Articles Posted in Nursing Home Neglect

Twenty elderly men and women went without their daily medication in a senior living home in Palm Springs, CA because there was not medical technician on duty. In Paso Robles, a senior women fell in her bedroom and waited 22 hours for help even after she pushed the emergency button. These devastating incidents are only some of those reported against one of the nation’s biggest assisted living provide: Brookdale Senior Living.

A class action lawsuit was recently filed in a Northern California federal district court. The claim details these incidents and several other which allegedly took place in Brookdale owned facilities. The lawsuit says that inadequate staffing, improper training, and rising fees are a contributing factor and part of a “callous and profit driven approach”. Multiple residents, from several locations, claim they are not assisted for hours after a fall, are given the wrong medications, and left in their waste .

The California Assisted Living Association, an industry group, has declined to comment on the matter, and so have the relatives of those involved. The spokeswoman for Brookdale Senior Living, based in Tennessee,  says the lawsuit has no merit and the company is prepared to “vigorously” defend itself.

Eventually, many of us will spend time living in a nursing home. This does not need to be a negative or stressful transition. Instead, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience that also increases a persons’ safety, improves their health and overall wellbeing. The key is finding a great nursing home to live in since the facility and staff make all the difference in a persons’ quality of life.

What Makes a Great Nursing Home

There are several key factors that make one nursing home better than another. They include –

In February 2016 Playboy model and ‘Queen of Snapchat’, Katie May, died after visiting a chiropractor for a neck adjustment. Earlier in the week Ms. May had fallen during a photo shoot and injured her neck. She believed to have pinched a nerve and sought the help of a chiropractor on a Friday morning. By Monday, after a weekend of extreme pain, she suffered a stroke. The mother of one remained on life support until Thursday in which she was tragically proclaimed as being ‘brain dead’.

The incident left many to wonder how the 34 year old suffered a stroke, something which tends to be more common in older people over the age of 60. According to the L.A. County Coroner, the neck adjustment tore a major artery in Katie May’s neck. This led to the cutting of the blood supply, and eventually caused a stroke.

Can Chiropractic Adjustments Cause a Stroke?

As a law firm, we help victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. This is all too common with many elderly simply not receiving the quality of care that they deserve. Whether this means a failure to provide necessary medications or outright abuse, it is important to seek legal help as soon as possible.

New Rules Enacted to Protect Residents of Nursing Homes
Now, in an attempt to protect nursing home residents, new rules have been passed. These rules must be followed for a nursing home to receive money through Medicare and Medicaid. They include:

  • Binding arbitration is no longer allowed. In the past, nursing homes have required patients to enter binding arbitration agreements when they first became residents. This prevented cases from going to court and has kept many of the abuse issues swept under the rug. Now, nursing home patients must be allowed to file a lawsuit in court unless they agree to enter a binding arbitration agreement after a dispute has already been filed. For example, if a resident has a dispute a year after living at a facility, they can choose to enter an arbitration agreement but cannot be forced to do so. This provides greater opportunities for victims to recover financial damages after abuse.

Great news for families with loved ones in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. A new rule has been issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that will allow for patients in these facilities to file a lawsuit if something goes wrong. This is a drastic departure from what has been the status quo. Traditionally, most nursing home facilities require patients and their families to sign a contract that states any dispute must be resolved quietly through forced arbitration. The arbitration process is designed to keep costs down but it also keeps things quiet. Now, victims will have the opportunity to go to the traditional route by filing a lawsuit.  This is fantastic news for any patients and their families that have been frustrated by the system.

New Federal Rule Allows Families to Sue Negligent Nursing Homes
In arbitration, both sides hire an attorney and the case is heard by an arbitrator who is typically a retired judge or an attorney with extensive experience. There is no jury and the proceedings are completely private. Both sides present information to the arbitrator and then the arbitrator asks questions until they have reached a conclusion.  At this point they will enter a decision. With forced and binding arbitration, whatever the arbitrator decides is final. This can be problematic because you cannot appeal. In a trial, if one party is not satisfied with the decision or feels that something was done to infringe upon their rights or there was bias against them, an appeal can be made and the case can be heard by a new judge. This is not true of arbitration. If an arbitrator is biased or something is done incorrectly during the proceedings, there is typically no way to appeal and the decision will stand.

Preventing forced arbitration clauses in contracts is an important way to ensure that the elderly and their families have all options available to them and can take advantage of their full legal rights. This ruling is effective November, 2016. However, not everyone will be impacted by it. Nursing homes and facilities that do not accept Medicare or Medicaid do not need to abide by this new rule. Additionally, it does not change any existing contracts but will impact new ones. This is important for you to know because if you signed a contract in August, for example, you may still be under a forced arbitration clause. However, if you were to move your loved one to a new facility, their contracts should be under the new rule which would allow you to file a lawsuit in the event of a problem.

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

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

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

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

Vanguard Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

badges