Barbara Baer and Ken Traub are co-chairs of Elder Justice, a committee of Metro Justice who recently wrote the below article for the Democrat and Chronicle.  A front page story in the Democrat and Chronicle harkened bad news for Monroe County area residents who have a loved one in a nursing home or are entertaining the prospect of having a loved one in a nursing home.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal government agency, the number of the worst rated (one star) nursing homes in the area has more than doubled to 12 out of the 34 nursing homes in Monroe County.

More than a third of our nursing homes are rated at the bottom of the barrel.

At the same time the number of top rated nursing homes has dropped from five for three. None of this news is good for seniors.

The Elder Justice Committee, of which we serve as Co-chairs, has been advocating for the passage of the Safe Staffing for Quality Act which would create a minimum level of combined staffing of 4.1 hours.

 This would total of 4. 1 hours of Registered Nurses, RN, Licensed Practical Nurses, (LPN) and Certified Nursing Assistants(CNA). Each resident would receive a minimum of 45 minutes of nurse attention in a 24 hour period.

Adequate staffing is essential to the residents who suffer from chronic diseases and need help in such necessary tasks as toileting and feeding. In addition many residents require medication which can only be given by nurses. In fact, 4.1 hours a day hardly seem enough, although it is a start. 

We know that the Safe Staffing Act (A2954-S1032) is not a panacea but it is a beginning.

LifeSite News had a horrific story about an 103-year-old woman with no terminal illness named Marian Leonard who is being held at an Alabama hospice against her will, where her daughter says she’s not being properly fed and a state-appointed “guardian” has authorized doctors to give her powerful antipsychotic drugs despite no history of mental illness.

According to Leonard’s daughter, Nancy Scott, and Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF), “the state of Alabama placed Marian in protective custody and appointed a third-party guardian to take over Marian’s care after erroneously believing Nancy moved her mother to home care against a doctor’s recommendation. Ms. Scott says she had the ‘full permission and blessing’ of the doctor to move her mother from a nursing home in Tennessee back to the family’s home town in Alabama.”

Her mother was placed at Diversicare of Riverchase, a hospice facility, without her daughter’s consent or blessing.  Scott is now prevented from seeing her mother more than twice a month for 1 1/2 hours per visit – and she’s only able to see her at all because of the work of her local attorney.

According to LLDF, “The last time Nancy (Scott) went to see her mother, Marian pleaded with her to take her home, saying, ‘If you don’t get me out of here, they’re going to kill me.’”

“We are appalled that Alabama’s Department of Human Resources would consign an elderly woman to a facility against her will and then allow her condition to deteriorate so rapidly,” said LLDF executive director Alexandra Snyder. “Life Legal will do whatever is in our power to ensure that Marian Leonard receives the care she needs, including frequent visits from her daughter.”

“Nancy has reported that her mother is not being given sufficient food and that the guardian had authorized Marian to be given antipsychotic drugs, including Haldol, even though Marian has no history of mental illness,” according to LLDF. “When Marian was first placed into the guardian’s custody, she could walk, was energetic, and was able to eat a regular diet. Now, she is bedridden, lethargic, and suffers from bedsores.”

The Patient Rights Act, a bill recently introduced by U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, would punish facilities for not exercising “the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of any patient as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to a patient in a different state of functionality, development, or degree of dependence.”

The vulnerable people the Patient Rights Act would protect include the “unborn, newly born, born prematurely, pregnant, elderly, mentally or physically disabled, terminally ill, in a persistent vegetative state, unresponsive or comatose, or otherwise incapable of self-advocacy.”

“The legislation also creates a right of civil action for patients and families to sue if a federally funded health-care group fails to respect a patient’s rights,” Alexandra DeSanctis wrote in a summary of the bill on National Review.

McKnight’s had an article about accusations that Brookdale Senior Living violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by understaffing their facilities.  A case management conference is scheduled for today and may decide if the case should go forward as a class action.

Attorney Gay Grunfeld filed the case in July 2017.   The lawsuit is seeking a minimum of $9,000 for each affected resident, and more than 5,000 residents of Brookdale communities in California could become part of the class.

On June 5, the Court denied two motions brought by Brookdale, one of which sought to stay the claims of two plaintiffs while the company appeals a ruling that their claims are not subject to arbitration.

“We were pleased. That was our view, that their [the residents’] claims should go forward in the District Court,” Grunfeld said of the motion denial. “We are now in discovery, which is where you’re taking facts and evidence for each side, so we wanted to keep going with regard to all of our named plaintiffs. And of course we also are seeking class certification, so we want to have robust discovery.”

Courts have previously ruled that the ADA does apply to assisted living.

“We are very pleased with the court’s ruling,” Grunfeld said. “We believe that the ADA does apply to these facilities, and we are moving forward to establish that Brookdale is not complying with the ADA.”

Charles Banas is a decorated World War II bomber pilot. He hoped to attend the 75th D-Day commemoration overseas. However, he became sick when contaminated water from a burst sewage pipe over Banas’ bedroom last June was never properly addressed or cleaned by the staff.  Banas also had bedsores and became permanently disabled. The family says he’s now facing eviction after living at Westminster Nursing Facility for the past 16 years.

It went from pneumonia to them neglecting, actually leaving him unattended in their care facility for such a long time that he fell and broke his pelvis,” Banas’ son Mark said.  Mark Banas says independent tests done by a private company found fecal matter and high levels of mold spores in his father’s unit.

“The family believes had the facility addressed the leak in a timely basis, had appropriately cleaned the unit, that the substance that caused the eventual affection would not have happened,” said Steven Levin, the Banas family’s attorney.

In May, Westminster filed suit to evict his father, despite a life care contracted signed in 2003 and more than $1 million already paid to the nursing care facility.

According to the eviction lawsuit, Westminster claims the elderly Banas owes them more than $50,000. His son and attorney say Westminster actually owes them money, over-billing Banas for years.

“This case is really a parade of horribles,” Levin said.

Now, both battles may end up in court. Banas’ children just want it settled and their father cared for properly.

“I think this is all very sad and confusing for him whereas it just makes me angry,” Mark Banas said.

A Westminster official says the facility has not yet been served with the neglect lawsuit, so he couldn’t comment on those claims. He also said he couldn’t discuss why Westminster was suing to evict Banas.

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WMBF recently reported that construction started on a $56 million nursing home for veterans in Florence, S.C.  It’s one of two new facilities being built across the state to give veterans and their families more access to care.  State and local leaders said the project is a big deal not only for veterans and their families, but the entire community.

The state of the art facility will house 104 veterans with their own private bedrooms and bathrooms.  The community center for the nursing home includes a large activity space, chapel, physical therapy area and staff space.

Florence County has around 10,000 veterans in the area alone.  He said the new nursing facility is a step to giving all veterans a good quality of life in the place they call home.

The Post and Courier reported on the six nursing homes in South Carolina identified as consistently poor-performing in a congressional list previously kept secret by a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Riverside Health and Rehab in North Charleston is the only facility in the state given the full SFF designation. The other five South Carolina facilities listed in the report were listed as candidates for the SFF program:

  • Commander Nursing Center, Florence
  • Blue Ridge of Sumter
  • Life Care Center of Hilton Head
  • Compass Post Acute Rehabilitation, Conway
  • PruittHealth — Blythewood, Columbia

The list, current as of April, was released to the Senate Special Committee on Aging at the beginning of June after a bipartisan inquiry from Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican.

“It is outrageous that we continue to hear stories of abuse and neglect in nursing homes that do not live up to these high standards,” Casey said in a news release. “Choosing a nursing home is a difficult and often painful decision to make. Individuals and families deserve to have all the information available to choose the facility that is right for them.”

Homes that meet safety and health guidelines are typically inspected every nine to 15 months. If a facility is classified as a Special Focus Facility, however, it must be inspected every six months and must graduate from the SFF designation within 18 months or it risks losing the ability to offer Medicare or Medicaid.

The list of SFF-designated facilities has previously been made publicly available. But until now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had shielded from the public eye the list of roughly 400 facilities that were considered for the program but didn’t make the cut.


The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported on a recent lawsuit that allege staff members at Paramount Senior Living at Seven Fields nursing home took lewd photos of a resident suffering from dementia and shared the photo on multiple social media platforms.  The lawsuit claims staff at Paramount Senior Living at Seven Fields took a photo of an 83-year-old woman referred to in the court filing by the initials “S.D.”

The photo, allegedly shared on Snapchat, showed the woman naked below the waist and sitting in a shower chair.  The photo showed the woman attempting to cover herself indicating she knew she was being recorded. The Snapchat was allegedly overlaid with a graphic that said “Winter Fail.”

The photo came to light only after an anonymous tip was made to the Butler County Area on Aging, and the woman’s family was unaware of the incident for three days.

“Inexplicably, despite this heinous photograph and/or video being shared with various members of (Paramount) staff … no staff member came forward” and reported the violation, according to the lawsuit, nor did anyone try to intervene when the photo was taken.

The lawsuit further alleged Paramount officials hindered the county agency’s investigation by claiming the woman didn’t appear in the photo and, later, that the photo wasn’t shared publicly. The lawsuit said neither is true.


WSPA recently reported on one of the scarier facts about the nursing home industry:  Nursing facilities fail to report thousands of serious cases of potential neglect and abuse of Medicare beneficiaries even though the federal government requires such reporting.

Auditors with the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office investigated incidents where the patient was taken straight from a nursing facility to a hospital emergency room. Scouring Medicare billing records, they estimated that in 2016 about 6,600 cases reflected potential neglect or abuse that was not reported as required. Nearly 6,200 patients were affected.

Mandatory reporting is not always happening, and beneficiaries deserve to be better protected,” said Gloria Jarmon, head of the inspector general’s audit division.

Overall, unreported cases worked out to 18% of about 37,600 incidents in which a Medicare beneficiary was taken to the emergency room from a nursing facility in circumstances that raised red flags.  CMS agreed with the inspector general’s recommendations to ramp up oversight by providing clearer guidance to nursing facilities about what kinds of episodes must be reported, improving training for facility staff, requiring state nursing home inspectors to record and track all potential cases and monitoring cases referred to law enforcement agencies.

Neglect and abuse of elderly patients can be difficult to expose. Investigators say many cases are not reported because vulnerable older people may be afraid to tell even friends and relatives much less the authorities. In some cases, neglect and abuse can be masked by medical conditions. Investigators found that nursing facility staff and even state inspectors had an unclear and inconsistent understanding of reporting requirements.

The nursing facilities covered by the report provide skilled nursing and therapy services to Medicare patients recovering from surgeries or hospitalization. Many facilities also play a dual role, combining a rehabilitation wing with long-term care nursing home beds.



More than 1 million Americans have lost health coverage since 2016, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds.  The CBO estimates that the number of Americans without insurance has risen from 27.5 million in 2016 to 28.9 million in 2018, an increase of 1.4 million Americans going uninsured.

The report follows other studies, all suggesting that America’s uninsured rate is rising under President Trump, whose administration has passed new rules that make it more difficult to enroll in coverage.

Much of that increase is concentrated in the Medicaid program, where the Trump administration has approved new requirements that make it more difficult for low-income Americans to enroll in the program.  We also have more concrete evidence that new rules requiring Medicaid enrollees to work have led to lower enrollment in that public program, which is meant to serve low-income Americans. More than 18,000 people there have lost coverage since the Trump administration approved that new rule, which requires Medicaid recipients to work at least 80 hours per month (or participate in other qualifying activities) in order to receive their benefits.

There is evidence that the discussion of repeal may be depressing insurance enrollment. A YouGov poll at the end of 2017 found that 31 percent of Americans believed Republicans had successfully repealed the Affordable Care Act. More recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 17 percent of Americans believe the law has been repealed and 14 percent aren’t sure if it’s still standing. With that many Americans believing Obamacare doesn’t exist, it makes sense that you’re seeing lower sign-up rates in both the individual markets and Medicaid.

KWQC had a recent article about the benefits of robot pets which are becoming more common in retirement homes. They’re not as much responsibility as a regular pet, and can bring a lot of joy to the residents.  Where it might have gotten lonely before, now there’s a friend. This can help residents who suffers from agitation or dementia with behavior issues.

“When a person is in a room by themselves basically, it’s nice to have something that you feel is there with you,” said Clair Odell, whose daughter is a resident. “The sounds, the purring, the mewing seems to be very soothing.”

Odell remembers the first time he met his daughter’s pet.

“When we went to see her and her new cat, the excitement and the joy that she had when she was showing it off and showing off its antics,” he said.

Officials at Ridgecrest Village say the next step is getting pets with reminders in them for residents – letting them know about appointments and when to take their medicine.