, to improve nursing home conditions and to prevent abuse, including sexual abuse, is open to debate.

Proponents of the Kansas and Florida nursing home measures believe that separate facilities must exist for sexual predators. By isolating abusers, they believe nursing homes will be safe--or at least those nursing homes reserved for those who pass the background. Presumably for proponents, sexual attacks between sex offenders, even reformed sex offenders, or persons who at one time were was found guilty of a sexual crime, is fine. What these nursing home measures do not address, and what gets to the issue deeper than segregation, is the quality of care all nursing home residents deserve and should receive. As an interestingly aside, the very Florida bill Banning proposes would not have isolated her mother’s assailant to another nursing home to prevent his sex crime; the nursing home resident’s history of sex crimes had occurred before sexual predator registration laws were enacted and the Florida bill does not require current nursing home residents to have background checks. While these nursing home measures may help prevent sexual abuse and, if designed humanely for all nursing home residents (even the 1,600 registered sex offenders in U.S. nursing homes), these restrictions can be a step forward, what these laws fail to address is responsibility of the nursing home to provide adequate supervision and care to all its residents.

The worst part of nursing home abuse of a sexual nature is that they should never happen. Responsible staff know where residents are, know who their residents are and where they should be. This, and silence by the resident, is why instances of sexual abuse in Tennessee nursing homes go unreported.

Many residents who are victims can feel guilt about the act and a sense of powerlessness that keeps them from speaking up. Our law offices handle and are presently handling Tennessee nursing home abuse cases, including nursing home sexual assault. Too often negligent Tennessee nursing homes fail to perform sufficient background checks and training of their staff. Also regrettable, nursing homes do not always have measures in place, or the staff to put what’s on the books into practice, to prevent resident-on-resident sexual assault and abuse.

If you suspect your loved one of suffering nursing home neglect, or believe a Tennessee nursing home has permitted or tried covering up a sexual assault on a nursing home resident, give HHP a call at (615) 353-0930 or fill out attorney form to report the injury to a Tennessee nursing home attorney.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits Reveal Corporate Fraud

July 16, 2008 by Jim Higgins

In various nursing home abuse articles for Tennessee Law Blog and my various appearances on Tennessee Mornings, I have attempted, as a successful nursing home abuse lawyer, to communicate how nursing home lawsuits and fear of lawsuits help deter future cases of abuse and neglect in Tennessee nursing homes. Yesterday, news sources reported on a federal trial that I have been following closely, a case that shows how nursing home abuse lawsuits often lead to learning of more abuses. In this case, the ultimate result was prosecution of three corporate thieves that left their nursing homes unsafe and promoted abusive conditions so that they could line their pockets with moneys meant for taxes and providing quality nursing home care.

The three nursing home executives are finally facing sentencing at the end of what one U.S. Attorney has claimed to be one of the largest payroll tax fraud cases in the U.S. history. Prime culprit Gary Trebert faces ten years and a $500,000 fine and restitution after he and his two co-conspirators used the names of fictional companies and forged documents (including fake nursing facility licenses and Medicaid contracts) to take over 70 licensed nursing home facilities. Their deceitful business practices affected 6,000 nursing home residents and approximately 4,500 employees from Iowa to Texas.

By falsifying records, the three were able to scam the numerous nursing homes they owned through 150 fictitious corporations they created, ultimately defrauding U.S. taxpayers of $34 million. Investigations into charges of nursing home neglect and abuse led investigators to this discovery of fraud and how the stolen moneys were siphoned from their nursing homes to pay for the executives’ luxury cars, monthly international trips, and antiques.

From the federal court’s investigation, nursing home moneys that should have gone to providing quality care were also diverted by these white-collar criminals, moneys that would have funded proper supervision and prevented negligent care and abuse such as when one 54-year-old resident burned to death in his wheelchair at a facility that had been regularly fined for neglect and failing to meet basic health standards. At other nursing homes owned by the three, caregivers allegedly left a man in his own feces and urine for three hours until he died; caregivers left another resident in his feces and urine for so long that his skin came loose when he was finally moved; and in various cases caregivers failed to prevent thefts from residents or physical abuse.

If survivors and relatives of these abuses were forced to keep quiet because they signed arbitration provisions (one of the reasons I support the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Actpresently in Congress) or did not have the courage and dedication to pursue their respective nursing home abuse cases, these three executive crooks would likely still be free and their nursing homes perpetuating the horrors happening in Tennessee worst nursing homes. Even if you only have a suspicion of abuse or neglect, I advise you to contact my Nashville law office to speak with a lawyer about suspected nursing home abuse. Click here for our nursing home abuse attorney form or give our lawyers a call at (615) 353-0930.

