U.S. News reported that Veneford Blankenship, a nursing home employee in West Virginia, has been sentenced to one year and one month in federal prison in an embezzlement case.  Blankenship was sentenced for mail fraud in federal court in Charleston. She also was ordered to pay more than $81,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors say Blankenship was the business office supervisor at a Princeton nursing home and admitted to diverting residents’ payment checks into a bank account. She then wrote checks to herself, forging the signatures of two other individuals.

The Duluth News Tribune and Twin Cities Pioneer Press had articles on the tragic death of a resident at Bethel Care Center. When a St. Paul nursing home resident’s ventilator tube became detached and sounded an alarm during a worship service at the facility last summer, there weren’t any nursing staff around to help, according to a report by the Minnesota Department of Health.  Staff didn’t notice the detached tube for an hour, at which point it was too late to save the resident, the report said.

According to the Health Department:

Around 2 p.m. on July 16, 2017, the resident was brought to a church service in the nursing home. His ventilator was functioning properly. Two minutes later, his ventilator alarm sounded. A pastoral staff member claimed to hear the alarm, but he or she had previously been instructed to ignore it. About an hour later, the same staff member noted poor color in the resident and called for help.

Nursing staff arrived, reconnected the tubing and called emergency services. At 3:36 p.m., emergency medical services pronounced the resident dead.  The resident’s cause of death was listed as asphyxia due to disconnection of the ventilator tubing. The resident physician said he had recently examined the man and thought it unlikely he would have died otherwise, the report said.


Skilled Nursing News had some depressing news to report on nursing home caregiver wages.  “Hourly wages for nursing home employees who provide direct care and services tend to be lower than wages for the same job titles in assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities, recent survey findings show. But salaries for leadership titles and director positions did not follow the same trend.”  So management staff–all of which receive higher salaries in nursing homes on average than they do in assisted living facilities–are getting paid more but the actual caregivers get less despite having more responsibilities and work!  No wonder nursing homes have trouble keeping staff.

Certified nurse aides (CNAs), resident assistants, medication aides, activity aides, housekeeping staff, laundry staff, and maintenance, transportation and dining services staff all take in lower hourly wages at nursing homes than at assisted living facilities, the survey shows.

A staff nurse (RN) in a nursing home makes an average of $27.84 per hour versus a staff nurse in an assisted living facility, who makes $29.39 per hour — or roughly 5.6% less per hour, according to data released in the 20th annual Assisted Living Salary & Benefits Report, published by Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service (HCS) this week. The comparable hourly wage in a CCRC was $28.90.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in nursing homes make 6.8% less per hour than their assisted living counterparts, at $21.56 per hour versus $23.13 per hour in ALFs.

Several key players in the skilled nursing mergers-and-acquisitions space identified wage pressures as a key issue for providers in 2018, as the stable economy gives workers more choices and bargaining power.

Findings of the survey were collected from 602 respondents throughout the U.S., with data effective October 2017. The report is published in cooperation with LeadingAge and supported by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL).

The Sun Sentinel reported the trauma suffered by first responders to Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center after Hurricane Irma. Many are still haunted by the dying nursing home residents they tried to save as they sweltered in a building with no air conditioning.  Some reported that it was cooler outside the nursing home than inside where the residents struggled to breathe in the heat.

“In a span of about three hours on Sept. 13, the Hollywood firefighter/paramedic and fellow crew members treated two critically ill residents. They had trouble breathing and registered body temperatures of 107.5 degrees. When the paramedics returned to the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center for a third time that day, they found the head nurse performing CPR on a dead male patient.

The lack of care that these people were experiencing and just the conditions they were experiencing,” Wohlitka said. “In all honesty, this call is still very much haunting.”

Wohlitka and other fire-rescue workers who responded to the nursing home testified in court. This is the first time the rescue workers who responded to the nursing home where 12 ultimately died have publicly given their accounts of what they saw during those deadly pre-dawn hours.  It was part of a series of hearings this week to determine whether the nursing home should be allowed to re-open. The nursing home is challenging the state’s move to revoke its license.

