Nursing Home Abuse
This Week is About “Celebrating the Journey”
May 12th, 2012
This week—May 13 to 19—is National Nursing Home Week. The theme for 2012 is “Celebrating the Journey,” which reminds us all to recognize and honor the lives and milestones of the older adults in our lives. According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA):
Celebrating the Journey reminds us that every life should be honored, every life’s story needs to be told and that every day we have the chance to begin writing a new chapter. Whether the day is filled with comedy or drama, nursing home residents and caregivers are co-authors and leading characters in each other’s life story.
Today is about living life to the fullest, irrespective of age, infirmity or disability. There is no fixed formula to follow or guide the process, just the quiet routines of daily caregiving, meals, activities and, let’s hope, visits from family and friends. They bring the joy that comes from the heart of a loved one.
Nursing Home Week is the perfect time to remember to spend a little extra time with loved ones who are no longer able to live independently, and to make sure that the quality of the care they are receiving is what you hoped and expected.
At HensonFuerst, we advocate for nursing home residents throughout the year. We work with residents and their loved ones to make sure that cases of abuse or neglect are addressed, and that the rights of nursing home residents are protected. That’s our own contribution to “Celebrating the Journey.”
Hepatitis Outbreak in Assisted Living Facility Kills Five Residents
November 11th, 2010
Glen Care of Mount Olive Assisted Living has some explaining to do. According to an article on WRAL.com, North Carolina health officials have reported that five residents of the facility are suspected to have died in an outbreak of hepatitis B. The residents ranged in age from 63 to 83.
At least three other residents have become ill, but survived.
Hepatitis B is a contagious illness that is transmitted only by exposure to infected blood or other body fluids. It damages the liver. In early stages, hepatitis B causes fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. As the liver starts to fail, patients will have dark-colored urine and will develop the yellow skin and eyes that are the hallmark of jaundice.
Donnie Ballard said that his 72-year-old father-in-law was diagnosed with hepatitis B at Glen Care and was hospitalized after becoming disoriented and weak. His father-in-law died at the hospital, according to an obituary by the funeral home that handled his arrangements.
Ballard said that Glen Care never notified his family about the disease and that the family got the news from hospital doctors.
“The trust is gone,” Ballard said after his father-in-law was hospitalized in late October. “I’m not sure how it would come back.” [from WRAL.com article.]
Although state officials are not sure how the outbreak occurred, they suggested that it may have started with infected medical equipment.
I don’t know about you, but that does not set my mind at ease. Infected medical equipment? How irresponsible does a care facility have to be to allow infected medical equipment to be used (or re-used)? Especially these days, when Purell hand sanitizers are a common part of households and offices, and dentists won’t even look in a mouth without donning latex gloves and a face mask. What type of infected medical equipment could have been used on all these patients? Did Glen Care of Mount Olive reuse needles? Did they reuse catheters? How can this possibly be explained in a way that does not drop responsibility straight on Glen Care of Mount Olive?
If you believe that you, or someone you love, was injured as a result of poor or neglectful care in a long-term care facility, contact the nursing home abuse lawyers of HensonFuerst. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Click here to read the entire WRAL.com article
Click here to go to our HensonFuerst Nursing Home Abuse information page
California Nursing Home Lawsuit Settled for Millions
September 10th, 2010
Patients and their families won a class action lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., which operates 22 assisted living facilities in California. Although the jury originally awarded $670 million, the case was settled for $50 million. Yes, it’s much less, but it also means that the patients will actually get compensation now, while they are still alive.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. was found liable for understaffing at its nursing homes–patients didn’t receive the minimum amount of nursing care required under California state law. Although the group did not admit doing anything wrong, it agreed to the settlement dollars.
The lawyers of HensonFuerst are heartened by the original verdict. Nursing home residents are routinely neglected and often abused, and we are happy to see that the good guys sometimes win. The only sour notes in this story are that the settlement ended up being only about 7% of the original verdict…and that Skilled Healthcare didn’t have to admit that it had done anything wrong.