Kentucky Nursing Home Resident Sexually Assaulted

July 11, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Police in Hopkinsville, Kentucky have charged a male nurse assistant with sexually abusing two female patients at a nursing home, Bradford Heights Center. Police believe that more victims may exist. The police believe Rodriguez Durr took advantage of two elderly women who couldn't defend themselves because of their age and health.
Important advice from one visitor: "Make sure you always see on your elderly people," said Eva Barnes, a visitor at Bradford Heights Center. "They need to be talked to sometimes. They need to be loved."

Unfortunately, our office has handled and is currently handling cases involving sexual assaults and abuse at nursing homes. Some important questions to be answered for this family will be: what type of background check did the nursing home perform on this employee? What type of training is given to all employees to look out for this criminal behavior? What steps are taken to prevent the abuse and neglect of these nursing home patients? Is this home more worried about profits than they are their residents?

If you have a loved one that has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please feel free to call our office. These residents are our most vulnerable citizens and they deserve to be treated with respect and care.

National Nursing Home Bill Promotes Residents’ Rights

June 26, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Nursing home abuse, as readers of the Tennessee Law Blog know, is a too-common tragedy in our great country and has its source in nursing homes neglecting not just their patients but their staff and quality of service. The greatest deterrent to nursing home abuse has always been the threat that owners have felt of financial repercussions that a nursing home’s abuse or negligent will bring if pursued by a personal injury attorney. Tennessee nursing home regulators, underfunded and understaffed, cannot provide the security that fear of an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer brings.

Unfortunately, many nursing homes have found a way of avoiding lawsuits, not by improving the quality of elderly care, but by forcing residents to sign arbitration provisions. These provisions, often part of hundreds of pages of its fine print sorted through and signed to admit a loved one to Tennessee nursing home care, forces the resident to settle disputes about abuse, malpractice, and negligence in private arbitration.

This means a nursing home’s negligent or abusive acts will not go to Tennessee court where they will be heard by a judge or compassionate jurors but by a private judge, often a lawyer paid by the nursing home. Not only does this removes the financial incentive and fear of a nursing home abuse lawsuit but, to make matters worse, these “impartial” arbitrators, who earn money by repeat business from the nursing home, have the financial incentive to side with the Tennessee nursing home in arbitration matters. Additionally, costs of arbitration, including attorney’s fees, are often born by the family as there is not the financial incentive for personal injury lawyers to take the case as recoveries are below what jurors will award.

As a nursing home abuse attorney who hears the horrors of too many Tennessee long-term care facilities, I wholeheartedly support our United State Congress to move forward with the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, S. 2838 and H.R. 6126.

This Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, if passed, will allow families, not the nursing homes, to choose freely whether they want to arbitrate or bring the case to an open court of law. This bill further invalidates those who have unwitting or by nursing home pressure any mandatory arbitration provisions of a nursing home or assisted living organization.

Government studies show that 20% of nursing homes are negligent to a degree that puts nursing home residents at risk for serious injury or death. Working with those injured in Tennessee nursing homes, this number seems low. Perhaps this is because of arbitration, which is often held behind closed doors. Arbitration decisions are rarely published and this further hides Tennessee cases of abuse and neglect.

By removing the right to sue in public court, nursing homes have swept instances of abuse under the rug. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act will allow Tennessee families to know if and when a nursing home is providing inadequate or abuse care. Furthermore, it will ensure abused and neglected nursing home residents their civil right to a hearing as well as the care they deserve.

After years of limiting the rights of our elderly who have been abused in Tennessee nursing homes, it is time we empower our elderly Tennesseans with their full rights under the law. These rights include the right to make public abuse and acts of wrongness against oneself. These rights include the right to fair and safe treatment. These rights include the right to sue.

Tennessee Nursing Home in Trouble

April 18, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Nursing homes in Tennessee are regulated by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH). TDOH takes an active role in investigating complaints made by nursing homes residents and the friends and families of residents. TDOH also performs annual surveys on nursing home facilities to ensure that proper care is being given to residents and to attempt to reduce the risk that residents will suffer from neglect or abusive behavior from staff members at the facility or from other residents within the facility. The surveys also deal with nursing home staffing levels, administration of the facility, nursing services, resident assessments and social services standards at the facility. The evaluation of these important elements is used to determine the overall level of care that the residents receive. By using these surveys and corrective measures following the surveys, including fines, limiting admissions, and even suspending admissions, the TDOH takes proactive steps to force nursing homes to provide the level of care that the residents need and deserve.

Recently, TDOH conducted a complaint investigation and Annual Survey at Palmyra, Tennessee based Palmyra Health Care Center. In response to the report issued following the review, TDOH suspended admissions at the facility and assessed fines against the facility. Specifically, the TDOH report found 18 deficiencies - four of which were deemed as immediate jeopardy to the residents. The immediate jeopardy issues stemmed from the facility's failure to develop and implement a plan to prevent residents from suffering abuse at the hands of other residents that suffer from mental health and psychosocial behavioral problems. Also, the report noted that there was no plan implemented to prevent such residents from harming themselves, staff or others at the facility. The suspension of admissions to the facility and the retroactive fines levied against the facility are significant measures taken on behalf of TDOH to address the problems at this facility.

