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Nursing Home Abuse Case Involves Over-Medication

Parkland nursing home abuse lawyers were appalled to hear of a case of abuse out of North Carolina in which a nurse reportedly drugged nursing home patients so she “wouldn’t have to deal with them.”

As a result of this nursing home abuse, one of those patients died and more than a dozen others were hospitalized.

Although out-of-state, this story is very relevant here in Florida, where we have more than 85,000 nursing home beds. There may be other cases that we are not aware of simply because they are not reported.

Over-medication is a huge problem not only here but throughout the country, as we recently reported in our Boynton Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog.

In this case, the incident happened two years ago, over the span of two evening shifts in mid-February in the facility’s Alzheimer’s unit.

The first night, there were no reports of anything unusual. However on the second night, one of the patients in that ward began having severe breathing problems and she was rushed to the hospital. Doctors tested her blood for anything unusual and discovered she tested positive for opiates. Problem was, she had never been prescribed any opiates, and as an 84-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, she was unlikely to be using them recreationally.

The big-tip off that led to this particular nurse, though, was that a total of 14 patients in that unit were all suffering similar symptoms: breathing problems, chest pain and fatigue. The others were rushed to the hospital as well, each testing positive for opiates, although only one actually had a prescription for such a drug.

It wasn’t until an investigation was launched by the state’s top investigation bureau that other employees revealed they had seen the nurse handing out orange liquids to the patients, which she had apparently said would relax them, telling her co-workers she knock their (expletive) out. The other workers did not recognize this substance as having been prescribed to these patients.

Now, to digress for just a moment: These other workers saw that these patients were being systematically given something they should not have been, these other workers recognized it and said nothing until a woman’s dead and state investigators come knocking. This is deeply disturbing.

Criminal charges were eventually brought against the nurse, who ultimately pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five months in prison and 30 months of probation.

During the sentencing hearing, relatives of the woman who passed away said they had tried to care for her on their own, but she had wandered away in the middle of the night several times. It was then, they realized, that she would need full-time care. They believed they were getting that with this facility.

In speaking directly to the former nurse, the victim’s daughter told her that she betrayed the family’s trust and that of “an elderly, child-like person who didn’t know you were hurting her and didn’t know you were doing things to her that you shouldn’t have been doing.”

If you or a loved one have suffered from nursing home abuse in Parkland, West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez for legal assistance. 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Nurse pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter, patient abuse, By Beth Velliquette, The Herald-Sun

More Blog Entries:
Weston Nursing Home Abuse Watch: Why It Happens, May 22, 2012, Parkland Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Blog

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