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The number of for-profit corporate nursing homes (as opposed to non-profit facilities) has risen sharply over the last several decades, complicating efforts to hold facilities accountable for substandard care. Worse yet, these centers have a higher rate of poor care because they tend to value profits over the vulnerable people in their charge. Beyond that, owners of these corporate nursing homes often have a stake in other companies contracted to provide goods and services to the patients – everything from physical therapy to drugs to management to staffers. nursing home abuse

A recent analysis by Kaiser Health News and The New York Times explored how these “corporate webs” not only lessen the quality of care, but also make it more difficult for those seeking compensation for nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect.

Almost three-quarters of nursing homes in the U.S. have this kind of business arrangement, referred to as related party transactions. In some instances, facilities will contract out very basic functions, such as management of the facility or rent from their property. Those who run these organizations say it’s a means of simplifying operations and reducing corporate taxes. But of course, there is more to it. The owners of these facilities can score contracts they might not otherwise be able to land in a market that is more competitive, and from there, they can reap more profits that aren’t recorded in the nursing home’s financial records. While a typical non-profit nursing home might take home a profit somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 to 4 percent, owners of facilities with these related party transaction arrangements take home a profit margin of around 28 percent.  Continue reading →

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Nursing home neglect occurs when elderly and/ or vulnerable residents of a long-term care facility receive substandard care. Caregivers who fail to ensure patients basic needs, personal hygiene or medical care is up to appropriate standards face potential civil liability for any harm that results. In some cases, it may also lead to criminal charges. You should know that the criminal justice system has a higher proof burden and the two cases are handled completely separate, which means regardless of whether a criminal case results from your loved one’s nursing home neglect, you may still have grounds to pursue civil litigation against the assistants, nurses, doctors and facility administrators.nursing home neglect attorney

One recent alleged case of nursing home neglect in Georgia made national headlines, with plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit saying the 89-year-old WWII veteran died desperately begging for help that never came.

According to The Washington Post, the family placed a hidden camera in the room because they were anxious about him living in the nursing home. The man’s son later said his father was aware the camera had been installed in his room, but staffers were not. Now, it has become a key piece of evidence in the criminal case against two nurses and an aide who have been indicted on several charges, including murder and neglect. Continue reading →

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The question of whether individual nursing homes or state law should allow “hidden” cameras is being raised again in light of footage captured by the family of a 94-year-old resident of a Pompano Beach facility.nursing home abuse

According to ABC Local 10 News, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is seen struggling to get the man (who has dementia) off the bed. In the process, she causes him to fall into a chair. She then hits him on the head. In another clip, a CNA is seeing pouring mouthwash all over the man. This footage was especially telling because mouthwash contains alcohol. Alcohol dries out the skin, which can cause or exacerbate skin ulcers and bed sores. This particular individual suffered from stage three bedsores, and ultimately died from them, his family’s attorney now says. They are suing for wrongful death.

The man’s daughter said it was the camera that confirmed her worst fears. As her attorney noted, 99 percent of the time, the nursing home will deny any maltreatment. Absent any proof, some cases can be difficult to pursue, which makes the hidden camera evidence all the more valuable. It serves as undeniable proof of wrongdoing.  Continue reading →

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A recent in-depth analysis by South Florida journalists reveals dozens of nursing homes in Florida with a long history of failure to provide adequate care remain open and operational, putting current and future patients at serious risk.nursing home abuse

The News-Press in Fort Myers reports that in the last five years, the 55 lowest-scoring nursing homes in the state for the last 14 of previous 18 quarters racked up more than 100 – or more – violations that threatened resident health and safety. The bottom 46 of those have been sued in nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits alleging mistreatment or poor care. Nursing home owners denied those claims, but nonetheless settled 87 of them. The remaining 104 are still pending.

Unfortunately, it’s not as if nursing home fines for these violations are much of a motivator for change. On average, fines for serious violations are about $5,000, but often less. Now stack that up against the millions of dollars these facilities receive for taxpayer-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs. Although the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the state center responsible for licensing and regulating nursing homes, very seldom uses the biggest weapons in its arsenal to address these issues. That’s why in the last five years, only two nursing homes have been shut down and three were blocked from receiving further admissions. Continue reading →

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Nursing home safety advocates are calling on Florida lawmakers to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee certain rights to vulnerable residents in nursing homes and assisted living centers.nursing home injury

An incident of nursing home negligence in Orlando last year – resulting in a recently announced $1 million fine by federal authorities – is the latest to spark discussion of the need for such change. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the facility assigned a single assistant to supervise a trip to a local super store with nine residents – all of whom required around-the-clock care, five of whom were in wheelchairs and three who used walkers. One needed the bathroom but the assistant was nowhere to be found, so the man attempted it on his own. He ultimately lost control of his bowels and his balance, suffering a broken hip. When the attendant rushed to aid the man,  he neglected the others.

It was this incident (along with another wherein a patient did not receive important medical treatment) that resulted in a government investigation and subsequent fine. Nearly two dozen health code violations were cited, and the facility earned a spot on the national watch list of facilities that don’t correct repeat issues. Despite the fine, advocates for safer nursing homes say it doesn’t go far enough. They want a formal bill of rights added to the constitution, where it could not be easily rolled back by lawmakers or future presidential administrations squeezed or swayed by nursing home industry lobbyists and stakeholders.