If you have concerns about the treatment of a loved one in a nursing home facility feel free to call our office. If we can't help we can usually point you in the right direction.

Tennessee Nursing Home Punished by State

April 9, 2008 by Jim Higgins

This week the Tennessee nursing home industry pushed legislation to give them limited liability for the neglect of residents. It is amazing that the industry has the guts to ask for a special law created just to limit their liability when there has been record fines and citations of inadequate care this year. In fact, just this week the Tennessee Department of Health suspended new admissions of patients to Country Place Health Care Center in Crossville. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has also put in place temporary management at the facility

It seems that Tennessee Nursing Homes could limit their exposure to lawsuits by making sure homes like Country Place provide quality care. Doesn't this make more sense than trying to have a law passed that protects you from a lawsuit. I have never handled a nursing home negligence case that I believe could not have been avoided if the home had provided adequately trained and a sufficient number of staff. Maybe nursing homes could avoid more lawsuits if they spent more time caring for their patients and less time trying to obtain special protections from the legislature.

Tennessee Legislature Considering Nursing Home Immunity Bill

February 23, 2008 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Legislature is considering a bill that would cap any nursing home neglect or abuse jury award to $300,000.00. Apparently, the legislature does not believe that we as citizens are smart enough to sit on a jury and award a sum that is in proportion to any neglect suffered by a nursing home resident. Even more important is the fact that most nursing home are for profit corporations. The only way to deter a for profit corporation is to be able to hit them where it hurts, in the pocket book. If a nursing home has no real financial responsibility for its actions it will have little incentive to behave responsibly.

I believe we would all agree that we should be responsible for our actions. My children realize that if they misbehave there will be consequences. It may be loss of a toy or to be put in time out but they realize that they are responsible for their own behavior. I do not understand why a nursing home, a place that cares for our most frail and vulnerable citizens, should be place in a privileged class to have a very limited responsibility for their actions. Also, I recognize that $300,000 is a lot of money, however, do you think it is a lot of money do a company that makes hundreds of millions. Do you think that this sum would be a deterrence if a corporation knows it can profit more by taking shortcuts and cutting staff than they would ever have to pay in a lawsuit? Also, do you think the families of residents who were abused and neglected in a home should have a specific dollar amount set by the legislature for their loss or should a jury have the ability to determine what is just? These are all important concerns that will be drastically effected by this legislation.

I will state that however you fell this is an important issue. As such, whether you are for or against this limitation please call your representative and let your voice be heard. You can locate your rep at TN gov. If you would like to discuss the issue or concerns you have with my office feel free to contact me at hhpfirm.com.

Tennessee Politicians' Price Tag on Nursing Home Abuse

February 1, 2008 by Jim Higgins

As I write, your Tennessee representatives in Nashville are hearing arguments for putting limits to the amount of monetary awards clients can receive in Tennessee nursing home abuse lawsuits. Proponents are using the same rhetoric as they use elsewhere, ignoring nursing home deaths, neglect, and physical abuse in Tennessee nursing homes, that makes the abuser (the negligent nursing home) the victim.

Those wanting to limit compensation for Tennessee nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits note that last year Tennessee nursing homes had the highest liability in the nation due to juries (of one’s peers) awarding too much money to those who were injured. They want to limit the decision of citizens and reduce the culpability of nursing homes.

Their solution to these "rampant" nursing home abuse lawsuits? Not better service and nursing home care, not a minimum limit on the amount nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuits should receive that would scare caregivers into proper employment and oversight practices--no, neither of these.

Their solution?

Put a set price on what your mother or father’s life is worth, what bedsores are worth, what sexual abuse is worth. Such price tags have only one purpose: Let the nursing homes guilty of abuse calculate how they can still turn a profit while allowing abuse and neglect and the subsequent occasional losses in Tennessee court.

This legislation, introduced yesterday by state Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), aims to place nursing home abuse lawsuits under the same restrictions as Tennessee’s medical malpractice and workers comp lawsuits, thereby limiting plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and awards for “non-economic losses” and putative damages.

The effect of such limits is to discourage Tennessee personal injury attorneys from taking nursing home abuse/neglect cases. Reducing the amounts the injured or their survivors may recover has the direct effect of reducing the quality of the plaintiff’s lawyers representing nursing home cases.

