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Nursing home employees who take and distribute demeaning photos or videos of patients on social media platforms should be forewarned: The feds are getting involved.iphones

These images, as our nursing home abuse lawyers have detailed, have included humiliating depictions of residents who are unclothed, covered in their own waste or even deceased. In some cases, the images show actual nursing home abuse. Most of the images are uploaded to a platform called Snapchat.

Following a journalism non-profit ProPublica series on the troubling issue, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government agency responsible for oversight of nursing homes in the U.S., has issued a memorandum to state health departments indicating:

  • Ensuring all nursing homes have clear policies that forbid staffers from taking demeaning photos of residents;
  • Requiring state health officials to swiftly launch an investigation into any complaints of such treatment;
  • Calling on nursing homes to report any workers who violate these policies immediately to state officials or other licensing agencies.

It is the state agencies that typically enforce and mete out the discipline in these cases. The federal intervention is noteworthy because these are the agencies that pay for the majority of nursing home residents’ care. Failure to abide by these directives could be a breach of patients’ basic rights to dignity and quality treatment, which in turn could be grounds to deny federal payment.  Continue reading →

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An elaborate network of Florida nursing facilities reportedly were successful in scamming Medicare and Medicaid programs out of $1 billion over the last 14 years. handcuffs1

According to The New York Times, the case involves bribes to doctors in Miami, hush money paid to witnesses and gigantic sums paid to shell companies. The Medicare black market has reportedly ballooned in the last 10 years, creating an atmosphere in which nursing home residents were put at great risk by the fact that they were often shoved in and out of the system when it often wasn’t necessary and getting services they often did not need.

The Times reported that doctors, pharmacists and medical personnel got kickbacks and billed Medicaid and Medicare for expensive drugs, procedures and health equipment that patients either didn’t receive or didn’t need.  Continue reading →

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Despite forceful calls by House Democrats and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) for a ban on mandatory nursing home arbitration agreements earlier this year, the new proposed rule by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) doesn’t contain any such provision.

The agency has toyed with requiring such a measure in the past, but it’s most recent proposed rule, while acknowledging “concerns” about forced arbitration, doesn’t go so far as to ban it.

This move was sharply criticized by The New York Times’ Editorial Board in an opinion titled, “Nursing Home Residents Still Vulnerable to Abuse.” Continue reading →

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It was only recently that health officials in Iowa learned it was not illegal for someone to share photos of a nursing home resident covered in feces. cellphone2

This loophole in the law was only discovered when a certified nursing assistant shared one such humiliating photograph of an elderly patient on the social media platform Snapchat. They moved to take action, but realized there wasn’t much they could do. In this case, the state law crafted to protect elderly, dependent adults from exploitation and abuse was last updated eight years ago – well before some of the most popular apps existed.

While the statute does prohibit sexual exploitation of a person by a caretaker, this particular photo didn’t show any genitals, so the law was not applicable. So while the nurse was fired, neither state health officials nor the police were able to take any action.  Continue reading →

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Most people don’t like to think about their parents or grandparents engaged in sexual contact. It may be an especially uneasy topic when that loved one is residing in a nursing home. But as a recent New York Times article reported, some nursing homes are setting policies that establish guidelines for residents and staffers on this very subject. The purpose is to ensure those who are aging in an institution don’t lose the opportunity for a comforting touch, but also aren’t victimized by unwanted advances.handsoftime

The difference between a healthy relationship and a potentially abusive one comes down to one thing: Consent.

Although it seems a fairly straightforward issue, it’s the one area where clarification is most needed. For example, can an Alzheimer’s patient give consent? Some nursing homes posit that they can, but only in certain circumstances. Continue reading →

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Police in Lantana have arrested an 87-year-old nursing home resident after a staffer reportedly walked in on him performing oral sex on a 94-year-old male resident at the facility. The alleged victim suffers from Parkinson’s disease and was not able to answer the staff or police questions beyond unintelligible responses. Despite this, the suspect reportedly told staffers the alleged victim “wanted him to” do what he was doing. oldhands2

Nursing home administrators, while declining to talk to reporters about the incident, did say that the media had, “blown the incident out of proportion.”

When it comes to sexual assault of an elderly, disabled victim, it’s hard to imagine making it a bigger deal than it is. The reality is that if these allegations are true, the facility failed in its responsibility to properly supervise residents, particularly where the alleged perpetrator was known to be “oversexed” and had gotten in trouble in the past for groping both staffers and other patients. Continue reading →

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The enforceability of nursing home arbitration agreements often rests on: Who signed it? And furthermore, what authority did that person have to do so? signing

It’s a key point in many nursing home abuse lawsuits because arbitration agreements prohibit residents – and their estates – from suing the nursing home in court. Instead, they are forced to seek resolution of any dispute from a binding arbitration. There are so many downsides to arbitration for the plaintiff, starting with the fact that arbitrators tend to decide cases more favorably toward the nursing homes. Beyond that, the proceedings aren’t public and arbitrators aren’t even bound to abide by the law.

Although arbitration agreements are binding contracts, the good news is that courts are analyzing them with a great deal more scrutiny than ever before. There are a few arguments that injury lawyers who handle nursing home abuse cases can approach this.  Continue reading →

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We all know nursing home abuse is far too common in elder care facilities across the U.S. But a new study suggests it’s not only the staffers that residents and their families have to fear. handsoftime

Reuters reports that researchers with Weill Cornell Medicine revealed the startling commonality of resident-on-resident nursing home abuse.

Of the 2,011 nursing home residents they tracked, 407 had been involved in at least one incident of abuse that involved another resident over the course of four weeks. That’s right, in just one month, 1 in every 5 residents suffered a resident-on-resident abuse incident.

Many of these cases involved verbal taunts, which were to blame in nearly half of the reported cases. However, physical assaults comprised 26 percent of the reported incidents. What’s more, these were only the incidents that were reported to researchers. There may be many more about which we do not know. Continue reading →

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The management structure of nursing homes has grow increasingly complex in recent years, making it more difficult to identify all responsible parties.

This is no accident. oldfolks

In fact, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in a 2009 analysis, nursing homes use these complex management structures as a way to confuse which entities might actually be responsible for the day-to-day care of patients and the policies set in place that affect everything from staffing to cleaning to nutrition programs to personnel issues. What this does is make it harder for residents who have been abused or neglected – or their surviving loved ones – from seeking recourse from the appropriate parties in civil litigation.

These management structures usually involve separating ownership of the real estate from ownership of the staffing company from ownership of the cleaning crews, etc. All these distinct sub-companies make it difficult to determine who holds the organizational assets and what the organizational approach is and who is actually delivering the services.  Continue reading →

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A nursing home abuse lawsuit has been remanded for a new trial – but solely on the personal injury claim, not the wrongful death claim – by the West Virginia Supreme Court. gavel7

The court ruled the lower court erred in failing to apply certain tolling provisions and discovery rules that would have allowed her to present evidence central to her case.

In Williams v. CMO Mgmt., the patient in question was an Alzheimer’s sufferer who resided at defendant facility for a decade, from June 2001 to June 2011. Following his death in early July 2011, plaintiff, as representative of decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit alleging personal injury and wrongful death as a result of neglect and abuse patient suffered while a patient at facility. Plaintiff also sought damages in connection with systemic issues at the nursing home related to understaffing, poor allocation of resources and budgeting and problems with certain policies and procedures. She wanted to recover for injuries her father had sustained from 2009 until his death.

At all times relevant, decedent was mentally incompetent.  Continue reading →

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