United Press International reported that two workers in a German nursing home in Spiesen-Elversberg have been accused of torturing and killing residents.  Over the course of several months 32 residents were tortured and two killed. The workers threatened fellow employees in an attempt to keep them quiet about what was going on.  However, a group of ten employees joined together to report the crimes. 

The younger of the two men, who is 25, is accused of removing a resident’s breathing tube and taunting them, asking how it he liked not having air. He is also accused of purposefully cutting a resident to punish him for not being still during a shave.
The 35-year-old worker has confessed to performing surgery on a dying woman without the use of anesthesia. He admitted to it bragging that he could preform the surgery much better than any doctor. This employee is also accused of killing a resident with a morphine overdose.
Both staff member are also accused of stealing prescription drugs and personal possessions of the residents.

The head of Awo charity, the company that operates the facility, has hired an attorney to sue the two staff members saying, “They are psychopaths.”
 

I am pleased to copy below Marty Kardon’s Letter to the Editor of the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer.  I thought it appropriate for the Fourth of July to remember the constitutional right to a jury trial.

Letter: Mandatory Arbitration in Nursing Home Contracts

To the Legal:

I have read Joel Fishbein’s article regarding mandatory arbitration in nursing home contracts appearing in the June 22 edition of The Legal Intelligencer ("Appropriate Jury Trial Limitations Found in Nursing Home Contracts"). The majority of my practice of the past 15 years has been representing families whose loved ones have been harmed while living in long-term care facilities. I feel a few points need to be touched upon in response to his article.

1. Irrespective of the assistance of hospital administrators, Internet resources and visits made in advance, signing a mother, father or spouse into a nursing home is invariably an emotional, stressful and frightening undertaking. In reality there is not even the slightest resemblance between leaving your mother at a nursing home and a "commercial" transaction to obtain a credit card or new car.

2. If it is true that there are many positive aspects to resolving disputes through a mandatory arbitration then there is no reason why such an agreement cannot be made through the advice of counsel once a claim is presented. The contracts at issue here are pre-dispute and always signed without the benefit of legal advice. Anyone who questions an admission director (the one who obtains the signatures to an arbitration agreement) will realize they are not positioned to explain the implications of the agreement.

3. The argument that juries are "guided solely by emotion" is a recurring one often carted out in these discussions. There is, however, a small matter of the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to trial by jury. Wherever the legality of pre-dispute arbitrations may fall to argue that it is inappropriate for a jury to hear a case of nursing home neglect contravenes one of the cornerstones of our country’s jurisprudence. If that’s the core policy argument for these mandatory arbitration "agreements," then they should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

The best way for a nursing home to protect its bottom line is to provide care consistent with accepted standards of practice. There are many facilities in our state that are nurturing and skilled in caring for the elderly and infirm. For those that do not follow the rules and cause harm there is no better remedy than justice meted out by the members of the community. Mandatory arbitration locks the doors to the courthouse and benefits wrongdoers, not those wronged.

 

Coroner Kandy Kelley says a resident named Eloise Arnold of Majestly Health & Rehab of Easley collapsed Saturday and was taken to Baptist Easley Hospital where she died.  Kelley says the air conditioning was not working properly.  Her niece Amanda Ferguson told the media she and some other family went to visit Eloise at around 1pm Saturday and stayed for about an hour. Ferguson said inside the nursing home on Saturday it seemed hot and she saw no air conditioners in the resident’s rooms. She said the fans inside were only blowing warm air around.

When the officers went to Majesty Health and Rehab, they found temperatures as high as 91 degrees in one wing where the air conditioning had quit working, said Maj. Tim Tollison of the Easley Police Department.  Tollison said that the nursing home finally added window air-conditioning units in the home but 37 residents were transferred out because of the conditions.

Monday’s autopsy report shows investigators consider the death heat related, but they must wait for the lab work to rule out anything else.  Final results are expected in 3 to 4 weeks.

