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Carl v. Muskegon Cnty. – Vetting Nursing Home Staffers

In 2008, a man working as an in-home caregiver for an elderly couple in their early 80s suffered a psychotic break.

Three months into his assignment, the 6-foot-6-inch, 220-pound aide went ballistic. He threw food all over the kitchen. There were smatterings all over the wall, the appliances, the counter tops. When the husband went in to see what was going on, the caregiver attacked him. He threw liquid hand sanitizer all over the man’s head. He then urinated on the wife’s head. She had Parkinson’s disease, and was unable to care for herself. The aide then doused the couple’s carpet, furniture and family pictures with liquid soap.

The aide was later arrested and convicted for felony first-degree abuse of a vulnerable adult and sentenced to one year in jail. His name recently resurfaced again in the case of Carl v. Muskegon Cnty., in which the former aide is suing the doctor who treated him in jail, arguing the physician’s assertion he was not psychotic delayed treatment critical to his well-being.

Regardless of whether he is successful in his civil lawsuit, our Broward nursing home abuse lawyers recognize the entire incident raises questions about the degree to which in-home care giving services and nursing home facilities vet and supervise their staffers.

The reality is, many of those who work in these types of settings may have minimal training and earn little more than a fast-food worker. Making matters worse is the fact that many facilities tend to be under-staffed and poorly supervised.

While companies may not be able to anticipate every potential incident, they are responsible for properly vetting workers in an effort to reduce the chances of an attack.

For example, the federal government bars elder care facilities from hiring for direct patient-care positions workers who have previously been convicted of violence against or neglect of a patient. Unfortunately, many of those who go on to commit abuse or neglect in nursing homes may not have a prior history of that specific crime. However, there might be other indicators, such as arrests for domestic violence, assault or disorderly conduct.

What’s especially concerning, particularly in a more transient place like Florida, is that national background checks aren’t required. That means the company need only check the worker’s Florida criminal history.

A 2011 report from the Office of the Inspector General for the federal Health & Human Services division revealed that 92 percent of sampled nursing facilities across the country had employed at least one person with a criminal conviction. Of those, 44 percent involved property crimes, but there were a fair number with violent histories.

Even though it’s not required at the state or federal level, an intensive employee background search, one that might reveal not only potential violent tendencies but also relevant mental illnesses, is one of the best ways nursing home facilities and home health care firms can protect their patients.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Carl v. Muskegon Cnty., Aug. 15, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Increasing Number of Nursing Home Abuse Allegations, July 11, 2014, Broward Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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