We hope that this verdict serves as a caution to other nursing home operators—follow regulations, take care of residents, and put their health above the quest for money. Everyday, HensonFuerst Attorneys fight for the rights of abused and neglected elderly nursing home residents. We will continue to speak for them and, when necessary, to see that justice prevails.
To read more about this story, see the full article here: Los Angeles Times nursing home verdict story
Retirement Home Residents Removed from Substandard Facility
August 24th, 2010
WRAL reports that Hill Forest Rest Home in Chatham County (Goldston, NC) had its license suspended today after an on-site visit found that conditions presented:
“…an imminent danger to the health, safety and welfare of the residents, and … emergency action is required to protect the residents,” officials [from the Adult Care Licensure Section of the Division of Health Service Regulation] said in a letter to Warren Gold, administrator of Gold Care Inc. in Rocky Mount, which runs the retirement home. [from WRAL.com]
The 24 residents of the facility are being relocated.
According to the news report, Hill Forest has a long tradition of substandard care. In 2008 and 2009, inspections turned up several violations, including lack of food for the residents. In March 2010, its license was revoked, but residents remained because the owner of Hill Forest Rest Home appealed the decision.
WRAL’s article makes it sound as though things went from bad to much, much worse:
An April inspection found moldy showers, roaches and flies in the kitchen, residents using bed sheets to cover windows for privacy and bathroom doors propped open, according to state Department of Health and Human Services records. A follow-up inspection in June found violations of fire and electrical codes and exterior doors that didn’t lock properly, records show.
If the June violations of fire and electrical codes didn’t cause an immediate shut-down of the facility, it makes one wonder what the inspectors found this time around.
People in nursing homes, rest homes, retirement homes, and assisted nursing facilities deserve the best care a society has to offer, not the worst. Residents and their families should never have been subjected to this kind of a nightmare…one that lasted, presumably, for several years. It’s shameful that Warren Gold and Gold Care, Inc., seem to have put playing the system above caring for senior citizens.
Stories like these are exactly why HensonFuerst Attorneys spend every day fighting for the rights of abused and neglected elderly residents. Thousands of other seniors are stuck in homes just like Hill Forest, individuals who are at the mercy of the facilities they live in. People who need someone to stand up for their rights…and their basic human dignity. The HensonFuerst nursing home abuse team provides a voice for those who cannot always speak up for themselves, and for families who don’t know how to make things better for their loved ones.
If you suspect abuse or neglect at any long-term care facility, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. We’ll walk you through your options, and help you take legal action to get your loved ones to safety. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so someone is always here to answer your call (1-800-4LAW-MED). You can also visit our Nursing Home Abuse webpage: HensonFuerst Nursing Home Abuse page.
Remember, if you have questions, the attorneys of HensonFuerst have answers.
State Calls for Fines for Britthaven of Chapel Hill Nursing Home
August 11th, 2010
According to an article on WRAL.com, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fine Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home for violations that led to the hospitalization of six patients in February. One patient, 84-year-old Rachel Holliday, died.
Ms. Holliday and eight other patients tested positive for opiates, powerful and controlled pain medications–and many of them had not been prescribed opiates at all.
Angela Almore, 44, of 724 Berwick Valley Lane in Cary, was indicted in June on one count of second-degree murder and six counts of felony patient abuse. Almore worked as a registered nurse at Britthaven. Prosecutors allege that Almore drugged the patients to make them more manageable. [from WRAL.com]
After an extensive investigation, the DHHS Nursing Home Licensure Section found that Britthaven of Chapel Hill “didn’t ensure patients were protected from abuse, its services didn’t meet professional standards, unnecessary drugs were prescribed and significant medication errors occurred.”
The requested fines were $2,500.00 for each violation, for a total of $20,000.00.
HensonFuerst’s Nursing Home Abuse team continues to conduct an independent investigation into these and other episodes of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you have questions about potential abuse, we’re here to provide answers. Call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-4LAW-MED.
