Critics and health care experts fear that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s relationship to the nursing home industry will cause premature deaths of vulnerable and disabled elderly.  Disability Rights Iowa, which is part of a national network of advocacy groups established by Congress in the 1970s, published a scathing, open letter to Branstad, questioning the governor’s lax supervision of Iowa’s nursing homes.

Sylvia Piper, executive director, Disability Rights Iowa, Des Moines recently wrote "Terry Branstad believes nursing home residents, many who have witnessed or experienced abuse or neglect, no longer need anyone to protect them. Rod Roberts, director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, gets his marching orders directly from Branstad. They both agree that no inspectors are needed; the nursing homes should be left to police themselves."  Sylvia Piper told Branstad in the letter that because of his “political choices, people are suffering and dying on a regular basis in Iowa’s nursing homes.”  In March, Roberts who has no prior management experience, eliminated the positions of 10 nursing home inspectors and two abuse prosecutors, citing budget constraints. After lawmakers restored funding for the positions, the department opted to spend the money elsewhere, saying the inspectors were not needed.

"Branstad has a lucrative arrangement with the nursing home lobby. They give his campaign tens of thousands of dollars, he helps them run under the radar by removing those who would hold them accountable. Under this egregious arrangement, nursing home residents are left alone and helpless in an environment historically notorious for abuse and neglect."

The (Republican) state auditor, long-term care ombudsman, and Iowa citizen’s aid ombudsman cited him for failing to adequately regulate nursing homes. Clearly, he wants to protect his campaign contributors. There has been an increase in complaints regarding nursing homes and other types of care facilities in Iowa.

Piper said her organization has investigated specific cases in which residents have died or been injured as a result of negligent care that could have been prevented through more aggressive action by the inspections department. 

 

See articles at Des Moines Register, here and here.

 

 

WKYC out of Cleveland, Ohio had an article about the tragic case of nursing home resident Violet Townsend.  Violet is a 29-year-old woman who has been on life-support since a car accident six years ago.  She was recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.  Police are investigating if she was sexually assaulted when she lived at the Grande Oaks nursing home.

Violet Townsend was admitted to Grande Oaks in 2006 after sustaining severe brain damage when her car slid off the interstate and slammed into a guard rail.  The impact sent the guard rail through the vehicle where it struck Townsend in her head, said her father, Michael Townsend.

The family became concerned when Violet Townsend’s mother noticed that there was blood in the seat of her wheelchair in March. The parents sent Violet Townsend to Hillcrest Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with an STD.  Michael Townsend said there are other signs of abuse that he noticed in his daughter, who can feel pain and sometimes cries.

"She got to the point where you couldn’t even touch her and she would just shake," Michael Townsend said. "I couldn’t touch her. Nobody could touch her."

Michael Townsend, who was never given the results of the Grande Oaks internal investigation, said he believes his daughter was sexually abused inside the facility.

 

 

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported the arrest of a nursing home employee for stealing jewelry from two of her patients at the Ormond Beach nursing home where she worked.  Jennifer Lynn Berry confessed to pawning a gold bracelet, wedding band and ring she stole from patients at the Signature HealthCARE of Ormond Beach.

According to an arrest report, Berry, after being confronted on the thefts, said she found the bracelet on the floor and kept it, but took the rings from the finger of a 99-year-old patient.

 

The Mountain Press had an article about the Tennessee Court of Appeals affirming the right to a jury trial for residents and disallowing nursing homes to force residents to arbitrate complaints. 

The appellate court affirmed Judge Rex Ogle’s ruling that Pigeon Forge Care and Rehab couldn’t rely on what the judge called an “unconscionable” process, in which the son signed papers on his mother’s behalf while she was competent. 

Lois Pierce died May 7, 2008, after staying about 20 days at Pigeon Forge Care and Rehab.   After 20 days, she was removed from the facility and taken to an emergency room for treatment of “massive infected Stage IV pressure sores.   On May 7, 2008, she died when her organs failed as a result of the infections.

When her son, David Blackmon, filed a compliant in Sevier County Circuit Court against Pigeon Forge Care and Rehab, the facility filed a motion to compel arbitration based on forms Blackmon signed while his mother was at the nursing home.

Ogle overruled that motion, noting Pierce checked herself into the facility and was competent to sign the papers herself, that power of attorney she signed for Blackmon in 1991 had lapsed and didn’t apply in this case, and that officials there acted in a “shoddy” manner in obtaining signatures from Blackmon and keeping records. For one thing, Ogle noted, the center failed to provide Blackmon copies of the forms he signed.

“The execution of the agreement, the way it was handled, it was very shoddy. And I think that quite candidly is unconscionable, that it does shock the conscience of this court by how this entire agreement was handled. … They should not be enforced.”

Some of the papers were signed by Pigeon Forge Care and Rehab officials days after the conference with Blackmon, calling into question where they had authority to execute the agreement at that time. Blackmon signed the forms by marking an “x” where signatures were required; he testified he was told he needed to sign the forms to have his mother placed on Medicare to pay for the stay and that he did not read them. 

