Travis Harper, in an article for McKnight’s Senior Living, reminded us that September is Fall Prevention Awareness Month.  During this time, a special focus is placed on raising awareness about ways that vulnerable seniors — and caregivers — can prevent falls, the most common negative incident experienced by older adults. The information highlighted is valuable all year.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-fifth of assisted living residents are injured in falls every year. Unsteadiness caused by medications, as well as obstacles in the living environment, can contribute to falls.

Preventing falls in senior living communities is much like preventing them in a traditional home. The following prevention strategies can go a long way toward keeping older adults safe in their living spaces:

  • Install handrails in stairways, hallways and bathrooms to ensure steadiness.
  • Clear all clutter, and arrange furniture to create walking space.
  • Immediately clean up spills when they occur.
  • Ensure that older adults don’t stand on furniture to reach for items.
  • Help seniors to always keep walking aids close by.
  • Encourage older adults to have a flashlight within reach and a nightlight in the bedroom in case they need to get out of bed in the middle of the night.

VirtuSense Technologies, or VST uses artificial intelligence to help prevent falls. The motion-based technology was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center.

How it works:

Many senior falls are avoidable through the identification of issues with balance, gait and overall function of the body. VST uses technologies that allow care providers to detect deficits before a fall or other serious injury occurs. Healthcare professionals can use VST’s evidence-based technology to identify these deficits and create a personalized exercise or therapy plan in response. Each person’s plan will be different and unique to her or his own needs.

Members of Bethesda’s community particularly enjoy VST’s game feature, designed to work on balance and hand-eye coordination. Our residents enjoy playing games that require using their hands to slice virtual vegetables that appear to fly across the screen, or leaning side to side as they snow ski downhill.

Once residents are screened, our employees take the results to craft tailored plans for each individual resident. We then are able to identify fall risks, and wellness coordinators and physical therapists can see specific weaknesses in the tested resident. This personalized care allows us to successfully prevent falls and other injuries, contributing to our ultimate goal of providing exceptional senior living care and services.

 

Pleasant Acres Rehabilitation & Nursing Center was sued because of a woman’s wrongful death. Nancy Young died on Dec. 15, 2018 —only  seven days after her left hip and wrist were fractured from a preventable fall.  Young had entered another resident’s room, and the resident slammed the door on her as she was leaving. Young fell, but no one reportedly witnessed it, according to the lawsuit.

The York County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide because of the action of another person. Young died of blunt force injuries that complicated existing conditions, including heart disease, according to the coroner’s report.

Daughter-in-law Barbara Young, who is executrix of Nancy Young’s estate, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in York County alleging that the nursing home did not provide enough staffing to care for Young as well as other residents.

Pennsylvania requires a minimum of 2.7 hours of care per resident per day. However, the state Department of Health found that the home was providing 2.44 hours of care per resident as of Oct. 26, 2018.  The state put the home on notice again in November about a staffing problem, the lawsuit states. Both times, the home submitted plans for correction. A former employee of Pleasant Acres and loved ones of residents complained earlier this summer to the York County Commissioners about the state of the home. They described it as being short-staffed.

In their efforts to maximize revenues/profits, Defendants negligently, intentionally, and/or recklessly reduced staffing levels below the level necessary to provide adequate care to residents, which demonstrated a failure to comply with the applicable regulations and standards for nursing home facilities,” the lawsuit alleges.

 The facility was well aware that Young was at risk for falls, and “if she fell, there was a likelihood she would be seriously hurt,” the lawsuit states. She needed to use a walker and to wear shoes while walking in the halls. Despite the facility knowing that she was at risk for falls and needed assistance and supervision to maintain her safety, Young fell several times after being admitted. Young’s family repeatedly met with staff, and interventions were planned to prevent falls, such as ensuring that her walker was within reach when nurses checked on her.

The night that Young fell, she was found lying on her back with only slipper socks on. She did not have her walker, the lawsuit states.

A recent New Jersey case really made me think about criminal intent in nursing home caregivers.  Monique Beaucejour, a nursing home aide was charged with reckless manslaughter for failing to seek emergency care for a patient who later died after suffering a head injury, said acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II.

Beaucejour found the 85-year-old resident on the floor of her room at the Waterview Center nursing home but placed her back in bed instead of seeking help. Investigators determined, however, that Beaucejour had placed Fannie McClain in bed and “returned to the room later and acted as if she just discovered her injured,” Stephens’ announcement said.

McClain’s 62-year-old daughter, Fangela McClain, said she had previously raised concerns about her mother’s care and said the nursing home did not have enough staff to adequately care for all of the patients. She said her mother, who had dementia, had fallen previously and another time she sprained her ankle.

