Surprise Nursing Home Visits Can Yield Disturbing Finds

July 31, 2012 by Dean H. Freeman

Nursing home neglect in Davie and everywhere else is often predicated on the fact that few people follow up to see what's really going on. microscope.jpg

In fact, countless acts of abuse and neglect have been perpetuated by staff who rightly assumed that those suffering can't or won't report what's going on. Family members often live too far away to check on them and government oversight is often far too lax.

In a recent case in California, state investigators, acting on tips, made a surprise visit to a nursing home in Vallejo and uncovered some disturbing practices.

The report has only just now been making headlines after a non-profit combed through more than a dozen surprise inspection reports and posted them on their website. This particular inspection took place back in 2010.

They soon found one resident who was lying in a diaper that was soiled with feces. This might not be uncommon had the diaper been promptly change. However, not only was there old, dry stool inside the diaper, it took the staff at the facility more than an hour to change it after they had been notified by inspectors.

What's even more troubling is that while an investigation into the nursing home continues, it still has a three-star rating by the federal government's Nursing Home Compare website, which is a tool often used by family members to compare potential nursing homes for loved ones. This just shows how unreliable some of these sites are - and how important it is that once you do choose a nursing home facility, it's critical to follow up.

Since that surprise inspection in Vallejo, that same facility has received a total of 66 complaints, and the Department of Justice has fined it nearly $56,000 for 18 violations of patients' rights, safety, staffing and patient care.

The fact that a facility such as this is still in operation is more than upsetting - but it's not uncommon, whether you're in California or here in Florida.

Other recent surprise inspections include a March 2011 visit to a Vacaville facility, where investigators determined there were deficiencies in pain management, weight loss, staffing, infection control and the improper use of physical restraints.

However, even once the attorney general has won a civil injunction against a facility for these type of violations, it still is only granted the power to monitor the violator for a period of up to five years.

The problem with that there, as well as here, is budget cuts both locally and at the state level have limited how thorough those follow-up and monitoring efforts can be.

What that means is that it's up to family members. One of the best ways to do this is to stop by unannounced or at different times. When staffers know to expect you, they will often try to ensure that appearances are kept up for when you are there. Arriving at differing times and on varying days throws them off and may allow you a more realistic look at what's happening when you aren't there.

Some warning signs to be on the lookout for include:

1. Unexplained injuries that may include bruising, scars or welts;
2. Evidence of being restrained, such as ligature marks on the wrists;
3. Reports of a drug overdose;
4. Unusual or unexplained weight loss, dehydration or malnutrition;
5. Untreated bed sores;
6. Unsanitary living conditions, such as soiled bedding, dirt, bugs, or a loved one who is left unbathed.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez -- 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Surprise Nursing Home Inspection Exposes "Resident Neglect," By Katherine Mieszkowski, The Bay Citizen

More Blog Entries:
Poorly Performing Nursing Homes Fail to Improve During 3-Year Analysis, July 21, 2012, Davie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog