The Madison Record reported on whistle-blower Premissa D. Acoff, a former nursing home employee, who claims she was wrongfully terminated after  courageously reporting incidents of abuse and neglect that led to the death of at least two of its residents in 2014.  Acoff  filed a lawsuit against her employer, Cahokia Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Inc. and its parent corporation, SW Financial Services Co., formerly known as SW Management Co., alleging multiple incidents of patient abuse along with retaliation, harassment and a hostile work environment beginning in 2014.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff submitted a written complaint to SW Financial’s regional director and its compliance officer on or about Nov. 12, 2014, stating that she was being retaliated against for reporting abuse and neglect of the facility’s patients. When the defendant refused to take action, the plaintiff submitted anonymous reports to the Illinois Department of Public Health from mid-November 2014 until early May 2015.  After Acoff submitted a signed report to IDPH on May 6, 2015, simultaneously informing her employer, she was terminated on May 20.

 

The White House launched a new website at aging.gov, meant to serve as a one-stop shop for information on government agencies that serve older Americans and their families.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pledged to improve the care received by more than one million nursing home residents nationwide by updating guidelines that dictate the standard of care that nursing homes must provide in order to qualify for government payments. Those guidelines were last updated in 1991. Currently, 1.5 million people live in more than 15,000 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to a news release.

The Department of Health and Human Services also delivered a new national plan for Alzheimer’s disease, revealing actions that the federal government would take in the coming year to address a form of dementia which affects 5.3 million Americans. These actions include launching a $4 million campaign to teach older adults about changes in their brains and expanding research to find an effective treatment for the disease by 2025.

The Washington Post had a great article on the dangers of blood thinners in nursing homes.  Coumadin is often given to residents with abnormal heart rhythm, which increases the risk of stroke, but the drug must be carefully calibrated: too much, and you can bleed uncontrollably; too little, and you can develop life-threatening clots.  The drug interacts badly with certain foods and medications, particularly antibiotics, and it requires regular blood tests to ensure it’s working as intended. The test measures the time it takes for blood plasma to clot.

“When nursing homes fail to maintain this delicate balance, it puts patients in danger. From 2011 to 2014, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died after errors involving Coumadin or its generic version, warfarin, a ProPublica analysis of government inspection reports shows. Studies suggest there are thousands more injuries every year that are never investigated by the government.”

Periodic inspections document hundreds of additional errors that were caught early enough to prevent serious harm, but the real toll is likely much higher, experts say. A 2007 peer-reviewed study in the American Journal of Medicine estimated that nursing home residents suffer 34,000 fatal, life-threatening or serious events related to the drug each year. North Carolina data shows moremedication errors in nursing homes involving Coumadin than any other drug.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services identified Coumadin and other anticoagulants as one of the drug categories most frequently implicated in “adverse drug events,” calling on government agencies to work on solutions. In a statement, the CMS, which is part of HHS, said it is raising awareness of such events, training its inspectors to do a better job at identifying them and working with nursing homes to prevent them.