Dementia in Nursing Homes Requires Special Care…and Compassion
August 5th, 2010
Aging isn’t always dignified. That’s especially true for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease dismantles a person’s life piece by piece: short-term memory is the first to go, followed by long-term memory, recognition of family members, recognition of self, all cognitive abilities. In addition, a person loses physical capabilities–the ability to walk, to talk, to balance, and even to eat.
Eventually, a person with dementia becomes totally dependent on the care of others. Because the medical needs are intensive, families are generally unable to provide adequate care and a loved one is placed in the hands of a long-term care facility.
We’d like to think that a nursing home that courts families of dementia patients would provide trained and compassionate care. Unfortunately, that’s not always true.
In a letter to the Chicago Tribune, Kim Warchol (of Dementia Care Specialists, Inc.) notes that nursing home residents can’t achieve their best lives unless nursing home staff are properly trained to provide safe, therapeutic care. She states:
“Based on my experience, between 60 to 80 percent of those living in geriatric nursing facilities have dementia, and well over 50 percent of those admitted to assisted living facilities have functional loss due to cognitive impairment. And with a new diagnosis being made every 70 seconds, long-term care facilities must empower their staff for the challenges ahead.” [Kim Warchol, letter to Chicago Tribune]
Her wish is that new laws be enacted to encourage facilities to move from an impairment-based practice to an abilities-based practice, which respects the person behind the disease. What a fantastic idea. Why does it have to even be mentioned as a “revolutionary” concept? It seems basic–dignity for all, but especially for those who lose everything else.
Feeding Dementia Patients with Dignity
A related article in the New York Times this week talks about the “revolutionary” concept of feeding dementia patients with dignity. After a person loses the ability to eat, the family typically is asked whether they would prefer to have a gastric feeding tube inserted so nourishment can be forced, or not…which is the equivalent of withholding nourishment. The decision is always heartbreaking.
But get this…some social workers are suggesting that there is a third option: to feed the patient carefully and slowly by hand, stopping when the person has enough, starts choking, or becomes agitated.
Doctors are calling this new option in palliative care “comfort feeding only.” In a recent paper in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the authors argue that feeding tubes do not necessarily prolong life in patients with advanced dementia, and that surveys indicate that a vast majority of nursing home residents say they would rather die than live with a feeding tube.
“Just imagine someone interacting with the patient, talking to them, cueing them into eating,” Dr. Teno [Joan Teno, professor of community health at Brown University's medical school] said, “as opposed to someone walking to the bedside and pouring a bottle of Ensure down the feeding tube.” [from New York Times article]
Dignity…who knew it could be so revolutionary. At HensonFuerst, every day we fight for the basic dignities of people in nursing homes. We agree that special training should be required of everyone who treats dementia patients, but we would like to take that one step further. Let’s require compassion, caring, and, yes, dignity for our parents and grandparents when they live their days in a nursing home.
HensonFuerst Attorneys provide a voice for people in long-term care, and their families. If you have questions about how your loved one is being treated and suspect neglect or mistreatment, feel free to contact us. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Nursing Home Reform in Illinois
July 31st, 2010
This week, Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed into law SB 326, a landmark nursing home safety reform bill. This legislation is designed to improve living conditions by increasing the number of nursing home inspectors and nursing staff, and increasing licensing fees. And–perhaps most important–there are provisions designed to reduce chronic violence that has been reported in the residences.
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, this new legislation was signed even as the state faces $13 billion budget deficit.
“This is historic legislation. It begins a new era of nursing home care in Illinois,” [Governor] Quinn said at the Thompson Center signing….
The law will beef up existing criminal background checks and psychological screenings of incoming nursing home residents and place the relatively small number of dangerous patients into separate, secure therapeutic wards. The most ambitious measures are designed to divert thousands of mentally disabled people from nursing homes and into an array of smaller, residential programs that provide intensive therapy and supervision for those who require it, but greater independence for those who don’t.