In addition to reckless manslaughter, the prosecutor charged Beaucejour with hindering, obstruction and neglect of the elderly, Stephens said.

WFMZ reported that a lawsuit was filed over the preventable death of a nursing home resident at Cedarbrook Nursing Home caused by a staffing shortage, a federal lawsuit claims. The suit claims the county-owned facility was “intentionally and grossly understaffed” when resident Shirley Liebenguth fell and later died in 2017.

On July 5, 2017, Liebenguth was being moved by a certified nursing assistant when she was dropped, hitting her face and knees and causing major injury, the lawsuit says.  She needed extensive assistance for all activities of daily living including transfers and bed mobility. Cedarbrook medical records note Liebenguth “rolled out of bed while she was being changed,” but the suit says her fall was “due to the CNA’s lack of training, instruction, supervision…”

She was hospitalized with femur fractures and other injuries, but ultimately died nearly 10 hours later after suffering cardiac arrest and being resuscitated several times, the suit says.

The suit claims Cedarbrook was “intentionally and grossly understaffed” causing a “significant decrease in care that should have been provided” in the two years that Liebenguth was a patient.

 

New British research suggests that high-tech “robopets” are the next best thing for nursing home residents unable to have a beloved pet or those suffering from loneliness.  The robopets stimulate conversations and trigger fond memories of pets or past experiences.

In the new study, Abbott’s group analyzed data from 19 studies involving 900 nursing home residents, family members and staff at centers worldwide. Five different robopets were used in the studies: Necoro and Justocat (cats); Aibo (a dog); Cuddler (a bear); and Paro (a baby seal).

Many nursing home residents were entertained by the robopet even if they realized it wasn’t a real dog or cat. Of course, “residents’ responses could vary according to whether they were living with dementia and according to the severity of the dementia,” Abbott’s team noted.

Some residents talked to the robopet as if it were, in fact, alive and a real animal. Some even made an emotional connection with the “pet.” For example, one resident told staff, “I woke up today and thought, today is going to be a good day because I get to see my friend.”

For others, just holding and stroking the robopet brought “them back into a space in their life where they feel loved,” as one nursing home caretaker put it in the study.

As to whether the robopet felt “real,” one resident’s family member said that it “doesn’t matter, because I can see that the robotic cat has an impact on my dad’s quality of life.”

Besides their other benefits, robopets appeared to boost social interaction with other residents, family members and staff, often by acting as a trigger for conversation, according to the research.

“Of course, robopets are no substitute for human interaction,” she said, “but our research shows that for those who choose to engage with them, they can have a range of benefits.”

The study, which received no private industry funding, was published May 9 in the International Journal of Older People Nursing.

USA Today had the tragic and preventable story of James “Milt” Ferguson Sr., a blind World War II veteran, who died from a head injury suffered at a VA nursing home in Iowa. Ferguson was removed from one-on-one supervision, and he wandered into other residents’ rooms repeatedly, medical records show. When he rolled his wheelchair into one room unsupervised Dec. 20, 2018, his son said VA staff told him the resident of the room flipped Ferguson backwards out of his wheelchair. He landed on his head, causing a massive brain bleed.  A surveillance camera captured footage of James Ferguson Sr.’s fatal injury at a Veterans Affairs nursing home.

People are outraged that he wasn’t monitored more closely and what policies are in place to prevent a similar injury or death.  A USA TODAY investigation that chronicled Ferguson’s case and what specialists say was a concerning series of decisions by VA staff, before and after his deadly injury.

Nursing staff didn’t report the incident for 40 minutes, according to the records and surveillance video. They didn’t take him to the emergency room for more than two hours and he wasn’t transferred to a trauma hospital until five hours after the fall. He died from the injury two days later.
Ferguson was admitted to the acute psychiatry ward at the VA Medical Center in Des Moines in November after his dementia worsened. He had been in a private nursing home but became aggressive and wandered into other residents’ rooms. VA healthcare providers adjusted his medications and placed him on one-on-one observation with an aide to prevent him from straying into other rooms.

But on Dec. 11, 2018, staff removed the strict observation even though he was still determined to be a danger to himself and others, the medical records show. He was transferred to the VA nursing home on the medical center’s campus the next day. Ferguson continued to enter other residents’ rooms repeatedly, but records show staff did not reinstate strict observation.

After the head injury at 3:49 p.m. Dec. 20, Ferguson wasn’t taken to the emergency room until about 6:30 p.m., and he wasn’t transferred to a trauma hospital until 8:55 p.m.

A jury has awarded $6 million to the wife of James Romano, a nursing home resident confined to a wheelchair after breaking his hip in a fall at Clove Lakes Health Care and Rehabilitation Center nursing home.  Romano fell out of a wheelchair on April 14, 2011.  Romano had been brought to the facility a week earlier to undergo short-term rehabilitation for a back fracture suffered when he fell at home on April 1, 2011.

