Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?

The Plain Dealer launches investigation into conditions at Ohio nursing homes

On March 19, John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrigan of The Plain Dealer published the initial findings of a multi-part investigation into Ohio’s nursing homes. Their report reveals a number of concerning statistics about the quality of care in facilities around the state and highlights tragic incidents of negligence and abuse.  Continue reading “Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?”

5 tips from an Ohio nursing home neglect lawyer for choosing a good nursing home for a family member

By Craig McLaughlin

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau recorded the greatest number of people age 65 and older in census history.  The number was 40.3 million people, or 13% of the population, and that number is only going to go up into the future.  As people live longer, many Ohioans are going to need medical care and assistance that can only be found at a nursing home.  There are almost 1,000 nursing homes in Ohio. So how can you find out what is a good nursing home vs. a bad one? Here are 5 quick tips to help you select a nursing home for your family member.

1. Check out the nursing home on the Ohio Department of Health and Medicare websites

choosing the right nursing home
Photo: Ulrich Joho/CC BY 2.0

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is responsible for monitoring and regulating nursing homes in Ohio.  These facilities are subject to regular inspections by investigators from the ODH.  The ODH puts out the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide which contains inspection reports, facility details, family satisfaction survey scores, and resident satisfaction survey scores.

Many Ohio nursing home residents pay for their care by using Medicare and Medicaid.  In order for a nursing home to receive payment from the government, it must comply with minimum standards that are established.  The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services monitors and compares these facilities to see which ones are doing a good job. Their website, Nursing Home Compare, contains quality of care information on more than 15,000 nursing homes.

2. Visit the nursing home to see how the staff interacts with each other

I recommend that you actually go and visit the nursing home and spend an hour or two in the waiting area or other common areas of the facility and just observe what happens in a typical day.  Pay attention to how the nurses, therapists, and aides interact with each other.  Chances are if they are being rude to each other, then they are going to be rude to your family member, especially when you’re not there.  Also, watch to see if they are taking the time to talk to the residents or are too busy gossiping with each other and are ignoring the residents.

3. Ask questions of the nurses and nurse’s aides

In the past, many of the owners of Ohio nursing homes lived in the same community and knew many of the residents before they even started living at the nursing home.  They treated the residents like family.  This has changed as more and more nursing homes are bought up by large national corporations who are more concerned with cutting costs in order to improve their stock price.  With Medicare reimbursement and Medicaid reimbursement rates remaining flat and expenses going up, this often results in staffing of the nursing homes being kept to the bare legal minimum. This means nurses and aides are often overworked and underpaid.

I encourage you to ask actual nurses and nurse’s aides at the nursing home how long they have been at that particular facility.  If the nurses and aides have been there a long time, then that is a good sign the employees are being compensated fairly, are not being stretched too thin, and will likely provide better care to your family member.  Also, ask them if they work a lot of overtime or double shifts. If the answer is yes, then that can be a bad sign that patient care is going to be negatively affected by short staffing.  Please remember you need to get past the marketing person who is giving you a fancy brochure and a tour of the facility and ask questions of the actual care providers.

4. Give the nursing home the smell test

It’s a sad fact aging can lead to the loss of bowel and bladder control.  A person’s medication can also cause gas.  These things can lead to some unpleasant, but not unexpected smells, at a nursing home.  However, if the facility smells like stale urine, then that can be a sign the nursing home is not being cleaned routinely or correctly.

5. Give the nursing home the taste test

Ask the nursing home if you can eat a meal in the dining area. Where the residents eat, how the food looks, and how it tastes is also a good indicator of the quality of care your family member will receive at the nursing home. If a lot of the residents eat their meals in their rooms instead of the dining area, then that can be a sign that they are not receiving a lot of attention from the staff.  Is the food visually appealing? Is it edible? Food is often very important not only for good physical health, but also can improve the spirits of your family member.

With the baby boomer generation getting older and people living longer, it should be no surprise that new nursing homes are being built in Ohio.  But how do you know if these new facilities or existing nursing homes are any good? If you are faced with the difficult decision of putting your loved one into a nursing home or some type of assisted living facility, then I encourage you to follow these five tips in order to select a safe place for your family member.

 

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents, and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

 

Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Elder Abuse

nursing_homeAs people age, they may become less able to physically defend themselves or stand up to an abusive caregiver. There are more than half a million reports of this each year, and professionals estimate that at least a few more million cases occur annually but are simply not reported. Abuse may come in many forms, including emotional, abusive, and financial, among others. Learn what signs to look for in elderly family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. An elder abuse attorney specializes in helping victims who are in situations of mistreatment. If a loved one dies at the hands of an abusive caregiver, the family should seek the guidance of a wrongful death attorney to discuss this difficult situation and learn about the legal rights they may have.