Expert testimony and case preparations are expensive, and many dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys such as myself pay these costs out-of-pocket. While nursing homes can afford high-priced defense lawyers’ fees, most of my injured clients cannot. Instead, I earn a small portion of what my clients are awarded for their or their loved one’s injuries and other damages. I then reinvest this money to be able to afford to take on the next series Tennessee nursing home abuse cases.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, where state law limits the recoveries in nursing home lawsuits, a nightshift nurse has been charged this week with raping a partially paralyzed nursing home resident and 13 other patients (though he claims to have abused nearly 100 men and women since the 1980s). These 14 accounts are those that can be verified through a review of the nursing home medical records, suggesting that evidence for this abuse existed and the nursing home is likely at fault.

Should Tennessee nursing home residents be limited like these Ohio abused nursing home residents in the recovery of their “non-economic losses”? I don’t believe that’s a question I have to answer, though it’s a question Tennessee lawmakers are hoping you won’t ask. Whever you stand let your legislature know. You can contact them at http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/.

If you suspect a loved one to be a victim of a nursing home abuse or neglect in a Nashville nursing home or any facilitated care facility in Tennessee, contact me, Jim Higgins, attorney-at-law for a free consultation. HHP’s toll-free nursing home abuse hotline is 800.705.2121 or you can fill out our TN nursing home abuse/neglect form.

Nursing Home Complains about oversight

December 31, 2007 by Jim Higgins

I recently read an article on our local paper, The Tennessean. The article was from a lawyer who represents nursing homes. He was complaining as to how costly litigation is for the nursing home and that he believes the government is being to picky on their inspection of the homes. Despite these complaints I didn't read an answer to stopping the litigation or to preventing the nursing homes from being cited for not protecting their residents from harm. I assume the nursing homes just wants to have any scrutiny to stop.

Guess what? I have a better idea to stop the lawsuits and annoying citations from he Tennessee Department of Health. Start taking care of your residents. I don't understand how this "industry" fails to see that everyone would be better off if they would worry a little less about profit and a little more about the residents. Almost every case I pursue I meet workers who tell me they didn't have enough help at the home to give residents the care they need. I honestly believe if the homes would hire just a few more qualified workers they would not have to worry about lawsuits or citations.

I would love to never file another nursing home neglect suit again in my life. If the industry wants to make that happen they should stop complaining bout people picking on them and start giving the residents who rely upon them good care.

Tennessee Man Charged in Nursing Home Rape

December 9, 2007 by Jim Higgins

There appears no getting away from nursing home abuse this month as nearly 300 Nashville nursing home residents look for new homes and facilitated care after Medicare and Medicaid was cut this week form McKendree Village for nursing home violations. Meanwhile, state representatives heard from Tennessee nursing home care advocates this week on the need to put more emphasis on home and community-based care, as I discussed in this previous nursing home abuse blog. Lastly, and most unfortunately, Nashville police are charging a nursing home worker with the rape of a nursing home resident.

Nursing home sexual abuse is a difficult subject to discuss. Unfortunately, this difficulty does not prevent it from being issue. No, nursing home sexual abuse is more common than we comfortably admit--and too often more common than nursing home staff and law enforcement care to publicize, investigate, or acknowledge. The case this week fits the usually mold for nursing home sexual abuse. I hope that my reporting its details here in the Tennessee Law Blog may help readers identify sexual abuse in those trusting a Tennessee nursing home to their for the care and protection.

After allegations were made in May, last Wednesday (12/05/07) police finally arrested the 44-year-old male medical worker accused of the aggravated rape of a 70-year-old female nursing home resident at Madison Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. After a thorough investigation and conclusive DNA evidence, a warrant was finally issued for the nurses assistant’s arrest. Though it is unusual that the health care worker did not have a criminal history, his choice of victim for sexual abuse is common for nursing home abuse cases: The nursing home victim had dementia.

Dementia patients have a higher frequency of nursing home sexual abuse because predators suspect their accounts will not believed. One must wonder if the victim’s dementia was the reason it took Nashville police over half a year to bring charges against the male worker. Fortunately, this was not a case of the nursing home dragging its feet; Madison Health and Rehabilitation staff began an immediate investigation and reported the allegations of sexual abuse to the police. The Tennessee Department of Health is also conducting its own investigation to assess how this rape was permitted to occur and what can be done to ensure no other rapes or other forms of sexual abuse will occur in the nursing home.

Prevent Sexual Violence in Tennessee Nursing Homes

Nursing home sexual abuse is a delicate subject. Most nursing home residents do not feel comfortable discussing issues of sexuality and abuse. Sometimes they feel intimidated by staff or a sense of powerlessness. Sometimes they feel guilty, as if they were somehow to blame for the rape or inappropriate sexual conduct.

It is important not to compound feelings of guilt or shame by avoiding discussing the subject if it concerns sexual matters. Just because your nursing home loved one has a history of fibbing or confusing fantasy with reality does not mean you should ignore their accounts of sexual abuse out-of-hand. Such allegations are serious. It does not matter how many times they have “cried wolf.” This lack of belief is exactly what nursing home sexual predators look for.

