Articles Posted in Nursing Home Neglect

virus-1812092_1920-300x150An alarming tragedy is unfolding in New Jersey – nine children have died as a result of a viral outbreak at a nursing home in Haskell, New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Health has prohibited the facility from admitting any new patients until the outbreak has been resolved.

A Virus Associated with Communal Living

The illness that has caused the outbreak is an adenovirus, which is a virus that infects the linings of the respiratory tract and other membranes. It is believed that this particular strain of adenovirus is one that flourishes in communal living environments. It is reported that a total of 25 patients at the New Jersey facility have been diagnosed with adenovirus, which manifests itself as mild to severe cold-like illness. Unfortunately, adenovirus can then cause other illnesses, such as bronchitis, diarrhea, and even pneumonia.

If you’ve ever had to care for an older parent or relative in your home, you know how stressful it can be. They are unsteady on their feet, and the constant fear that they will fall and injure themselves has you sitting up in bed at the slightest sound. Eventually, you realize that your home isn’t equipped to meet their needs, and so you move them into a home that is better suited for their mobility issues. We all assume that nursing homes and assisted living facilities provide a safe environment for our elders. Who is at fault when they fall and get injured?  

Negligence in the Nursing Home Context

We’ve written previously about how to define negligence, but to review, someone is negligent when they fail to act with the same level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. It’s important to note the phrase “under the same circumstances” in order to understand that what may be negligence in one situation is not negligence in another. To apply it to the context of this post, what may constitute negligence in a nursing home may not be considered negligence in an apartment context. Here are some examples of potential negligence in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities:

A case that was reported earlier this week serves as a grim reminder of the dangers our seniors may face while under the care of others. Three assisted living center employees were arrested after posting a Snapchat video documenting a shocking lack of care for a 76-year-old woman who was dying in hospice care. The video showed the three employees in the woman’s room, vaping and shouting obscenities at the camera while the woman lay dying in the background. The woman had suffered a stroke, and the employees had been instructed to monitor the woman while waiting for a hospice nurse. The employees titled the Snapchat video, “The End.”  

Also recently reported, a 54-year-old certified nursing assistant who worked at Chaplinwood Nursing Home in Milledgeville was indicted on abuse charges. She allegedly struck an elderly resident in the face while trying to put dirty pants on her.

Nursing Home Abuse Happens More Often Than You Think

Many of us have loved ones that are living their golden years in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Because we owe so much to our senior citizens, the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd want to do their part to shed some light on a very serious issue – the neglect and abuse of our senior citizens.  

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is believed that approximately 60% of cases of elder abuse occur in the senior’s home and at the hands of a family member. However, a significant number of cases occur in a nursing home or similar institutional facility.  

Elder abuse is not limited to physical trauma. It can take on many forms such as financial abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. Seniors are vulnerable because of their advancing age and health problems, but seniors who require institutional care are particularly vulnerable. This is especially the case if the senior is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. You need to be vigilant if one of your loved ones resides in a nursing home or similar institutional facility.  

A Daytona Beach nursing home has been sued for the wrongful death of one of its residents, according to court documents filed in late October in Pinellas Circuit Court in Florida. According to the complaint, James A. Evensen suffered from multiple illnesses while in the nursing home, including urosepsis, malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia, among other complaints. After being transferred to Halifax Hospital, he died on July 10, 2015.

The representative for the estate filed suit on October 19, 2015, for negligence and wrongful death, claiming that the nursing home was negligent in how it treated, cared for, and monitored its residents. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleged that the nursing home failed to adequately supervise and monitor Evensen and did not have adequate staff to provide care. The plaintiff also alleges that the nursing home did not inform Evensen’s family and doctor of his condition. The plaintiff seeks more than $15,000 in damages as well as court costs and attorney fees.

When Is a Nursing Home Negligent?

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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