Harmony Hospice Care, a South Carolina hospice company owned by Daniel J. Burton will pay the federal government nearly $1.3 million in a settlement with DOJ for filing false claims to Medicare.  Harmony Hospice Care was filing claims for hospice care under Medicare for patients who did not qualify.  Harmony Hospice Care has locations in Columbia, Greenville, Hartsville and Union.

Two employees, Mona Singletary and Lynda Fulton, sued the company and Burton under a whistleblower provision of federal law. That law allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the federal government and receive part of any penalties defendants must pay. Singletary and Fulton will split about $245,000.

 

 

The NY Times reported that bed rails are a significant safety concern, and nursing homes, family members and residents should be aware of their risks. See After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails.  The use of bed rails by nursing homes has declined. The restraint-free movement has been under way for more than 20 years, and many responsible care providers have eliminated the use of restraints completely.  For years, nursing homes have moved toward creating restraint-free environments that feel more like home, promoting both the safety and quality of life for those in their care.

Family members looking for a care provider for their loved ones should be wary of those that use physical restraints. Bed rails, while an obvious type of restraint, are but one example; chemical restraints (mood- or behavior-altering drugs) are another. The ultimate goal: restraint-free living for nursing home residents.

 

The Washington Post reported on a new report from Kaiser Family Foundation which found that States will receive more than $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to cover low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act.   Medicaid is a federal-state partnership that varies from state to state. So the consequences for state budgets will be different in each case.

“Medicaid is one of the two main ways that Obama’s law expands coverage to most of the 50 million uninsured U.S. residents. As a broader Medicaid safety net picks up more low-income people, new health insurance markets called exchanges will offer subsidized private coverage to the middle class.”

“Under the law, Medicaid will be expanded to cover people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $15,400 for an individual. It’s mainly geared to low-income adults with no children at home, who currently cannot get Medicaid coverage in most states.”

Some of the main findings:

— States that reject the expansion could still face a substantial increase in their Medicaid costs, as people already eligible for the program but not currently enrolled are prompted to sign up.

— States will save $18 billion from no longer having to offset the cost of charity for low-income uninsured people.

— Some states will actually come out ahead. New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and others that already cover low-income childless adults will be able to reap a more generous federal matching rate than they currently get.

— Texas, the state with the highest percentage of uninsured residents, would see a 6 percent increase in Medicaid spending. About 2.4 million residents would be added to the Medicaid rolls.

 

 

National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has a petition related to the dangers of bed rail usage in nursing homes.  Please sign the petition!

Significant national attention is being given to the dangers of bed rail usage in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private homes and other settings where consumers reside. The New York Times has published not one but two articles on this very issue over the past weeks – you can read more here and here.

No person wants a loved one to die from strangulation or asphyxiation due to a bed rail. Yet that is exactly what is happening. Bed rails are widely advertised as keeping elderly persons safe in bed, despite hundreds of people having died and thousands having been injured from these devices. Furthermore, little to no action has been taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on this important consumer safety issue. In fact, the two agencies disagree over which agency oversees the different kinds of bed rails.

Click HERE to sign a petition calling for the CPSC and FDA to develop mandatory safety rules and to address any jurisdictional questions between these two agencies.

Background: When data from the CPSC showed that there were 13 child fatalities in a 10-year period, the agency moved appropriately to publish regulations to protect children. The New York Times reported that 10 times or more adults than children have died in a similar time period, yet there are no mandatory standards in place for adult bed rails.

In this country we’ve worked hard to keep vulnerable children safe in bed. Why can’t we do the same for the vulnerable elderly? We need regulations that prevent deaths and injuries from bed rails – regardless of how they are classified and where they are found. Click HERE to read our joint letter with Public Citizen on this issue.

NewsOK and 9 Mobile recently reported on an appalling incident of resident abuse at
Quail Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Oklahoma. Lucy Waithira Gakunga who worked at a nursing aide at the facility, admitted stuffing latex gloves and holding them into the mouth of the victim, Eryetha Mayberry, who was 96-year-old and suffering from dementia.

The abuse was caught on video after the family of Mayberry suspected that facility staff was stealing from their loved one and placed a hidden security camera in the room. They were shocked to discover the abuse that was occurring. “We had no idea that she was being mistreated,” said Mayberry’s three daughters. “She was so helpless.”