My legal staff and I work throughout the state with Tennessee victims and families of Tennessee victims of sexual and physical nursing home abuse. For a free consultation, fill out our quick nursing home attorney contact form.

Another Tennessee Nursing Home Blog (McKendree Village)

December 3, 2007 by Jim Higgins

For this week’s Tennessee Law blog entry, I’d hoped to define workplace discrimination under Tennessee employment law and discuss how many recent class action discrimination cases are not the result of meanness or maliciousness on the part of an employer. Instead, I’m pushing this article back to report what will hopefully prove the last Tennessee nursing home abuse story for 2007.

Nashville nursing home McKendree Village, one of Nashville’s best-known nursing home facilities, on Friday became the 21st Tennessee nursing home in 2007 to have admissions suspended due to violations.

Tennessee Department of Health officials have fined McKendree Village $15,000 and suspended resident admissions to the 40-year-old Nashville nursing home for what investigators claim were a variety of violations. From the Tennessee investigators’ report, the federal government has ended Medicare and Medicaid payments to the Nashville nursing home.

McKendree Village is a 300-bed nursing home located Hermitage, TN (East Nashville) and has a covenant relationship with the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

If you need the services of an experienced Nashville nursing home abuse lawyer, call Higgins, Himmelberg & Piliponis at (615) 353-0930 or fill out HHP’s quick and easy contact form to speak with either myself, Attorney Jim Higgins, or one of our Tennessee nursing home abuse lawyers. Consultation is always free.

Correcting Tennessee Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

November 26, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Nursing home abuse--like most widespread, longstanding problems--unfortunately doesn’t make the news very often. It’s usually only publicized when some new Tennessee nursing home is closed because of care violations, staff abuse, or general neglect. That’s why I found it refreshing when NewsChannel 5 (Nashville) reported Friday on the general issue of Tennessee’s negligent nursing home care and not just on a single nursing home's violations.

Anchors opened the story with simple facts about Tennessee nursing home suspensions (20 state-suspended admissions in 2007, three times 2005’s number of nursing homes) and covered much of the same ground I’ve blogged about this past year, including the Tennessee Veterans Home in Murfreesboro’s multiple cited violations for preventing violence among their residents and the three nursing homes whose Medicare was cut off because of violations and closed in 2007 (Cornelia House in Nashville, Mitchell Manor in Lebanon, TN and the Ripley Healthcare Center in Ripley, TN).

Again, the general poor care of these individual Tennessee nursing homes was not the story. NewsChannel 5 instead chose to explore how it is difficult and unfair to Tennesseans that options for better care or home care are not available. Their suggested solution, and you can read more here, is to make managers and nursing home staff “worry about their jobs” by expanding options for facilitated care for our Tennessee elderly.

“Of the more than one billion dollars spent by Tennessee and the federal government on long term care, 99 percent goes to nursing homes. It's the highest rate in the country. The state rarely helps people take care of a loved one at home.”

While this may be a step in the right direction, the other way of reducing abuse does not involve making the overworked nurses and nursing home staff “worry about their jobs” or subsidizing home care. Instead of shooting the messenger, we can hold accountable those who own nursing homes who have a larger control of their conditions. Owners are the ones who cut jobs in Tennessee nursing homes and turn a hefty profit off Medicare (as I’ve blogged here). Their decisions often determine whether or not residents will have the personal attention necessary to prevent falls, bedsores, and others forms of negligent nursing home injuries.
These persons listen to a bottom line and profits. The way to cut into the profits made from inferior care is a nursing home abuse lawsuit. Such nursing home lawsuits not only help relieve the injured or their survivors of medical bills and costs, they promote better quality care across the board. Fill out HHP’s quick contact form to speak with me about any questions or concerns you may have.

Veterans Home Cited for Neglect

November 12, 2007 by Jim Higgins

The recent citations Tennessee Veterans’ Home in Murfreesboro has received for nursing home neglect have been receiving some news coverage of their own today, perhaps because it is Veterans Day, perhaps because of the two women greeting the patriotic parades today in downtown Nashville with pictures of two veterans who had fallen not during combat but, according to their survivors, from neglect in the Murfreesboro veterans’ home.

Some have commented that such a display at such a time is disrespectful. As a personal injury attorney representing the injured and survivors of many Tennessee nursing home abuse cases, I am unconvinced.

Rather, what better time to bring attention to the mistreatment of our veterans than on the day we honor them?

Tennessee Veterans’ Home in Murfreesboro is a 140-bed nursing home is owned by the State of Tennessee that has frequently been cited for nursing home violations.

Of the five most recent violations, Tennessee nursing home regulators found three were of the “immediate jeopardy” category, meaning these deficiencies put the Murfreesboro nursing home residents’ health and safety in immediate danger. Because of these violations, the veterans’ home cannot accept new patients and will be fined until these deficiencies in care are corrected.

