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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence

A recent investigation has revealed shocking numbers of sexual abuse reports in nursing homes across the country. When you place your elderly loved one in a nursing home facility, it’s usually a last resort. An elderly parent or grandparent who requires around-the-clock care may not be able to safely live at home, or in the home of a child or grandchild. You take them to a nursing home to be cared for. To find out that your loved one is being neglected or abused, sometimes even enduring sexual abuse, is devastating. Although the vast majority of nursing home staff have residents’ best interests in mind, there are exceptions.

Vulnerability Can Make Elderly People Easy Targets for Sexual Abusers

As with young children, the elderly – especially when confined to a nursing home – can be quite vulnerable. This vulnerability makes them an easy target for predatory sexual abusers. The news outlet CNN recently analyzed state and federal data and interviewed experts and victims’ families to determine the severity of this problem. Just as disturbing as the abuse itself, was the study’s discovery that nursing homes and government officials overseeing these facilities often know about the abuse but ignore it.

The CNN report revealed that even when nursing homes took action, they were generally slow to investigate and report claims of abuse. Unfortunately, the same problems that make many of these victims an easy target for abuse – failing memories and confusion – also lead nursing home staff, and even law enforcement, to question the reliability of their accusations. A Boston nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine how to take action following the abuse or neglect of a loved one.

At the 2015 sentencing of a nursing assistant who was convicted of raping an 83-year-old woman, the woman’s daughter, Maya Fischer made the following statement about her mother who had fled Indonesia as a child to escape rape and abuse by Japanese soldiers:

“At 83 years old, unable to speak, unable to fight back, she was even more vulnerable than she was as a little girl fleeing her homeland. In fact, she was as vulnerable as an infant when she was raped. The dignity which she always displayed during her life, which was already being assaulted so unrelentingly by Alzheimer’s disease, was dealt a final devastating blow by this man. The horrific irony is not lost upon me … that the very thing she feared most as a young girl fleeing her homeland happened to her in the final, most vulnerable days of her life.”

Eight Years of Abuse

The man convicted of raping this helpless victim, George Kpingbah, had previously been investigated over sexual assault allegations involving other victims. Prosecutors uncovered personnel records which show that he had been suspended three other times during sexual abuse investigations at the Walker Methodist facility. In two of those investigations, Kpingbah was the main suspect. Until he was actually caught in the act, he remained on the overnight shift for nearly eight years.

“Walker Methodist certainly failed to handle this appropriately with my mother and other residents, and there should be consequences,” said the son of another alleged victim after he learned of Kpingbah’s rape conviction. If an elderly loved one has been sexually abused, contact a MA nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

If you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of nursing home sexual abuse, report it immediately. Although abuse can occur without the following signs, these signs may be indicators that your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse:

  • Unexplained blood on clothes or bed sheets.
  • Bruising in the genital area.
  • Ripped undergarments.
  • Blood on undergarments.
  • Bruising on inner thighs, breasts, and / or buttocks.
  • Unexplained pain while sitting.
  • Diagnosis of an STD or genital infection.

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There are more than 40 million people over the age of 65 living in the United States today. In fact, this demographic – known as the baby boomers – accounts for the largest percentage of our nation’s population. Many in this age group are living independently, working, and even traveling around the world. But some, especially those on the older end of the spectrum, are beginning to need help with everyday tasks, such as eating, bathing, and dressing. When older adults are no longer able to care for themselves, they are sometimes placed in nursing homes. Although the vast majority of these establishments provide excellent care, abuse and neglect is not uncommon. Some experts estimate that up to 40 percent of all nursing home residents have been abused or neglected at some point.

