According to a 2006 study, about 7,000 Americans die each year because of physicians’ bad handwriting. This alarming statistic is followed by too many tragic anecdotes. One patient suffered kidney failure after receiving the wrong medication. A pharmacist called a nursing home to confirm what he felt like was an “unusually high dose” of medication, only to be told by nursing staff that it was indeed correct. The dose resulted in the death of a patient.

One way to go about fixing the problem is to require doctors to print out the prescriptions they give. This would lead to fewer errors due to poor or sloppy handwriting. Certain medical abbreviations, such as IU could be avoided as well since, for instance 6IU could easily be misread as 61U. Also suggested is avoiding putting decimals after numbers trailed by a zero such as 4.0. These are often missed and that 4 becomes 40.

As a patient, or caregiver, make sure you can read each prescription before leaving a doctors office. If you are unsure of a medication have it spelled out for you so that you know what to ask for at the pharmacy. Your pharmacist is also a resource. You should ask them if the dose and medication seems appropriate. Taking time to double check your medical care could save your life.  See article here.

It’s another horrifying tale of sexual abuse in the nursing home. This time the incident took place in Syracuse, NY, where the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit filed a nine-count indictment against 48-year-old John Tamba. Tamba, a CNA at a Utica nursing home allegedly engaged in forcible sexual contact with a female resident of the facility who is physically disabled. This disgusting tale of neglect and abuse spurred the Oneida County Court to remand him to county jail without bail. The court appears to take the charges very seriously in this case. Hopefully it continues to do so throughout the trial and justice can be done for the victim of his terrible crimes.  See article at Syracuse.com.

 

With under-staffing rampant in many nursing homes, one might think that choosing the best and brightest out of the pool of available employees would be a simple choice, but many facilities are giving employee’s bad behavior a slap on the wrist. Far from simple mistakes, these employees have been found taking care of residents while high on drugs. Some chose street drugs like cocaine while others tried to perform their jobs on prescription drugs like oxycodone.

These conditions of course led to potentially deadly mistakes, like giving a patient 200 units of insulin instead of 2, or giving coffee to someone not allowed to eat or drink. While this kind of behavior seems shocking and completely unacceptable, those sanctioned by the New York state Board of Regents for violations of this sort regularly receive just a slap on the wrist like a fine and a stayed suspension, putting them right back out into the nursing world. Even criminal convictions do not guarantee a quick turnaround to get these time bombs out of the system. Part of the problem, a spokesman for the state Education Department says, is that in many cases the system relies on nurses to self-report. In New York in 2013 only 231 nurses were disciplined.  See full article at The New York Post.

WINK News reported an exclusive with widow Frances Bernard who spent the holidays alone after her husband was forgotten for hours in the sweltering heat at a local assisted living center. He later died.  “His legs were so badly burned the hole side of him was badly burned” said Bernard.  Frances Bernard  was on her way to visit her husband that day when she got the devastating news. “When ever I saw him I was heart broken. They were pounding on his chest trying to revive him.”

Back in August, Collier County deputies said staff members at the Aristocrat left 90 year old Robert Bernard outside for 3 hours. He went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital where he died. Robert was a World War II veteran, who received a purple heart, while serving in Germany a grenade went off injuring him.  Frances hopes what happened to her husband of 66 years never happens to another family.

 

SaukValley had an interesting article on nursing home staffing.  In a nursing home, the CNAs have the most hands-on interaction with residents, yet they’re the lowest-paid medical staffers.  Depending on their level of experience, education and the shift they work, starting pay for a CNA in the Sauk Valley ranges from only $8.75 to $10.50 an hour, according to interviews with nursing home administrators.  Despite their low pay, CNAs are vitally important to resident care and the quality of life.

“Being a CNA, it’s the backbone of the industry,” said Bonnie O’Connell, administrator at Heritage Square in Dixon. “They’re highly regarded in this facility. And it’s the hardest job here, being a CNA. … It’s a high rate of burn out.  But a lot of that – their jobs – can be made easier by the support staff, by the activities, involvement. Support staff can really make their jobs a lot lighter.”

Because people now live in their own homes longer, incoming nursing home residents require a higher level of care, so the nursing done by a CNA or LPN goes beyond simply giving medication at the right time.  Having more registered nurses, who are better versed in the “global understanding” of residents’ needs, leads to better care – and not just physical care, but mental and emotional.

Gemma Hunt was kind enough to offer to write the following article for us.

Abuse and neglect of elderly people is widespread across community care facilities. In a survey sampling 2,000 residents of nursing homes, 44% said that they had been the victim of abuse and nearly all residents (95%) reported that they or another resident in the home had been neglected. State monitoring of the situation is often inadequate. 15% of government surveys miss actual harm and immediate danger to a resident in a nursing home and another 70% of their surveys missed one or more areas of shortfall where a nursing home could improve.

Recent studies on the incidence of elder abuse found that 10% of people interviewed had been abused at some point in the last year. Despite this, only around one in 14 abuse cases ever come to light.

