The hope for each of us is to live a long life and that, in our last years, we will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect.
Sadly, our Royal Palm Beach nursing home abuse lawyers know that is too often not the case. In those instances, it seems clear that someone – or many people, perhaps – should be held accountable.
Recently, a non-profit journalism center’s in-depth investigation into the death of a 95-year-old California woman again illustrates that we can’t always count on state or federal authorities to act when our elderly loved ones have been mistreated.
The Center for Investigative Reporting recently delved into the details and circumstances surrounding the patient who was found at dawn, crumpled on the floor at an assisted living facility in Southern California. The 95-year-old’s right arm had been broken at the shoulder. Both eyes were blacked from bruising. On her upper lip was a deep gash. It seemed there was no question she had beaten.
The nursing director at the time called the scene “gruesome.”
The woman who had reportedly cared for her that night had been highly vocal about her dislike for certain patients. She often said she wished she could simply medicate patients to make the job easier. Of this woman in particular, she told a colleague, “I can’t handle her.”
Although the aide claimed the woman had fallen, her injuries appeared far too severe for that to have been the only thing that happened.
The elderly woman lingered in life for a few weeks after that. However, her mouth was so swollen that she couldn’t eat or drink. She died of dehydration three weeks later.
Several staffers voiced their concerns that the aide on duty that night had attacked the elderly woman.
The investigative reporting center said that despite this, nothing really happened. The state’s Department of Public Health, charged with monitoring and licensing home health aides and nursing assistants, barely touched the case. It was apparently lost in the shuffle of some 900 other similar cases that were shelved over the course of about seven years. A number of those included cases where the circumstances appeared undeniably suspicious.
Although the state’s Department of Social Services prepared a detailed report on the incident, it was never reviewed by the health department. The coroner’s office indicated her cause of death was “undetermined,” but asked for further information, which was never provided.
The local police handed the case to the county sheriff’s office. However, the criminal investigation was put on hold, pending some finding from the health department.
This woman died in 2006. Only earlier this year did the health department close the case, finding the abuse allegation to be “unsubstantiated.”
From there, the sheriff’s department formally opened a criminal investigation. However, no charges have been filed.
The aide believed to have harmed the patient resigned only a few days after the incident. She took another job in the same field, but was later fired. Her record has since been erased from the state’s licensing database.
The health department would later issue a statement, expressing regret that the case’s resolution wasn’t placed high on the list of priorities. Beyond that, however, it has made no further comment.
In California, suspected crimes and violent acts in particular are required to be reported to the state attorney general’s office. However, the investigative reporting center found that after 2009, the agency virtually stopped sending any patient abuse death reports to state prosecutors.
Similarly, by 2009, the state reported a backlog of nursing home abuse allegations nearing 1,000. By the following year, most of those cases were closed without explanation, most without investigators ever even visiting the site where the alleged crime occurred.
The bottom line is that you can’t always rely on the government to act. If you suspect your loved one has been harmed by either a nursing home staffer or fellow patient, call us today to learn more about how we can help.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Infographic: Caregiver abuse cases dismissed quickly and quietly, Sept. 9, 2013, By Lauren Rabaino, Center for Investigative Reporting
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