He was supposed to remain for about three or four weeks and then be released home in ambulatory condition.  The nursing home failed to supervise and offer assistance which allowed him to fall while attempting to stand up out of the wheelchair.

Romano suffered a left hip fracture, resulting in partial hip-replacement surgery at Staten Island University Hospital on April 15, 2011. He remained at University Hospital until April 26, when he was returned to the nursing home.  Romano stayed there for about three more years, confined to a wheelchair due to the hip fracture, until his death at age 87 on March 22, 2014.

Delores M. Romano, the victim’s wife, sued the nursing home.  She alleged Clove Lakes was negligent in failing to take preventive measures, such as using a seat belt, restraining belt or a table tray, to prevent Romano from falling out of the wheelchair. In addition, she alleged there wasn’t sufficient staff on duty, and Romano wasn’t properly supervised.

“It made the last three years of his life very difficult,” said the lawyer. “It stole time from his wife and family.”

Herbert said the trial began with opening statements on April 11, and the jury reached a unanimous verdict on April 17.

The panel deliberated about two hours before finding in favor of the plaintiffs, he said.

A DeKalb County jury awarded $1.8 million to the estate of a nursing home resident who died as a consequence of hitting her head in a fall from bed as the staff carelessly changed the bed linens while she remained in the bed.  She suffered a brain injury after an aide rolled her off her bed, causing her to fall to the floor and hit her head.  The jury verdict covered the pain and suffering of Christine Mitchell but included no damage award on an accompanying wrongful death claim.

Attorneys for the woman’s son and executor said the verdict revealed that a jury could find value in the suffering of even terminally ill plaintiffs.  Mitchell, who was already in poor health, died a month after the 2015 fall at Grace Healthcare of Tucker.  Grace Healthcare of Tucker is a 136-bed for-profit facility which is part of a Tennessee-based chain that operates more than 30 homes in multiple states.  The home currently has a 1-star rating — the lowest — on the federal government’s “Nursing Home Compare” website. The federal website rates the facility as “much below average” on the three key categories of health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

“One of the interesting things about this kind of case is how a jury would look at her. What is the pain and suffering worth for a woman dropped on her head who probably only had another six months to live?” said Evan Jones of Athens’ Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley.

“The jury answered that very important question: Their pain and suffering does matter,” said Jones, who tried the case with co-counsel Michael Prieto, William Holbert and Jonathan Marigliano of Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, an Atlanta firm.

Jones said his team made a $500,000 offer of settlement on the pain and suffering claim and a similar offer on wrongful death in September, both of which were declined.

Kathleen Menard is the six million dollar woman. Menard was a resident of the Harbor Place assisted living facility in Port St. Lucie.

In July 2017 Menard fell while walking without assistance or supervision outside the facility.  The facility had given her a safety pendant, where if she falls, she can press the pendant to get help and the staff were to come out and help. But there was one big problem: the staff never told her the pendant didn’t work outside.

A visitor found Menard unconscious. It is unclear how long she was lying on the ground.  She had suffered burns in the extreme heat and fatal heatstroke. She died 87 days later.

Menard’s family sued Port St. Lucie Retirement Investors. A jury compensated her and her family with a six million dollar verdict after winning a wrongful death lawsuit.

“I’m hoping legislation will change and it’ll also change for other people so nobody ever has to go through this. This is the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life and I will never, ever live it down,” said Menard’s daughter.

 

 

THI OF SOUTH CAROLINA AT CHARLESTON, LLC is a nursing home in North Charleston owned and operated by Fundamental Long Term Care Holdings LLC which is now known as Hunt Valley Holdings.  The facility is known as Riverside Health and Rehab.  The facility is awful as most of the facilities in that infamous national for-profit chain tend to be because of the policy to under-staff to increase profits.

Riverside is again facing a wrongful death lawsuit because a resident was neglected and died after the facility failed to take care of her.  An expert affidavit states that based on the medical records of the woman who died, it was documented the woman was at high risk for falls, but the facility’s employees failed to “properly implement fall prevention measures” to keep her safe.

The lawsuit was filed last month and claims a woman was admitted to Riverside Health and Rehab in September 2015.  About a year later, employees at the facility allegedly found her on the floor of her room with a laceration above her right eyebrow.  A couple days later, the resident got a fever and was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with dehydration and severe malnutrition.

A couple days after that, the lawsuit says that woman died as a consequence of the traumatic fall.

Public records from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control show this facility has a long history of complaints.

In the last five years, people have filed at least 43 complaints against Riverside. That’s more complaints than any other nursing home in Charleston County.