Tennessee regulators had previously levied fines and forbidden the nursing home from admitting new patients, 3 times in the past 16 months.

In the most recent inspection, a veterans’ home resident with a history of aggressive, violent assaults on other residents was found to have razor blades on his person, carried with violent intent after striking another resident. Another resident tried choking a resident for hollering. Again, these weren't the first instances of violence or the nursing home neglect that allows for such resident-on-resident violence. A previous inspection in June had found violent attacks among patients, including one requiring hospitalization of the veterans’ home resident.

Continue reading "Veterans Home Cited for Neglect" »

Nursing Homes Ownership May Deter Abuse Lawsuits, Promote Neglect

October 1, 2007 by Jim Higgins

As part of their ongoing reportage of the graying of America, the New York Times Business Section has released a report on an increasing and disturbing trend in nursing home care: private investment companies buying national nursing home chains, having their shell corporations with little funds run the homes on a shoestring budget, and profit off the nursing home industry. The results can be death, neglect and abuse.

The article is entitled “At Many Homes, More Profit and Less Nursing” by Charles Duhigg and is worth checking out for its information on how big business profits on nursing home care. The online article also has a great presentation on how these investment firms are able to channel profits up the corporate ladder while keeping the lowest rungs running the nursing homes bereft of funds.

The Times article also details what nursing home abuse attorneys have known for years: Getting justice for those abused in nursing homes has gotten a whole heck of a lot harder.
You can’t get blood from a stone, and the big investment firms know this. The lower rungs that provide the actual services to nursing home residents and that own the nursing homes’ assets are underfunded, despite being forced to cut costs and corners. Instead, profits are sent up the corporate ladder of ownership to the parent investment companies where it is safe from nursing home abuse fines from government agencies as well as from nursing home abuse lawsuits. So when a jury awards the victim of a negligent nursing home a monetary award, there’s no money in the shell company to pay, and in recent years these straw men companies have proved scarecrows to personal injury lawyers scaring them away from complex nursing home abuse cases.

The Higgins Firm maintains its dedication to plaintiffs who have suffered abuse, injury, or death while in a nursing home. If your loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse, let The Higgins Firm's nursing home abuse attorneys help.

Third Tennessee Negligent Nursing Home in Two Months

September 4, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Another Tennessee nursing home is in hot water. Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper has suspended admissions to yet another Tennessee nursing home. The most recent culprit of providing inadequate facilitated care is Beech Tree Manor, a 110-bed nursing home located in Jellico, Tennessee, north of Knoxville near the Kentucky border.

Last Friday, the nursing home was ordered to suspend admissions and fined $1,500 by the State of Tennessee with a recommended federal penalty of $6,175 a day be imposed until the violations are corrected. This was a result of earlier investigations that found violations in quality of care and nursing service standards.
Nursing homes are at heart businesses, and suspended admissions and levying fines are the main way the state can make sure a nursing home cleans up its act. The order to suspend admissions remains as long as conditions remain below standard. The written order must be posted at the entrance of the nursing home in plain sight as a warning and notification to those whose family members might have suffered nursing home abuse.

HHP attorneys review nursing home neglect and abuse cases throughout the State of Tennessee. If you suspect abuse in your loved one in a Tennessee nursing home, contact us.

Tennessee Nursing Home Cited for Health and Safety Violations

August 19, 2007 by Jim Higgins

A new month, a new Tennessee nursing home facing fined and havingadmittance suspended. The newest culprit is the 15-bed, Hartsville facility Sun Valley Retirement Home. Here, according to the Tennesseanevening edition, residents were treated to soiled linens, potentiallytainted food, improperly administered medications, and inadequatemedical attention and safety precautions.

As readers of the news, we wonder how conditions could get so bad. Assons and daughters, we want the best for our loved ones in another'scare and shudder when we read such reports. As a trial attorney, I'msick and tired (but mainly just sickened) of seeing pictures ofdecubitus ulcers (bedsores) and listening to nursing home managers andstaff pass the responsibility buck between them.

If you have a loved one under the care of another, make sure to alterthe times when you visit your loved one in the nursing home and have aconversation with staff and other residents. Click for more informationon the warning signs of nursing home abuse or click if you need to getin contact with a Nashville nursing home abuse lawyer concerning yourloved one in a negligent Tennessee nursing home

Tennessee Mornings Interview Regarding Nursing Home Issues

August 6, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee Mornings interviewed me with regard to nursing home issues. I have posted a portion of this interview.

Cornelia House Nursing Home Ordered to Suspend Admissions

July 23, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Cornelia House, located off Ellington Parkway near Shelby Bottoms Park here in Nashville, was ordered by The Tennessee Department of Health this weekend to no longer admit residents until it cleans up its act and provides a safe environment for those under its care. The 159-bed nursing home is also facing a $7,500 fine for recent violations brought to investigators’ attention by a complaint filed last month. An additional fine of $6,200 a day may be imposed until violations have been corrected. According to The Tennessee Department of Health, this is the fourth year in a row that Cornelia House has been sited for conditions that put their residents in immediate risk of harm.