HensonFuerst is heartened by this measure taken by Illinois. We believe that life in North Carolina nursing homes could be improved if there were more inspections…and if there were very real penalties for those that failed, especially if they failed to improve on their areas of failure. Our nursing home abuse attorneys hear from family members of people who have been neglected or abused in North Carolina nursing homes. We do our part to try to keep seniors safe, but we can only have an affect on behalf of our clients–one person at a time. We would welcome this type of state-wide initiative to improve the lives of nursing home residents across the state.
[Michael Gelder, Quinn's top health care adviser] acknowledged that many industry insiders and advocates for the disabled are skeptical that the sweeping reforms can be achieved given Illinois’ deficit. ”We need the skeptics out there to keep our feet to the fire,” he said. [from the Chicago Tribune]
In North Carolina, we still need to start the fire!
(To read more about nursing home abuse, visit our dedicated web page: North Carolina Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers)
Problems at Britthaven Nursing Home in Nags Head?
July 22nd, 2010
From Eye on Dare blog (July 22, 2010):
Dare Commissioner Virginia Tillett said this week that Britthaven Nursing Home in Nags Head is not doing an adequate job in caring for the elderly residents of the Outer Banks who are entrusted to their care. Tillett said she has been hearing compliants for the past six months and asked everyone to make suggestions as to how the Britthaven corporation could be encouraged to do a better job. She said Senator Marc Basnight was also interested in the problem.
If you would like to submit your suggestions, you can reach friendly ears here:
Senator Marc Basnight: Marc.Basnight@ncleg.net (919-733-6854)
Dare Commissioner Virginia Tillett: email@example.com (252-475-5000, main switchboard)
Nursing Home’s Poor Quality of Care
July 12th, 2010
In North Carolina, if a restaurant scores below a “C” grade for sanitary reasons during a health inspection, the business must close until it passes inspection. If property owners allow their homes to fall into disrepair, the state can condemn the residence as unsafe, and in some cases, the building may be demolished.
But if a nursing home “fails” Medicare inspections…or if the facility has a history of unsafe practices, or of hiring workers who bring harm to the feeble and elderly residents, do you know what happens?
There’s a small fine. But that’s more than offset by the money Medicare will continue to pay into the nursing home on behalf of the patients living there.
Case in point: Britthaven of Chapel Hill. This nursing home also has been rated by Medicare as one of the worst in the country. Britthaven of Chapel Hill has been called out as a “Special Focus Facility,” which means that they have a history of persistent poor quality of care. In February, six Britthaven patients were hospitalized from morphine overdose…one patient died of complications. A nurse has been charged with murder in that case.
And now, this article in Saturday’s News & Observer, and this article in today’s newspaper.
If you have legal questions about nursing home care, feel free to contact the attorneys of HensonFuerst. If you have questions, we have answers.
Is Your Nurse Competent?
June 15th, 2010
The North Carolina Board of Nursing has issued a new statements designed to clarify the scope of practice for nurses.
These position paper provide guidelines about what the standards for competent care are for LPNs and RNs. Topics include what to do when assessing a patient, planning for a client’s needs, implementing the plan, evaluating outcomes, recording data, collaborating with others, and counseling the client and/or the client’s family.
Click the links to read the papers:
Position statement for RN practice.
Position statement for LPN practice.
While these papers are intended for nurses, everyone with a loved one being cared for by nurses should review them to make sure that competent care is being delivered. If you wonder how your nurse is following through on the guidelines, ask. Good care starts with good communication.
On the other hand, if it becomes clear that your nurse is not competent, or if you suspect that your loved one is being abused, talk with someone further up the chain of command–the head nurse or facility coordinator. If you believe that your loved one is in immediate danger, it is better to be safe than sorry: call 911.
And finally, if your loved one has been injured by abuse by a long-term care facility and you want to explore your legal options, call the HensonFuerst Nursing Home Abuse team–we’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reach us at 1-800-4LAW-MED. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.