After finding the dead man, the crew decided to check out other residents. Wohlitka said he noticed a woman inside her room looked “unwell” from where he stood in the hallway. He tried to figure out if she was OK, but nursing home staff insisted they had already done their round of checks.  “I attempted to enter the room and evaluate her and I was stopped by a Hollywood Hills staff member who basically told me that they had just done rounds and everybody was fine,” he testified. “I asked her, ‘Are you sure? That woman doesn’t look good’ and she said, ‘No, she just looks like that.’

“I just felt bad for that woman,” Wohlitka said. “You beat yourself up and maybe I should have told that facility member ‘no,’ but an RN is higher than a firefighter and a paramedic. We had no reason to doubt her.”

But eventually the paramedics did doubt the competency of the nursing home staff.  “I believe that they were panicked, that they were overwhelmed by the amount of patients that we were deeming critical,” Parrinello testified.


As she tried checking on patients’ vital signs, she said the head nurse told her that his staff had already done that. Parrinello testified that at this point she doubted the staff had been truthful about their assessment of patients. She said she told the head nurse: ’Well, you told me that before and now we have multiple deceased patients. So, with all due respect, I don’t trust your judgment and we’re going to check everyone ourselves.’

Ultimately, a dozen residents died from heat exposure and the medical examiner determined their deaths to be homicides.

Said Wohlitka, the firefighter/paramedic: “The uncomfortable heat alone was unbearable for myself, I won’t speak for anybody else. I was very uncomfortable inside the facility; I can only imagine what somebody who wasn’t able to go outside or get out was dealing with. I think it’s pretty evident… it just wasn’t safe.”


The Philly Inquirer reported that three unsecured creditors (Healthcare Services Group Inc., McKesson Medical-Surgical Minnesota Supply Inc., and Medline Industries) have filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against New Castle Health and Rehabilitation Center nursing home that is part of a chain of 22 facilities, mostly in Pennsylvania, that were put into receivership in September by their landlord.

The creditors said in their Jan. 12 petition that New Castle Health and Rehabilitation Center owed them a total of $262,529.

The owner of the New Castle nursing home is Oak Health & Rehabilitation Centers Inc., a nonprofit headed by Bala Cynwyd lawyer Howard Jaffe. Oak was formed to take over 22 former Extendicare facilities, including 20 in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia, in additional to the New Castle facility, in 2015.

 The landlords of the Oak facilities, affiliates of Formation Capital, a major player nationally in nursing-home ownership, put all 22 Oak facilities in receivership, a state court alternative to bankruptcy that provides no protection for unsecured creditors, after Oak missed at least three rent payments totaling $10.5 million.

The goal of the receivership was to bring in a new operator for the nursing home with no guarantee of money for vendors’ unpaid bills.


CBS News reported a disturbing trend on the leading causes of death in America.  For the first time since records have been kept, preventable injuries have become the third leading cause of death in the United States, the National Safety Council (NSC) announced. In fact, data shows that preventable deaths rose 10 percent in 2016.

The increase was due to an uptick in fatal motor vehicle crashes and drug overdoses, particularly the ongoing opioid crisis. The opioid crisis claimed the lives of 37,814 people who overdosed on prescription opioid pain relievers, fentanyl and heroin in 2016. Heart disease and cancer still top the list as the leading causes of death in the United States

Other significant causes of preventable deaths in the report include falling — a growing concern as the population ages — choking and drowning.

The truth is, there is no such thing as an accident,” said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Every single one of these deaths was preventable. We know what to do to save lives, but collectively, we have failed to prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road.


According to the National Safety Council, accidental injury has become the third leading cause of death in the United States.


The agency’s analysis found that one American is injured every second and one is killed every three minutes by a preventable accident. In total, 161,374 people died of preventable injuries in 2016. Only heart disease and cancer are responsible for more deaths.