Physical abuse includes all types of assault, such as pushing or shoving but also the inappropriate use of confinement, drugs, or restraints. Emotional abuse occurs when a caregiver causes undue emotional pain or distress to the elderly person through yelling, insulting, or blaming him or her. Isolating the person from friends and family is also considered emotional abuse. These are all signs that may indicate abuse of some type:

  • Unexplained signs of injury, such as bruises or cuts
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Broken bones, sprains, or dislocations
  • Torn or dirty undergarments
  • Caregiver denies contact or visitation with others, especially without him or her being present
  • Caregiver threatens or belittles the elderly person
  • Elderly person rocks or mumbles to himself, much like someone with dementia

If someone you love has been injured due to nursing home neglect or elder abuse, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

The Growing Problem of Elder Abuse

elder abuse a growing problemFor many of us, moving aging parents and other relatives into a nursing home or similar facility is a sad, yet necessary decision. Unfortunately, countless elderly people are abused, neglected, and exploited by the caregivers at such facilities. This is commonly known as elder abuse.

Elder abuse is any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or other person that creates an unreasonable risk of harm to a vulnerable elderly person. The abuse can be physical, emotional, or even sexual, and it can have serious consequences, including death.

You should consult with an elder abuse attorney immediately if your parent or other loved one has been injured or killed due to suspected elder abuse. Hundreds of thousands of elderly people fall victim to mistreatment by trusted caregivers and other adults every year, and the problem may be bigger than we thought due to underreporting.

Legislatures in all fifty states have passed elder abuse prevention laws. These statutes define the abuse and set forth punishments. Criminal statutes often allow for enhanced penalties if the victim is older than a specified age, meaning that elder abuse can have severe consequences.

If your elderly parent or relative has been seriously injured or died due to such mistreatment, an elder abuse attorney can help you obtain payment for their injuries, pain and suffering, as well as compensation for any losses you sustained due to their injury or death.

 

Source:

“What is Elder Abuse?” – Administration on Aging, Department of Health & Human Services

Loved One Hurt in Nursing Home

Ohio attorney Bill Campbell discusses the most common forms of injury to residents of a nursing home or long-term care facility.

It can be a very difficult time when we have to put a parent or a loved one in a nursing home. It’s stressful, emotional and can be very challenging.

So, when we hear stories in the news about lawsuits and nursing home abuse, it can add even more pressure and troubles to the entire ordeal. But the reality is that nursing home abuse is real.

One of the most common injuries a resident can suffer is a bed sore (also known as a pressure wound). A bed sore occurs when the patient spends too much time on a part of their body and the skin basically begins to break down.

To combat this situation and any other medical issues, nursing home facilities are tasked with putting together a comprehensive care plan for each resident. The staff meets with doctors, nurses, nutritionists and even the families of the resident to discuss the exact needs of your parent or loved one. This plan is tailored to meet the needs of their well being by understanding their medical needs, nutritional needs and even hygiene.

Unfortunately, sometimes this plan is not followed. When the care plan that was put in place at the facility becomes compromised, the resident may not be turned enough and develop bed sores, become trapped in a bed-rail or be seriously injured in a fall. This can be due to poor communication, an undertrained staff or even overworked staff. Whatever the reason, your parent or loved one was put in danger and suffered pain.

If we can demonstrate that the facility or its employees acted in a negligent manner, we can bring a claim against them and hold them liable for any damages your loved one has incurred. These damages can include medical bills, disability, disfigurement as well as pain and suffering. If you suspect your loved is suffering from abuse or neglect, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help your family recover from nursing home abuse.

To learn more about nursing home abuse law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

Bill Campbell

Bed Rails in Nursing Homes: What you need to know

A 94-year-old woman died last weekend when her head became stuck between her mattress and a bed rail at a Pennsylvania nursing home. The county coroner ruled the cause of death as “accidental asphyxiation due to compression.” Sadly, this tragic event could have been prevented.

Experts have known about bed rail dangers for nearly two decades

Dr. Steve Miles, a bioethicist and medical professor at the University of Minnesota, first made federal regulators aware of bed rail-related deaths in 1995. Since that time, over 500 patients have died due to bed rails, with 155 deaths occurring from 2003-2012.

Despite repeated efforts by consumer groups to increase regulations, such as requiring warning labels, the FDA decided against it due to resistance from manufacturers. In 2006, the FDA issued voluntary guidelines for hospitals and nursing homes that included recommended size limits for openings and identified common entrapment risks.

While regulatory challenges remain, the FDA has a new website on bed rail safety that offers information for consumers, caregivers, health care providers and manufacturers.

