NPR reported that serious cases of abuse and neglect are never reported to law enforcement.  More than 25% nursing home abuse are not reported according to an alert released by the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Health and Human Services.  The vast majority of the cases involved sexual assault.

That is an incredible stat considering that state and federal law require that serious cases of abuse in nursing homes be turned over to the police.  The alert notes that federal law on this issue was strengthened in 2011. It requires someone who suspects abuse of a nursing home resident causing serious bodily injury, to report their suspicion to local law enforcement in two hours or less.

Government investigators are conducting an ongoing review into nursing home abuse and neglect.  These are cases of abuse severe enough to send someone to the emergency room.  The only explanation for failing to report is that the facility is trying to cover up the abuse and avoid accountability.

The alert from the Inspector General’s office says that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which regulate nursing homes, need to do more to track these cases of abuse. The alert suggests that the agency should do what Curtis Roy’s investigators did: cross-reference Medicare claims from nursing home residents with their claims from the emergency room. Investigators were able to see if an individual on Medicare filed claims for both nursing home care and emergency room services. Investigators could then see if the emergency room diagnosis indicated the patient was a victim of a crime, such as physical or sexual assault.

 

The Legal Intelligencer reported on the lengthy litigation to get one resident justice. The Pennsylvania Superior Court in Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center has ordered a new trial on compensatory damages against a nursing home management services provider, as well as on punitive damages against that company and its nursing home client over neglect causing a resident’s death.

The Aug. 8 ruling in Scampone came nearly five years after a landmark state Supreme Court ruling in the case that nursing homes could be found directly liable under a theory of corporate negligence.

 

First, whether Grane exercised reasonable care in managing the facility was a question for the jury to determine,” Judge Mary Jane Bowes wrote in the Aug. 8 opinion. “There was sufficient proof that Grane did not manage the facility in a reasonable manner as the plaintiff adduced proof that the nurse consultants were told that there was insufficient staff to properly care for the nursing home residents. Yet, according to the plaintiff’s evidence, nothing about the staffing was done by Grane, which was charged with oversight and management of patient care.”

Bowes added that whether Grane contracted to care for and treat Madeline Scampone was “irrelevant.”  “The proper inquiry is whether Grane should have recognized that its contractual undertaking to manage and oversee the care and treatment of Madeline was necessary for her protection,” Bowes said. “It should have so recognized this fact.”

Understaffing at the facility hindered the delivery of food, water, medicine and ordered medical testing to Scampone.  “A jury could find that lack of sufficient staff was a contributing factor in the pervasive improper care and Madeline’s death,” Bowes said. “A jury question was presented as to causation by Mr. Scampone’s proof, and nonsuit was improperly granted by the trial court on this ground as well.”

 

A North Carolina court has convicted Luis Gomez, a caregiver who has worked at multiple nursing homes of raping two elderly patients.  At first, no one believed them when they said the charming, well-liked aide in the nursing home where they lived had raped them.

Gomez was convicted after two victims stepped forward. One victim described a night of horror in which the nursing assistant locked the door to her room and cruelly raped her.  He had entered her room at the Brian Center, owned and operated by national for-profit chain SavaSeniorCare, when she was alone and asked if she needed to go the bathroom. She said she did, and climbed out of bed. As she entered the bathroom and faced the toilet, she heard the door close and lock. Then, she said, Gomez raped her.

Claims like theirs are often dismissed as drug-induced hallucinations, signs of dementia or attempts by lonely residents to get attention. And even when the cases of nursing home residents get to court, they can fall apart when victims’ memories prove unreliable — or they are no longer alive to testify.

At first, no one believed her accusation, and she feared Gomez might appear in her room again at any moment. But when a nurse insisted on notifying police — against the wishes of her boss — the call triggered an investigation. The nurse who reported the rapes was fired by SavaSeniorCare days after notifying police, and she said she plans to sue the facility to make a statement: that nurses will not be forced to act unethically.

“I couldn’t live with myself if I did not make the call,” said 36-year-old Krista Shalda. “I could not go to bed at night if I knew I was the reason someone was getting sexually assaulted.”

Other victims came forward, with their own allegations against Gomez. The prosecuting attorney accused Gomez of preying on multiple women for over a decade, using the disease of Alzeimer’s as a cover.  After a weeklong trial, Gomez was found guilty of raping both women who testified against him — convicted on six counts that included forcible rape with a physically helpless victim.  Now he has been sentenced to at least 23 years behind bars.

“What this man has done for a period of almost a decade is … prey on Alzheimer’s patients because they’re forgetful and they can’t remember and oftentimes they die,” the prosecutor told the judge during sentencing.

The SavaSeniorCare facility paid a six-figure fine after regulators found it had failed to protect residents from sexual abuse. A spokesperson for SavaSeniorCare said it was pleased the case was over.

