Articles Posted in Elder Abuse

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are pressuring the Trump administration to protect nursing home residents’ right to take nursing facilities to court over alleged abuse, neglect, and sexual assault. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington have sent comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) opposing its proposal to reverse an Obama-era rule that banned nursing homes from putting language in resident contracts that require disputes to be settled by a third-party arbiter rather than a court. The attorneys argue that these types of clauses, known as pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements, can be procedurally unfair to consumers and can jeopardize the fundamental right of Americans to be heard and seek judicial redress for their climax.

When the rule giving residents the right to sue was first promulgated under the Obama administration, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and a group of nursing homes sued CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming that the rule violated the Federal Arbitration Act and that the agencies had overstepped their statutory authority in issuing the law. The AHCA said Congress has repeatedly rejected legislation to invalidate arbitration agreements. Under its proposed revisions, CMS said nursing homes would be required to write the arbitration agreements in plain language and explain the agreement to the prospective resident or his or her representative. Residents would also be required to acknowledge they understand the agreement. In November of 2016, a federal judge in Mississippi issued an order temporarily blocking the new rule from taking effect, handing a victory to its opponents. After this ruling, CMS said that it would reconsider the rule.

However, consumer groups and state attorneys general are fighting on. In their comment, the attorneys general stated that they do not oppose mutually agreed upon arbitration agreements that are reached to resolve a dispute at the time the dispute arises. Rather, they oppose the imposition of such requirements on families who, under pressure, seek to admit a loved one into a long-term care facility and may not be in a position to object to the inclusion of such clauses in admission papers. “These kinds of clauses are unfair to seniors and their families and limit…residents’ basic right of access to justice,” the attorney general for the District of Columbia said in a statement. “We are urging the Trump administration not to force vulnerable residents to sign away their own rights to gain the care they need.”

At least four lawsuits have been filed against a nursing home in Florida that was the site of eleven deaths in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The facility, known as the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, Florida, lost power during Hurricane Irma, which subsequently knocked out the facility’s air conditioning. All victims of the tragedy are believed to have died from heat-related conditions or from existing conditions that were exacerbated by excessive heat.

The first lawsuit, filed by the family of 94-year-old Rosa Cabrera, is based in negligence and seeks unspecified damages. Cabrera, a diabetic with weight problems, had her left leg amputated last year and her right leg amputated in March of this year, just one month before she was placed in the nursing home. In their lawsuit, the Cabrera family said that, as a double amputee, she suffered injury, pain, and distress inflicted by the center’s staff, who should have known that she could not care for herself or escape the “horrific conditions” at the nursing home. Stuart Grossman, the Cabreras’s attorney, said that Cabrera was assured by the rehab center’s staff that she would be safe from the storm as Hurricane Irma approached Florida. Instead, the home placed her in unnecessary danger that could have cost her her life. He said that the center’s conduct far surpasses a failure to meet a standard of care because Cabrera was forced to endure unbearable heat when the staff did not immediately respond to the escalating medical emergency.

The nursing home, which has had its operating license suspended since the incident and is under criminal investigation by state and federal regulators, has defended its procedures before, during, and after the storm. In a timeline, the center said that two Florida Power and Light (FPL) transformers—one that powers the building’s life safety systems and the second the air-conditioning chiller—flickered and came back on on the afternoon of September 10th during the storm, but then the power to the AC chiller went down and did not come back online. Nursing home operators said they contacted FPL, state regulators, and even Governor Rick Scott’s cell phone, but received no assistance. They said the staff set up 10 spot coolers and fans on the first and second floors, and eventually obtained additional spot coolers from Memorial Regional Hospital, across the street.But the rehab center’s administrator also admitted in the timeline that they did not call 911 to deal with the medical emergency and failing patients until 1:30 a.m. on September 13th, three days after the air conditioner went down. Five patients had already suffered cardiac arrest or respiratory distress by 4:45 a.m. on that day.

As our country’s population ages, elder care is becoming an increasing concern. Oftentimes, nursing homes and elder care facilities have compassionate, caring staff who take care of our elders when they can no longer care for themselves.  Are you able to determine the signs of elder abuse?

When we imagine our loved ones in a care facility, we expect that they would spend their days being assisted in every way by a loving healthcare professional. We hope that our loved ones are receiving stellar medical care, regular grooming, healthy and nutritious food. And we hope that they are receiving this care with gentleness and meekness of heart.

The unfortunate reality is that oftentimes, elder care facilities are becoming more crowded as our Baby Boomer generation ages. And sometimes, this crowding can cause a drop in the level of service for our elderly loved ones.

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