Identify Risks

High-risk people include those with pre-existing conditions such as confusion, restlessness, lack of muscle control, or a combination of these factors. Additionally, people who are cognitively impaired from the use of

medication or from a medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, are at a higher risk of entrapment and injuries, including:

  • Strangling, suffocating, bodily injury or death when patients or part of their body are caught between rails or between the bed rails and mattress
  • More serious injuries from falls when patients climb over rails
  • Skin bruising, cuts, and scrapes
  • Inducing agitated behavior when bed rails are used as a restraint
  • Feeling isolated or unnecessarily restricted.
  • Preventing patients, who are able to get out of bed, from performing routine activities such as going to the bathroom or retrieving something from a closet

If your loved one is in a nursing home or other long-term health care facility, talk to their health care planning team to find out which options are best for them, remembering to reassess their needs on a regular basis.

 

Sources:

Greene nursing home resident dies in bed mishap.” By Tom Fantaine, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 25, 2014.

After Dozens of Deaths, Inquiry Into Bed Rails.” By Ron Nixon, The New York Times, November 25, 2012.

Nursing Home Found Negligent: Nurse did not perform CPR

A Minnesota nursing home has been found negligent in the death of a resident who died when a nurse failed to administer CPR.

According to a report issued by the Minnesota State Department of Health, the woman was admitted to the short-term rehabilitation unit of Oak Hills Living Center with the goal of returning home. The report also indicated that the patient’s Plan of Care included “CPR when necessary.” Unfortunately, the nurse claims she went into “panic mode” and that she was unaware of the CPR provisions in the resident’s plan of care until it was too late.

CPR Policies

In the past, some nursing homes had blanket no-CPR policies in place that prevented staff members – including nurses – from performing CPR. Instead, they would only call 911 and wait. On October of 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a memorandum stating that facilities must not establish and implement facility-wide no CPR-policies.

The CMS document states, “Any limits on how a facility may implement advance directives should be applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration a resident’s preferences, medical conditions, and cultural beliefs.”

Bill of Rights

In Ohio, like most states, residents of nursing homes and other residential care facilities have legal rights. You have the right to know what your health condition is, to decide how you will be cared for and to receive all the care you agreed to in your plan of care.

Residents are also entitled to

  • Have information
  • Make decisions
  • Have privacy
  • Have visitors
  • Be free from discrimination and restraints
  • A safe and clean living environment
  • Voice Complaints
  • Stay in the facility or, if they wish, receive services in another setting that meets their needs 

This is just a partial list of the many important rights afforded to nursing home patients. You can read the complete list of residents’ rights in Section 3721.13 of the Ohio Revised Code.

If you or someone you love was injured due to neglect or abuse while a resident of a nursing home or other residential care facility, contact an experienced nursing home attorney today.

 

Source:New Ulm nursing home cited in resident’s death; nurse claimed ‘panic mode’” by Robb Murray, Free Press of Mankato/TwinCities.com, February 12, 2014.

Nursing Home Fire leaves 3 Dead, Dozens Missing

Night of horror in L'Isle-Verte
Photo: Francois Drouin, infodimanche.com

A deadly fire broke out overnight in a Canadian nursing home and The Toronto Star reports Quebec police are in “mass casualty management mode.”

The facility located in L’Isle-Verte, Quebec was home to more than 50 elderly residents, many of them unable to walk on their own. The National police of Quebec have confirmed 3 deaths, 13 residents transferred to local hospitals and 10  others taken to another senior home. About 30 people remain missing.

Eyewitnesses described a horrifying scene, with family members trying to reach residents trapped on the balcony, only to watch them perish in the flames.

According to infodimache.com, which posted video of the blaze, firefighters helped some residents to evacuate, but were unable to rescue everyone. “These are elderly, some of which are very limited mobility. Others were afraid and they hid under blankets,” said local Fire Chief Yvan Charron.*

Authorities say the building was equipped with fire and smoke alarms and a “partial” sprinkler system.

Lack of Federal Regulations

As Americans, we’d like to think such a tragedy could never occur in our country. Surely, we have regulations requiring nursing homes to have sprinkler systems throughout the entire building. Unbelievably, until last year, U.S. federal regulations only required some nursing homes to have automatic sprinkler systems.

A recent article by the New York Times reports,

Automatic sprinklers, the most effective protection against fires, have been mandated in any new nursing home certified by Medicare and Medicaid, or in new construction added to an existing facility, since 2000. But for older nursing homes, there was no such regulation until August 2008 — and the industry, complaining about high costs, was given five years to comply.

Despite the new regulations, many facilities have not fully complied. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has diligently tracked the progress of nursing homes across the country and published a list of non-compliant facilities on their website. Most recently updated in December 2013, their list contains the names of over 700 nursing homes across the country that have yet to either install automatic sprinklers or only have partial systems—including five in Ohio. [NOTE: The list may contain errors or may not reflect the most current information.]