 

 

 

The Marietta Daily Journal reported that Adam Bennett, a 91-year-old resident at Sunrise Assisted Living Center in east Cobb, was allegedly beaten to death by Landon Terrel, a Sunrise employee who was charged with felony murder and exploiting a disabled or elderly person.

According to arrest warrants in the case, Terrel admitted striking the elderly man, “causing (him) to suffer pain, visible injuries and internal injuries which ultimately led to (his) death.”

Cobb Police officers were sent to WellStar Kennestone Hospital on Aug. 15 after receiving a call from doctors that Bennett had injuries that were not consistent with what the nursing home’s staff said had happened to him.  The 91-year-old suffered broken ribs, a lacerated kidney and a punctured lung, injuries doctors didn’t believe were consistent with falling out of a bed.

Bloomberg reported the decline in life expectancy among Americans as more Americans are dying at younger ages. In 2015, the American death rate—the age-adjusted share of Americans dying—rose slightly for the first time since 1999. 

“Mortality is sort of the tip of the iceberg,” says Laudan Aron, a demographer and senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “It really is a reflection of a lot of underlying conditions of life.” The falling trajectory of American life expectancies, especially when compared to those in some other wealthy countries, should be “as urgent a national issue as any other that’s on our national agenda,” she says.

Death rates for Americans over the age of 50 have improved, on average, by 1 percent each year since 1950, according to an analysis by the Society of Actuaries, though there’s a lot of variation in any given year. From 2000 to 2009, that long-term trend seemed to be accelerating, with annual improvements of 1.5 to 2 percent—but then those gains stalled. From 2010 to 2014, death rates were only improving by about half a percent per year.

King5 had an article about fall prevention in nursing homes.  Any facility accepting residents must assess residents to determine their fall risk.  Understanding the cause helps prevent falls. Alternative interventions are necessary if the resident has dementia and lacks safety awareness.

“So, the key is preventing injury and that takes a little detective work on the part of the staff. They have to figure out just when a resident falls; can routines be changed to prevent falls? It may be as simple as more supervised trips to the bathroom.”

The best interventions include lowering the bed; raising side rails in bed; placing a safety mat next to bed; using a pressure alarm; but the best intervention is adequate staffing to safely supervise the residents.

A Tennessee appellate panel affirmed a $425,000 award in an employment suit accusing a nursing home of firing a nurse for reporting the neglect of an in-home hospice patient, saying the nurse was a whistleblower serving a public purpose by reporting illegal activity.

In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel upheld a jury’s award of $225,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages to nurse Latisia Upshaw in a suit claiming she was fired by Sunrise Community of Tennessee.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Mary Nelle Foss, a nursing home caregiver, forged nearly $17,000 in checks intended for a resident’s bills and health expenses and used them for personal use, according to an arrest warrant.

Foss worked at the North Star Assisted Living Center.  Foss faces exploitation of an elderly person, third and fourth degree forgery and theft charges.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has a long history of nursing home oversight and increasing quality of care for nursing home residents.  After the alert from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General finding that 28 percent of 134 potential incidents of abuse or neglect in 33 states may not have been reported to law enforcement, as required, Grassley stated:

“A crime is a crime wherever it takes place. Abusing or neglecting nursing home residents are criminal acts. They have to be reported and investigated by law enforcement. It’s unacceptable for more than one-fourth of potential crimes in nursing homes to apparently go unreported. I intend to follow up with CMS to make sure the agency will take immediate action to fix this problem, as the inspector general recommends. The nursing home industry should do a better job of following the law. Nursing home residents, their families and the taxpayers deserve quality care and justice whenever crimes are committed.

The alert recommends the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services take immediate action to ensure incidents are identified and reported.

The Post and Courier reported the lawsuit filed by South Carolina against Purdue Pharma which is one of the largest pain pill manufacturers in the nation.  The complaint filed is aimed at Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin — one of many synthetic opioids that have been manufactured, shipped, prescribed and sold throughout the United States.

The lawsuit accuses Purdue of failing to comply with a 2007 agreement it signed with South Carolina over allegations of its promotion of OxyContin. The State accuses the drug manufacturer of encouraging doctors to prescribe pain pills for unapproved uses and downplaying how addictive the company’s prescriptions are.

Opioid addiction is a public health menace to South Carolina,” AG Wilson said as family members of overdose victims and addiction survivors stood behind him. “We cannot let history record that we stood by while this epidemic rages.” Wilson said the scourge has cost South Carolina billions of dollars.

More than 565 South Carolinians died of an overdose tied to highly addictive opioids in 2015, the most recent year that data is available.  Opiods are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.

 

State Medicaid data shows that 1,855 prescriptions — or more than $1 million worth — of OxyContin reimbursed under the state-run insurance program last year. That number is down from the 3,620 prescriptions worth more than $2 million that were reimbursed in 2012.