One of those calling for change leads a national nursing home advocacy group, and says the public is largely unaware about the way these facilities are run and the risk they pose to residents. He noted it’s telling that even 12 nursing home resident deaths of heat-related illness after Hurricane Irma – all classified as homicides – were not enough to spur industry change. The facility may yet lose its license and Gov. Rick Scott has asked the facilities to maintain backup generators that can provide at nearly 100 hours of fuel so temperatures can stay at a safe level in the event the power goes out for an extended time. The governor has also asked for the panel that combs the state’s constitution every two decades for a determination potential changes pertaining to the protection of nursing home residents. Proposal 88 is now being considered by the commission and is the public hearings stage. If the panel approves it, the issue then goes to voters this fall.  Continue reading →

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The misuse of anti-psychotic medications in nursing homes across America has fallen from about 24 percent down to 16 percent in the last seven years, but remains a serious problem, according to a recent investigation of federal CMS data by Human Rights Watch. The 157-page report details the fact that an estimated 180,000 residents in nursing homes are dosed with anti-psychotic drugs, even though:

  1. The patient has no diagnosis that warrants its use;
  2. Studies have shown these medications can be harmful in older patients (it can double the risk of death among older patients with dementia);
  3. Facilities often don’t first obtain informed consent of the patient and/ or relatives.medication misuse

The report notes that while any decrease is welcome, there is concern that nursing homes might have found other drugs that can be used to pacify and sedate patients with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The title of the report begins with a quote from a nursing home industry insider pertaining to this misuse of medications: “They want docile.” Another term for this is “chemical restraints.”

Nursing homes are concerned with profits. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease require additional care and resources. That amounts to higher staffing levels – and less profits. Nursing homes combat this by sedating these patients, which in turn means they use less of the facility’s resources. Staffers may interpret expressions of distress or pain to be a willful act of disruptive behavior that needs to be suppressed. But using medication for staff convenience or as a means to discipline people is against federal law. Continue reading →

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A new state report blames a nurse and a nursing home for a medication error that proved deadly to a 53-year-old short-term resident. The Star Tribune in Minnesota reports the patient received a dose of powerful pain medication that was 20 times too potent, resulting in his death. nursing home medication errors

After receiving the wrong dose of the medication one evening before bed, he probably died shortly thereafter. However, paramedics weren’t called until the following morning, which would seem to indicate that the issue wasn’t discovered until that time. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although the nurse who delivered the fatal dose of oxycodone was first on the state health department’s list of those responsible, investigators also pointed the finger at the facility, which reportedly did not have a system that would track changes in the way powerful, high-risk medications – including painkillers – would be given to patients. The facility was fined a sum the state hasn’t disclosed, but has been allowed to remain open after adopting new medication protocol.  Continue reading →

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A Broward County Medical Examiner’s pathologist testified recently in county court that nursing home staffers at a Hollywood Hills nursing home had opportunity after opportunity to save patients from heat stroke in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Yet, staffers and administrators failed to seize those opportunities, instead never increasing their services to meet the enhanced needs of patients who were succumbing to unbearably hot summer temperatures with little respite. When it was all over, 12 patients lost their lives. nursing home abuse lawyer

The Sun Sentinel reports the pathologist’s testimony examined whether there were available remedies to help prevent heat stroke among the vulnerable adults at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center. What she discovered was that staffers weren’t doing anything really above and beyond their typical duties – even though they had totally lost function of their air conditioning units in blazing heat.

She relayed to the court there were no records that staffers sought to provide even rudimentary measures of relief, such as cold compresses, ice chips or cold water that would help lower patients’ temperatures to a safe level. This nursing home had “a real opportunity to save some lives here,” the pathologist was quoted as saying. Yet, they didn’t. Continue reading →

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Financial exploitation of the elderly is a serious and growing problem in Florida, where the aging population is expanding and there are increasingly fewer resources to help protect them. A new bill being considered by both state and house representatives (SB 1562/ CS/HB 1059) has been winding its way through various committees, so far gaining unanimous support. elderly financial abuse attorney

The bill is called Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult (as it protects primarily but not only the elderly) and would establish a cause of action for injunction for protection of adults vulnerable to exploitation, and establishes penalties for willful violations. It seems to protect vulnerable adults over 18 who are impaired in performing daily activities or in their ability to care for or protect themselves due to mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical or developmental disabilities or dysfunctions, brain damage or infirmity due to aging.

There are currently a few existing laws that outline protections against financial abuse of the elderly. For instance, current statute gives the Florida Department of Children and Families authority to initiate investigation of abuse, neglect or exploitation reports. Further, F.S. 415.111 allows for civil remedy (a lawsuit) for vulnerable adults who have been abused, neglected or exploited to pursue litigation against any perpetrator to recover both actual and punitive damages. Guardians or a personal representative acting on behalf of the individual can also pursue such a claim. Parties who prevail may be entitled to also be compensated for attorney’s fees, costs of the action and damages. Continue reading →

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The administrator of a Florida nursing home in Ocala has been suspended from his post and arrested on neglect charges after he allegedly failed to notify a nurse of a resident’s deteriorating health. nursing home neglect

The Gainesville Sun reports the nurse who was supervising the patient’s care reportedly told the 31-year-old administrator to let her know right away if there were any changes to the patient’s condition, following an outpatient surgical procedure. Despite this request, the on-duty staff reportedly contacted the administrator twice throughout the weekend to tell him the resident’s health was declining rapidly. He did not provide them with instructions for her care, nor did he contact the nurse.

The newspaper reports it’s not clear why the staff didn’t contact the nurse – or other qualified medical professionals – to intervene instead when it became clear the patient was doing so poorly. It’s also not exactly clear why it was the job of the facility administrator to contact the nurse when he was not the one on site caring for her. The administrator reportedly only relayed the message about the patient’s declining health when he returned to work on Monday. The nurse at that time told him to call 911 right away and have the resident taken to a nearby hospital via ambulance.

Police were contacted, and the administrator was subsequently suspended and then arrested on a charge of neglect of the elderly.  Continue reading →

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