It takes several hours to die from heat.  How could  the employees of the nursing home not notice the change of condition?  Why did they allow the residents to stay there without air conditoning?  Why didn’t they repair the air conditioing units?  This death was preventable and shows how nursing homes place profits over the health and safety of the residents.

 

 

An Ohio news station, NBC 4, reported that a local nursing supervisor have been found guilty of attempted neglect at a Woodsfield nursing home.  What the heck is "attempted" neglect?

Kathy Schwaben was employed at Monroe County Care Center when she neglected to assist an injured resident.  The resident was injured when she was a passenger in a MCCC van and the driver swerved recklessly, throwing the 81 year old out of her wheelchair.  An investigation discovered that the resident was not properly secured in her wheelchair at the time of the incident. There was no lap or shoulder restraint in use.  Instead ,she was crudely restrained by a bungee cord that was stretched across the arms of her chair. After the incident Schwaben failed to preform a physical assessment so the victim did not receive any immediate medical treatment following the incident. The elderly lady suffered several fractured bones as a result of the incident.

Schwaben was sentenced to a mere 10 day in jail that was suspended and only has to pay fines and court costs.  It is sad that the neglect of a family’s loved one is not taken more seriously and the punishment does not reflect the severity of the damage done.

Patricia Smith wrote an interesting article on McKinght’s Long Term Care News website that reported that many nursing home workers suffer from compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue, sometimes called secondary trauma, occurs when employees begin to identify with their residents’ suffering and then experience similar feelings of distress and grief.  When left untreated, compassion fatigue can also cause emotional outbursts, sleeplessness, substance abuse, and even clinical depression.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine discovered similar findings in oncology doctors who, much like nursing home employees, work in stressful and sometimes depressing environments. These medical workers also reported feelings of grief, self-doubt, failure, sadness, and powerlessness caused by the stressful and sometimes depressing nature of their career.

In nursing home situations compassion fatigue negatively effects not just employees, but also the residents they care for. It can disrupt the cohesiveness of employees by causing feelings of isolation and disturbing efforts to work together as a team. This inability for staff to work together can then result in a decreased level of care for residents. The issues caused by compassion fatigue can also cause reduced productivity and cause a higher rate of accidents and mistakes, the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine found.

It is important for nursing home owners and administrators to be aware of these issues so they can do everything in their to power to prevent the negative effects of compassion fatigue.  This means providing workshops and support groups for employees dealing with the disorder.  More importantly though, nursing home facilities should be doing everything they can to reduce the stressfulness of working in a nursing home.  However, the sad reality is that many nursing home are not doing this at all.  Many nursing homes staff their facility with the bare minimum of workers which only increases stress and decreases the ability of staff to work together.  It seems that in many cases the way nursing homes are managed is doing more to increase the problems associated with compassion fatigue, rather than becoming part of the solution for the disorder.

Wood TV 8 reported that a Wayland, Michigan nursing home is facing an investigation after Patricia Slornski began to question the suspicious circumstances surrounding her mother’s death.  Doris Robbins was resident of Laurels of Sandy Creek nursing home when she died suddenly.  The facility told Slornski that her mother had taken a afternoon nap and had simply never woken up.  When Slornski called the facility for more details she was put on hold for a lengthy amount of time and was then only allowed to speak to the facility’s lawyer.  This alerted Slornski to possible problems and motivated her to seek an investigation.

The report discovered that Robbins started to show signs of medical distress as early as ten o’clock the morning of her death. No one at the nursing home ever called a doctor and at 3:45 Robbins was discovered dead in her bed.

Robbins had previously put into writing her wish for doctors to do everything they could keep her alive. However, the facility ignored Robbins’ wish to be kept alive.  In addition to not calling a doctor for medical attention, the facility also did not preform CPR, call an ambulance, or notify police of the death.  Slornski is speaking out in hopes of getting answers for her mother’s death and preventing similar incidents from happening to other families’ loved ones.  “It’s not just about my mother because there are people like her that have a face, that are in jeopardy when rules and regulations are not followed.”