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When Elder Care Facilities Cling to Patients Whose Care Exceeds Their Abilities

The woman in Room 101 was dying.

That might not have been so unique for someone residing in an assisted-living facility, designed for those who require help with day-to-day tasks, but not necessarily around-the-clock medical care.

But it was why she was dying that would later become an issue. As our Vero Beach nursing home abuse lawyers understand, the retired teacher’s body was being ravaged by bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers. In all, she had five. One at the base of her spine had become so deep, so infected and gangrenous, that required surgery.

As journalism non-profit ProPublica would later report, a wound care expert opinioned that she was battling numerous strains of bacteria from the gaping wounds in her flesh, and that it had likely been several months since she had been treated.

She was also suffering from severe malnutrition.

In and of itself, this standard of care is appalling. What is even more troubling is that in California, where the patient in Room 101 resided, the law states that someone with pressure sores be moved to a facility more equipped to handle that intensive level of care, either a hospital or 24-hour nursing home facility.

The patient in Room 101 died. The center responsible for her care was fined for failing to move her to a more appropriate facility.

But why wouldn’t they have done so in the first place?

In a word: money.

In this case, the assisted living facility had been paid some $12,000 to cover the patient’s room, meals and care for just three months. Aides at the facility would later reveal that they clandestinely rubbed cream into the wounds to help ease the pain. This was despite the fact that they were not medically trained or authorized to do so. However, they felt it was the least they could do when the hire-ups had directives to retain patients as long as possible – regardless of the patient’s condition.

An internal memo discovered from 2008 at the facility discussed the “back door” priority. That is, they wanted paying customers who moved in to never move out, or in other words, “go out the back door.” One directive even indicated in all-caps: “KEEP THE BACK DOOR SHUT!”

Of course, those who might exit out that “back door” would be those who required an increased level of care than what the facility could provide. This bolsters the occupancy numbers and ultimately the pocketbooks of the facility, but at the cost of jeopardizing the health and well-being of the patient.

ProPublica recently teamed up with reporters from PBS Frontline to sift through thousands of pages of regulatory documents from this same company in seven states, including Florida. What they found was that in the last six years, the company has been cited in every state for for holding on to residents who should have been relocated to receive a higher level of care.

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

Additional Resources:
When death is better than a nursing home, Aug. 4, 2013, By A.C. Thompson and Jonathan Jones, ProPublica

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Abuse From Fellow Patients a Growing Problem, July 20, 2013, Vero Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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