The video shows Gakunga forcing the gloves into Mayberryʼs mouth while another aide look on. Further footage shows Gakunga place the victim into bed and then push her face, forcing her into a lying position. The aide is also seen pushing on the residentʼs torso for no apparent reason.
Sadly, Gakunga received a seven year prison sentence but the last five years of it were suspended.  Mayberryʼs daughter expressed her concern with Gakungaʼs light sentence, “I don’t feel it was severe enough, but I’m not the judge.”

Hopefully, a jury will someday be able to provide the family the justice they deserve.

Knox News reported that on August 29, 2012 the Tennessee Department of Health placed a suspension on admission at Kindred Nursing Home and Rehabilitation-Fairpark in Maryville, Tennessee.  The suspension came after a 89 year-old resident told family members she had been raped and a rape test by Maryville Police found DNA from an unknown man. The elderly victim suffers from severe dementia and the state fined the facility claiming it failed to protect that resident and other residents with dementia and placed them in danger.

The facility has submitted a plan for corrections which has been approved by the state in which it claims it ordered background checks for all male employees; had the Maryville police assess the security of the grounds; hired 24 hour security; and has began to change all locks.  Incredibly, the nursing home was not engaging in these acts prior to the incident and was leaving some entry points, such as residents windows unlocked and accessible to intruders. The nursing also did not have surveillance cameras when the incident occurred.

As of now the nursing homes suspension has been lifted, but it gives one an uneasy feeling knowing the same corporation that owns and manages Kindred Nursing Home also runs 226 other nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities in 28 states including three more in Tennessee whose security issues remain unaddressed.

The State reported that South Carolina’s state health plan will stop providing coverage for long-term nursing home care after June 2013.  Prudential, the state’s provider for long-term care insurance, is not offering the coverage anymore. State officials said they could not find another insurance company that would provide the coverage. I doubt they looked very hard.  South Carolina has offered the insurance since 1988 – but they are not required to offer it.

The Public Employee Benefit Authority voted unanimously to discontinue the coverage and  take away benefits from employees.  The state’s long-term care insurance is a voluntary program, meaning employees paid 100 percent of the premiums and taxpayers paid zero.  The insurance is expensive, and state workers got a group discount. That discount will stop after June.

CBS News and Mashable reported on an interesting new alternative to nursing homes created by MEDCottages.  Nicknamed the “Granny Pod” these three room modular home are equipped with a hospital- type room, including a first-aid kit, defibrillator machine, and safety rails.  Also, the family can monitor their elderly loved one around the clock with built-in cameras and a sensor to alert them to a fall.  These pods are intended to be moved to where the caregiver lives are simply hooked up to the already existing water and electricity.

MEDCottages intend to provide a better alternative to nursing homes since they allow loved ones the freedom of living alone with the comfort and security of staying close to their family.  At $125,000, the cottages can be expensive but so is residing in a nursing home.  However, for the family of Viola Baez they are clearly well worth the cost. Baez, who had made it clear that she never wanted to be placed in a nursing home seems happy with the alternative her family provided.
It will be interesting to see what these MEDCottages become and what effect they could have on the future of nursing homes.

The Sun Sentinel reported that a Florida jury awarded the family of George Dahmer $1.8 million.  Dahmer was a hit on the professional wrestling circuit from the 1950s to the 1980s, known by his Chief White Owl persona. Dahmer died May 23, 2008 at age 72 as a result of Lake Worth Manor nursing home’s neglect.   Within 63 days, the once-stocky wrestler had lost 32 pounds and the ability to walk or talk. The staff’s neglect caused Dahmer to suffer from painful decubitis ulcers on his heels and tailbone that became infected and caused his death. The family also testified that they were never told about his bedsores, a fall from a wheelchair, the loss of his dentures and other incidents.  The facility is now called Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Joined by her son, Steve Dahmer, Patricia Dahmer discussed the weeklong trial and the favorable verdict during a news conference with their attorney Joseph Landy. “Justice was served,” she said, adding that she hopes the case will be the springboard for new legislation to increase standards and regulations for nursing homes in Florida.