Nursing homes are businesses. While they should provide a healthy and active environment to our elderly loved ones, the dollar is always their bottom line. Cutting costs often means cutting corners, such as providing inadequate attention to residents, using restraints instead of implementing fall plans or, as in one of the many citations issued against Cornelia House, having inadequate measures in place to prevent residents from wandering out the facilities.
Unfortuantly, it is not a surpise to hear about this sanction. Our firm has represented a number of families that have been victims of nursing home neglect. It is a pattern that must stop.

Tennessee Nursing Home Company Faces13 New Suits

April 2, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Life Care Centers of America Inc., one of the nation’s largest elder care providers based in Cleveland, TN, will be facing a class action suit filed earlier this month against 13 of its California care facilities.

Sound run-of-the-mill? Lets consider a few points of this buried Page 4 Los Angeles Times 3/17/07 story. The first concerns how many California facilities the company owns (and the answer is not for those with triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13): 13. All 13 had received multiple violations.

Now, secondly, the nature of these multiple violations (one branch received over 25 in one year). These are the minimum state requirements being violated. Think about your favorite restaurant. Then think about 25 health violations. Now, finally, think about not being able to leave your restaurant and having to eat that unfit food for years, and you get some idea the lives these residents lived. There’s no reason for a single violation, not to mention the more than 12 an inspection inspectors found every time they visited 1 of these 13 facilities.

Third, let’s clarify the idea of a nursing home company. Life Care Centers of America brings in approximatly a billion dollars every year and, according to the L.A. Times article. It has been alleged that nursing home companies increase their income by finding those who need the most care (because Medicare will pay more for them) and simultaneously reduce overhead by hiring less than the bare minimum staff.

As the attorney prosecuting this case Stephen Garcia says in the 3/17 home edition of the Los Angeles Times where I first began following this story, “It’s not an issue of the people on the floor not wanting to do their jobs. It’s that there’s not enough of them. It’s a matter of corporate greed at the corporate level, not at the caregiver level.”

So let’s clarify what is alleged in this suit. Life Care Centers of America wants to make money; the residents part of this class action suit want to punish the corporation by taking back some of that same money made off their misery. If this is accurate, more power to them.

4.1 million dollar verdict against Tennessee Nursing Home

February 24, 2007 by Jim Higgins

A McMinnville jury awarded the family of a neglected nursing home resident a judgment in the amount of $4.1 million after finding the patient received negligent care at a National Healthcare Corporation nursing home. Apparently the Tennessee jury was so appalled by the treatment the also awarded the family a multimillion dollar punitive damage award. The judge, however, threw out almost all of the punitive damage award.

So how does this verdict impact the medical malpractice reform debate. Obviously, the proponents of medical malpractice verdict caps will say that this is an example of the need for a cap. However, if the treatment was so horrible that a jury felt this verdict was justified then what would a cap have accomplished. A cap would simply let the nursing home know that they can cut costs, neglect patients, increase their profits and never have any real threat of punishment. Corporations tend to place profits over people and it this is done in the nursing home industry in Tennessee then they need to be punished The only was to punish a nursing home is financially Take away the juries ability to do so and it will be much less likely that your loved ones will be treated with care. It will also make it difficult to find a lawyer to pursue a case because litigation is such an expensive process.

Senior Crimestoppers Keep Tennessee Nursing Homes Safe

January 12, 2007 by Jim Higgins

A woman in Indiana claims that her second stroke and the bedsores she acquired while recuperating was a result of nursing home neglect. The death of an elderly man in Chicago is suspected by the police to be a product of nursing home abuse. These are just two of the many news headlines this week highlighting the insidious problems of abuse and neglect in nursing home and elderly care facilities across the county.

Every year, over 500,000 reports of nursing home abuse and neglect are reported to the Adult Protective Services, and it is estimated that this staggering number represents only a quarter of the incidences that actually occur in caregiving facilities for elders. While much still needs to be done on personal, institutional, local, and federal levels to address this problem, the Tennessee-based organization, Senior Crimestoppers, has played a starring role in dramatically decreasing neglect, abuse, and other crimes in nursing homes in Tennessee and across the country.

Senior Crimestoppers is a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping elders in nursing homes safe from theft, neglect, and abuse, and has reported a 94% decreases in crime volume in participating homes. Senior Crimestoppers’ method is simple, proactive, and effective. Staff and residents are trained to recognize the signs of abuse and other crimes and are empowered to report suspected cases via an anonymous helpline call to the Memphis-based organization. Individuals are financially compensated for their honest reporting of harmful incidences—these have included everything from stolen dolls to sexual abuse by caregivers—and the evidence strongly suggests that it works.