Healthcare Finance News reported on how many for-profit chains are cheating the Five-Star Quality Rating System on Nursing Home Compare. The five-star rating system that Medicare uses to compare nursing homes is made up of three components: employing a base score from an on-site inspection, along with two scores from information on staffing and quality reported by the facility.  These overall ratings have climbed higher as self-reported scores have inexplicably trended upward.

A new study of nursing homes in California, the nation’s largest system, by faculty at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Connecticut found that nursing homes inflate their self-assessment reporting to improve their score in the Five-Star Quality Rating System employed by Medicare to help consumers.   Among the findings were that nursing homes that have more to gain financially from higher ratings are more likely to improve their overall rating through self-reporting.

The report states “We find a significant association between the changes in a nursing home’s star rating and its profits, which points to a financial incentive for nursing homes to improve the ratings.”

The Pantagraph had a story about the whistleblower at Heritage Health.  Katrina Wesemann was employed as a licensed practical nurse at Heritage Health in Dwight in October 2012 when she was fired by her employer, Bloomington-based Heritage Enterprises Inc., which operates 54 long-term facilities, including 53 in Illinois.  Wesemann claimed she was fired from the nursing home after she reported alleged abuse.  A jury compensated her for the wrongful termination in the amount of $5.2 million.  Telling the truth has its benefits! The verdict included past wages and benefits and $5 million in punitive damages for the nurse who worked at the facility for about 19 months.

Wesemann was fired because she refused to follow orders from the facility’s director of nursing “to ‘drop a pill’ or double-dose agitated residents with anti-anxiety medications and refused to delete or omit records of suspicious injuries on residents,” according to a statement from Timothy J. Coffey, one of Wesemann’s lawyers.

The jury sided with the former worker on all three counts brought under Illinois whistleblower laws that protect employees from retaliation for reporting improper conduct at nursing homes and other regulated industries.

The Claude Pepper Center at FSU uses information and data from multiple sources to help inform policy makers, researchers, teachers, the media and the general public about the health, long term care and income security challenges confronting the nation’s older citizens.

In pursuing this mission, The Center has generated several articles, book chapters, reports, op ed columns and blog postings that can be found in the Social Media and Reports section of the website.

All of our activities are dedicated to sustaining the senator’s view that “the national attitude toward old people has made a 180-degree turn. More and more, younger generations have come to realize that in their elders they have a precious and useful asset, not a burden. Old people are the same persons they were when they were young. Some may not hear so well, may have to wear glasses, maybe are a step slower when they walk. But they are not useless, and they must not be treated as outcasts, as more and more Americans have come to realize.”

Nursing homes are increasingly owned by private investment groups who manage them through complex administrative structures that make the assignment of responsibility for deficiencies in care provided to the residents very difficult. These investment groups also tend to reduce operational costs by reducing the staff who provide care (RNs and CNAs) creating greater potential that residents will receive less care of adequate quality than they need. These concerns have been exacerbated by the fear among advocates for higher quality care in nursing homes that the Trump administration will reduce the already inadequate regulatory framework for maintaining an acceptable level of quality of care in nursing homes.

The following articles address several dimensions of the quality of care concerns. We will continue to track developments in this area over the next several months.

Important Articles:


Authorities say a 76-year-old woman found dead outside the Ohio nursing home where she lived died of hypothermia.

The Putnam County sheriff is investigating Phyllis Campbell’s death at the Hilty Home in Pandora, roughly 50 miles southwest of Toledo.

Campbell was found outside the facility on a Sunday morning, when temperatures around much of Ohio were still below freezing.

The sheriff’s office says an autopsy showed Campbell died from hypothermia. Authorities haven’t released details about what happened.

The facility is part of Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio, whose CEO said by email Wednesday that it’s grieving Campbell’s death and extending sympathies to her family. CEO Laura Voth says administrators are working with authorities to conduct a thorough investigation but can’t publicly discuss details of the case.