Do your Homework

When selecting a nursing home or other long-term facility, make sure you ask about their policies.

  • Are emergency exits clearly marked? Check to make sure there is an evacuation plan in place that involves all staff and is practiced regularly.
  • Are there safety systems in place such as alternative exits, smoke detectors, and sprinklers throughout the entire facility?
  • Is the facility well maintained and free of clutter?
  • What is their smoking policy?
  • Does the nursing home have an emergency evacuation plan and hold regular fire drills?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio? (Keep in mind; staff levels may fluctuate at night, on weekends and holidays.)
  • Ask to see their most current Health & Fire Safety Inspection Reports. The nursing home must have the report of the most recent state or federal survey of the facility available for you to look at. You can also find reports on most State agency websites, as well as on medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare

Fire and evacuation plans for nursing homes have gained nationwide attention since fires in Hartford, Connecticut and Nashville, Tennessee claimed the lives of 31 residents in 2003. However, the deadliest nursing home fire took place in Ohio in 1963 when flames destroyed the Golden Age Nursing Home in Fitchville Township. Although more than 60 people died, the fire didn’t make national news because it occurred just hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

 

Sources:

Quebec seniors home fire: 3 dead, 30 missing” by Allan Woods, The Toronto Star, January 23, 2014.

Nuit d’horreur à L’Isle-Verte” (Night of horror in L’Isle-Verte) by Francois Drouin, infodimanche.com, January 23, 2014.
*Originally reported in French; translation by Google Chrome.

Many Nursing Homes Operate Without Adequate Sprinkler Systems” by Paula Span, New York Times, September 30, 2013.

 

Protecting Your Loved One in a Nursing Home

 

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Stories of elderly men and women who are made to sit in their beds for days and weeks, not able to move to use the bathroom and suffering in pain.

Putting a mother, father or other loved one in a nursing home is already a difficult decision. Dealing with the additional anxiety that comes with worrying about how well they are being taken care of can be challenging.

The first thing you need to know is that you can and should get involved in your loved one’s life at the nursing home. If you are able, strive to be a constant there. Studies have shown that patients who have regular guests and loving families who care receive better treatment in nursing homes.

Start by getting to know the staff: nurses, doctors, and administrators. They can tell you a lot about the facility and what they offer, but their actions can also tell when things aren’t working correctly. Do they always seem too busy to help? Do the patients look like they are left unattended and uncared-for often? Does the facility smell? Does the staff act as if they don’t want to be there?

Another option you have is attending the nursing home’s care plan meetings. These are typically held monthly and include everyone who has an impact on your loved one’s care at the home. The meeting will be attended by nurses, doctors, dietitians, social services and even their physical therapist. This monthly meeting is to ensure that the patient’s needs are being met currently and plans are being made for future needs as well.

Getting involved is the easiest way to make sure your loved one is protected. If you feel that the nursing home is mistreating them in any way, have a candid conversation with those in charge. If that doesn’t work or falls on deaf ears, there are programs out there designed to investigate your concerns.  You may also want to speak to a lawyer in the event your loved one suffers an injury in the nursing home and you need answers.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at http://www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

– William P. Campbell

Hidden cameras reveal patient neglect

Hidden cameras reveal patient neglect

In an extraordinary effort, the offices of Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, have teamed up with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to investigate Autumn Health Care of Zanesville – a Muskingum County nursing home. Triggered by numerous failed inspections as well as complaints by residents and their family members, officials used hidden cameras to investigate the allegations of abuse and neglect.

What they saw was disturbing. According to Mike DeWine, the surveillance tapes revealed scenarios such as patients not receiving medical treatments properly and not being fed. “It wasn’t really physical abuse by the staff, but I consider it physical abuse by neglect,” he said. “The nurses with the Ohio Department of Health who watched the tapes were physically sickened by what they saw.”

As a result of the investigation, DeWine announced that Autumn Health Care of Zanesville’s license will be revoked. A recommendation was also sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to terminate the facility’s provider agreement. Autumn Health Care has 30 days to appeal to the ODH and 10 for an appeal for review with CMH.  The facility will remain open until the revocation goes into effect in August.  However, pending appeal, the denial of Medicare/Medicaid payments for all new admissions will go into effect on June 20.

Sadly, instances of elder abuse and neglect are not uncommon. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to abuse or neglect in a nursing home or other assisted living facility, call one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers at 1-800-ELK-OHIO.

 

Source:  Zanesville Times Recorder, “Now what for Autumn Health Care?” by Brian Gadd, June 7, 2013