Types of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can take several forms:

Physical Abuse – Being slapped, punched, aggressively restrained or beaten

Sexual Abuse – Being touched inappropriately, raped or any other type of sexual abuse

Emotional Abuse – Being bullied, called names and criticised constantly by the perpetrator to make the victim feel bad about themselves

Financial Abuse – Having a person of trust steal their pension money or other income.

Neglect – Having their care needs neglected (such as not being taken to the toilet, or being left in bed for hours).

The Decision to Choose a Nursing Home is Difficult

The decision to choose a nursing home for an elderly relative can be difficult and lots of families agonize over the choice. However, sometimes there is no other option. If you have a full time job, if your relative has complex care needs and needs more supervision than you can provide, a good nursing home can provide a loving and supportive environment with the medical care they need. Unfortunately some care homes are better than others.

Signs of Elder Abuse

Some of the signs of elder abuse include:

  • Unexplained bruising or black eyes
  • Marks on the wrists or ankles from restraints
  • Burn marks
  • Broken teeth
  • Admission to hospital for medication overdose or seeing your relative experience symptoms of overdose (like drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, confusion)
  • Diagnosis of sexually transmitted infection when your relative is not known to be in a sexual relationship
  • Blood on their underwear
  • Bruising to the genital area, inner thighs or breasts
  • The person may be anxious of receiving help for their intimate care needs or be overly nervous of medical examinations
  • Social withdrawal
  • Agitation and fear, becoming quiet when perpetrator is in the room, difficulty sleeping, poor appetite
  • Malnourishment – asking for water when you visit or appearing hungry
  • Smelling strongly of body odor, faeces or urine
  • Having unkempt hair or clothing
  • Bed sores or untreated infections
  • Lots of ATM charges
  • Insufficient funds in their bank
  • New ‘friends’ you didn’t know about
  • Improbable changes to their will

How to Help Your Loved One

If you suspect elder abuse or your loved one has told you they are being abused, always take their word for it. Don’t wait for evidence before you act.

You should report this to your local Adult Protective Services division. APS provide protective and supportive services to older or disabled adults who are being abused or neglected. You can find their number in the blue pages under Department of Human Services or Social Services. You can also contact the Eldercare Locator on 1-800-677-1116 and they can help you find the appropriate agency.

You could also contact your loved one’s doctor to obtain assistance and a medical report on their condition.

If they are in immediate danger of assault you should call the police. This is an emergency situation and the police can investigate criminal matters and remove your relative from danger if it is necessary.

If the abuse is taking place in a care facility, you can contact the long-term care ombudsman from the Ombudsman Program. This government run program investigates allegations of abuse in residential care. The Eldercare Locator can also give you their contact details.

Seek Compensation

If you or a relative has been abused or neglected in a nursing or residential home, you can seek compensation for your injuries, distress and ill treatment. Elder abuse is not acceptable and should never be ignored. Hiring a skilled nursing home attorney is one way you can hold the perpetrators responsible. Poliakoff and Associates, PA, is one of South Carolina’s most well established law firms with specialists on the rights of the elderly and personal injury cases. We operate a no win, no fee system to help you get justice whatever your circumstances.

Sources:

Statistics/Data, National Center on Elder Abuse, updated: July 2017, http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse/

Elder Abuse, Medlineplus, accessed December 22, 2014, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/elderabuse.html

The Essentials: Preventing Elder Abuse, accessed December 22, 2014, https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/essentials/mmi-preventing-elder-abuse-essentials.pdf

The Alliance for Justice has produced a brief video addressing the inequity of arbitration.  It’s narrated by Robert Reich and well done. Below are links to the video.

Alliance for Justice’s 2014 First Monday Film Lost in the Fine Print tells the story of three everyday people who tried to seek justice when they were harmed by powerful companies. But instead of being able to bring their claims before an impartial judge or jury, they were forced into arbitration, a system rigged to favor the very companies that harmed them. Here are their stories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgC3N802Sjk

The Daily News reported that nursing home employee Cherrylee Young has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of a 77-year-old patient.  Young allegedly beat Frank Mercado on Dec. 8, forcing him to fall onto a table that broke. A piece of the table pierced Mercado’s rectum, killing him.

She had told cops that Mercado — who was visually impaired — had struck at her first, and she responded in self-defense, a police source said.  The incident occurred at the University Nursing Home at 2505 Grand Ave. in the Bronx. Employees told police they saw Young holding him against a wall in his room around 11 a.m. Dec. 8.

During the struggle, the elderly man fell onto a table and a piece of it fatally cut him.  A piece of the table appeared lodged in the victim’s diaper.  The staff delayed in getting him emergency care.  Mercado’s condition deteriorated over several hours and staff finally transported him to Montefiore Medical Center, where he died, officials said. Doctors determined that a piece of the table pierced his rectum and caused internal bleeding, cops said.  The medical examiner said Mercado bled to death and has ruled the incident a homicide.

 

In Florence. Alabama, Labarbara Deshay Currin was arrested and charged with elder abuse. This nurse allegedly hit her victim in the head several times and twisted her arm. Her alleged victim was 96 years old. The alleged incidents took place in the nursing home where Currin worked in early August.   See article at WHNT.