 

The Las Vegas Sun reported the closing of Las Vegas Home Sweet Home, an assisted-living center after charges that its elderly residents were physical abused and their money stolen from them.  Residents were removed and placed in other facilities after the state Bureau of Health Care and Compliance suspended the license of the nursing home.

"The investigation uncovered cases in which Social Security checks and other funds allegedly were found being deposited into the personal accounts of caregivers. The probe found caregivers took more money than necessary for grocery store purchases and didn’t return it to the residents, state officials said."

The state reported there was abuse of an elderly woman who had a shouting match with a manager. Officials said she was dragged down the hallway by her ankles while kicking and screaming.

The home has been fined repeatedly by the state bureau. It said the suspension was issued by the state on grounds that residents weren’t safe as a result of chronic and repeated non-compliance with regulations.

 

The Willits News reported the sentencing of two nursing assistants at Valley View Skilled Nursing Facility found guilty of elder abuse.  They only received a 20 day jail term and two years probation.

Monica Rose Smith and Jennifer Louise Burton were the "ringleaders" in slathering seven elderly dementia patients with a slippery ointment in November 2009 as an ill advised payback plan for the next nursing home crew.

Nursing assistant Jared Buckley was found guilty of elder abuse; and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service and serve two years on probation. This was Buckley’s second incident, having failed to report elder abuse at the same facility in March 2007. For the previous incident Buckley was allowed to remain on staff.

The remaining defendants Jennie Bido and Christine Boyd-Guerrero were guilty of failure to report elder abuse and were ordered to perform 100 hours of community service each. They will also serve two years probation.

Valley View is now known as Redwood Cove Healthcare Center. According to the Medicare comparison site for nursing facilities, the facility has 68 beds and has a two of five star rating with a score of five being best.  A number of deficiencies were highlighted on the September 2010 inspection, including failing to hire only people with no legal history of abuse or neglect and for failing to report and investigate acts or reports of abuse, neglect or mistreatment. It also failed to keep each resident free from physical restraints not needed for medical treatment.

 

Cincinnati.com had an article on a new study from Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center that concluded many adults with disabilities can return or remain at home with the right help.

"The center made the study of a test program created by the state legislature in 2009 to cut down on nursing home usage. Medicaid – which accounts for about a quarter of Ohio’s general revenue spending – pays the bills for more than 60 percent of the state’s nursing home residents. In 2009, Ohio’s Medicaid program spent more than $3.3 billion on nursing home care."

The study followed 3,790 people from Ohio for 15 months. A group of 2,244 people were identified as potentially needing long-term nursing home services in the future. Some of those identified were already in nursing homes on short-term stays. A second group of 1,555 individuals was made up of people who had lived in nursing homes for at least three months but were judged to be candidates to move back home.

Both groups were given more intensive medical and support services, so they could stay at home at lower cost than being in a nursing home.

"The results of this study confirm that considering the individual’s care needs before the location of the care makes sense" said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the state Department of Aging, in a news release. "Not only are people happier and healthier when they have a choice in where they receive their care, care delivered in a community-based setting is usually more cost-effective."

The two-year state budget passed earlier this year cuts state Medicaid spending on nursing homes, although total Medicaid spending on long-term care will increase by $166 million. Most of the additional money will go to home and community-based services.

Senior Housing News had an article on how Home Health Care is cheaper than in institutional settings like expensive for profit nursing homes.  Home care is more affordable than people realize.   Around 73% of surveyed seniors and their families who receive paid home care found it to be at a good value and were satisfied with their care; the actual average per-hour cost they pay is $17.10 an hour.

Those who didn’t receive at-home care estimated costs for companionship care (which includes basic assistance for things like cooking and light housekeeping) at more than $24 an hour, and more than $26 an hour for personal care, which also includes bathing.

On the other hand, the average yearly cost of nursing home care is $70,000—nearly 75% more than home health care.

Most people who stay at home receive better care from family members and professional caregivers than those who stay in a nursing home.

 

The Lufkin Daily News reported the sentencing of a nursing home employee guilty of abusing a resident.  Telesforo Vasquez III admitted to trying to make a 91-year-old woman touch him sexually.  In the Nov. 24, 2010, incident, Vasquez reportedly exposed himself to the female Castle Pines resident and directed her to touch him. When she refused, Vasquez reportedly forced her down, causing an injury to her hip and buttock area.   He only got probation. Following to the sentencing, Vasquez was able to leave with his freedom.

Incredible.

The Herald Sun reported the tragic death of a female resident who died while tied to a toilet for two hours at a Victorian nursing home.  Widow Gwendoline Gleeson was put in a restraining belt and placed on a toilet at Barrabill House nursing home in Seymour in August last year and forgotten by staff who later found her dead.

There was no physical reason why the nylon restraining belt was used on Mrs Gleeson other than it being used to free up staff who would otherwise have to supervise her.  Mrs Gleeson’s care plan contained no family authorisation for the restraints and ordered she be supervised during toileting.

After being seen by a doctor on the morning of her death, Mrs Gleeson was placed on the toilet about 2.45pm by staff from the morning shift. A restraining belt was attached to hand bars beside the toilet and around her waist.   A staff shift change occurred at 3pm and the afternoon shift, who were apparently unaware of Mrs Gleeson’s whereabouts, did not discover her until 4.40pm.