Tennesseans should be proud to provide a home base for this organization that puts into practice many of the safety measures that the law, alone, can’t. If you have a loved one in need of, or living in, a nursing home, find out if it is a participant in Senior Crimestoppers. As this week’s national news headlines show, nursing home abuse and neglect are real problems and organizations like Senior Crimestoppers should be utilized to their fullest. However, if the preventative measures of thorough research, regular visits to your beloved elders, and participation in Senior Crimestoppers have not been enough to prevent the neglect or abuse of an elder you know, we can help you with our compassionate legal expertise.

NHC Nursing Home Settles Last Two Cases From Fire

November 22, 2006 by Jim Higgins

Following years of litigation, the last two lawsuits stemming from the NHC nursing home fire have been settled. These two cases were the last of 32 originally filed. Since the beginning of the lawsuit a majority of the Court documents have been sealed.

Now that the suit is over, the court file should be opened to public review. Whenever a tragedy like this occurs it is important for the public to have as much knowledge as possible. The more we know about events, the better chances we have to prevent a similar tragedy.

In each nursing home neglect case my firm pursues, I learn how the incident occurred and how it could have been prevented. Often we find that the home did not have enough staff to care for the patients or that the staff were not trained properly. We always hope, however, that when we expose the cause of the neglect the home will adjust to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

Memphis Nursing Home in trouble

October 29, 2006 by Jim Higgins

Admissions have recently been suspended at a Memphis, Tennessee nursing home. Also, the Tennessee Department of Health has fined the home for violations. According to records, the home was cited for failing to provided necessary basic services, failed to administer medications or treatment in accordance with doctor’s orders and failed to protect residents from accidents, injuries or harm. A special monitor will be appointed to review the nursing home's operations.
Again we have a home that people depend upon to take care of their loved ones that appears to have failed. Nursing home neglect is too common. It is a national crisis that needs to be addressed.
I believe the first step is simply to hire enough staff to take care of the residents and to hire people that are truly there to help. In order to attract professional, qualified staff the nursing home should pay a decent wage. This will require the homes to worry less about their bottom line and more about the welfare of the people who reside in the home.

Tennessee Court allows punitive damage claim

October 23, 2006 by Jim Higgins

A Nashville Judge has ruled that families who lost loved ones in a nursing home fire can pursue a punitive damage claim against the company that owned the facility for its alleged disregard of fire safety training and failures of the facility's employees on the night the fire occurred. It is alleged that the nursing home corporation, National Health care Corp. falsified fire drill reports and appointed an untrained maintenance man to oversee fire safety training at the facility, leaving employees without the ability to handle the crisis.

This case demonstrates the continued need to allow punitive damages in cases of reckless actions and gross negligence. If a jury determines that these nursing home deaths resulted from such acts they can punish the nursing home accordingly. Nursing Home Neglect cases need this punitive tool to ensure the industry operates properly.

Nursing home neglect prevention

October 8, 2006 by Jim Higgins

This week I met with several families who believe their loved ones were neglected or abused in a Tennessee Nursing Home. This week was not different from most. What is frustrating about my job is that by nature it tends to be reactive. By the time someone is sitting in my office their loved one has been injured or may have passed. My office does all we can to give people a voice and find justice but we can never undue the harm that has been done.

In an effort to help people detect neglect I would like to make a few suggestions. Visit the nursing home often. Get to know all of the employees you can on a personal level. Also, develop relationships with other residents and families. They can all watch out for each other. Communication with the facility is key.

Also, watch out for common signs of nursing home neglect. These signs may include the following:

# Untreated bed sores
# Unexplained wounds, cuts, bruises, or welts
# Bruises in a pattern that would suggest restraints
# Extreme and sudden weight loss
# Fleas, lice, dirt on resident or in the resident's room
# Fecal/urine odors
# Poor personal hygiene or other unattended health problems

Tennessee Nursing homes fined

October 3, 2006 by Jim Higgins

Over the past couple of months two Nashville nursing homes have been fined. Conditions in one home were found to be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the residents. The other nursing home failed administer medications and treatments as ordered, notify physician of changes in resident condition, report unusual incidents and investigate complaints, among other problems. Unfortunately, these reports occur too often.

So how is the neglect discovered? In general the Tennessee health care facilities department surveys the homes on a random basis. These surprise inspections often reveal that our loved ones are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Some inspections reveal actual abuse and neglect . Also, family members and staff have the ability to file complaints with the state to report mistreatment. These leads us to our next question. Why does this occur on such a regular basis?

I have represented many families in nursing home neglect case. Sometimes we find that a loved one has suffered an injury in the facility as the result of negligence, an accident. However, more often than not we find that a loved one suffered unnecessary injuries because the home did not hire sufficient staff to care for all the patients. In other words, they tried to increase their profits by cutting staff and thereby cutting costs. Profits over people.