The disturbing reality is that much of the abuse and neglect suffered by nursing home residents goes unreported or underreported. In fact, a study recently published by Cornell University and the New York City Department for the Aging, reveals that elder abuse may be 24 times greater than the cases that are actually reported to the authorities. An earlier study done by the National Center on Elder Abuse in 2000, revealed that more than half of nursing home staff surveyed admitted to neglecting, or otherwise mistreating, residents in some way. If you are concerned about your loved one’s well-being, contact a Boston nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Abuse and Neglect Come in Many Forms

Abuse doesn’t always result in bruises and broken bones. Emotional abuse and other acts, such as withholding food, can be just as painful and traumatic. Below are common types of physical and emotional abuse suffered by elderly nursing home residents:

  • Over-medication or withholding medication
  • Over-feeding or withholding food
  • Falling or injuries due to neglect
  • Inappropriate physical restraints
  • Using isolation as punishment
  • Using threats to force residents to cooperate
  • Manipulating or intimidating residents to convince them not to report abuse
  • Assault or sexual assault

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Considering that incidents of elder abuse and neglect often go unreported or underreported, it is important to watch for signs when a loved one is in a nursing home. The signs below are commonly associated with abuse and neglect:

  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Evidence that personal hygiene is suffering
  • Bedsores
  • Bruises
  • Fractured bones
  • Presence of unapproved restraints
  • A dirty or excessively-cluttered room
  • Lack of communication when your loved one’s health or quality of life has changed
  • Missing personal property
  • Loved one appears withdrawn, frightened, or confused

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About 1.3 million elderly Americans live in about 15,000 nursing homes nationwide. It is an unfortunate reality that many families simply cannot provide the attention or medical care that is often required when their loved ones get older. Many nursing homes take great pride in caring for our most vulnerable population and go to great lengths to ensure that our loved ones’ golden years are filled with happiness and dignity.  Sadly, this is not the case for all nursing homes. Statistics indicate that, every year, as many as one out of every 10 senior citizens will experience some form of elder abuse. Abuse can take many forms – physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial or horrendous incidents of widespread neglect.

Statistics regarding elder abuse are also one of the most underreported kinds of incidents, since many elderly are physically unable to report abuse. In more sinister cases, like what has been revealed in the case of Philip Esformes – a super-wealthy nursing home operator who allegedly stole hundreds of millions of dollars by charging the elderly for services they didn’t need – the elderly victims simply were not aware the abuse was happening.  Anecdotally, over half of all certified nursing assistants admitted that they have personally yelled at, verbally assaulted, or used foul language when dealing with their elderly clients. This number, too, is much likely higher than what is actually reported.

Signs your loved one is a victim of elder abuse

As stated before, elder abuse is not always something that can be seen visually. Neglect, emotional distress or verbal abuse can be much harder for an elderly person to convey or prove. The following are some warning signs that your elderly loved one may be experiencing abuse or neglect.

  • Cleanliness of the facility or the elderly individual can be a sign of how the facility operates overall. If the facility itself is dirty, it may be a sign that the staff is overworked or undermanned, which increases the likelihood that your loved one is not getting the attention they need. If your loved one continuously complains about being dirty, this is an obvious sign of neglect.
  • New or recent psychological issues may indicate that something traumatic has happened or is happening with your loved one. If they are depressed, distressful or unwilling to talk about the treatment they are receiving, they may be scared of potential repercussions if they speak up.
  • Obvious signs like malnutrition, bruises, broken bones or an unexplained and unprecedented lack of mobility more than likely point to something being wrong. Whether it is excessive force, neglect or something more foul, you should never ignore such signs.

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Assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell called it the “largest single criminal health care fraud case ever brought against individuals by the Department of Justice.” Over a billion dollars-worth of kickbacks, bribes and fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid charges were allegedly orchestrated by Philip Esformes, who owns dozens of retirement facilities throughout Illinois, Florida and Missouri.  The unprecedented, comprehensive scheme has landed Esformes, well-known in his area of influence for his wealth and philanthropy, in custody while awaiting trial on charges of fraud, corruption and obstruction of justice. Esformes is facing life in prison for these charges.

The charges have led various newspapers to investigate, and The Chicago Tribune recently uncovered that retirement facilities belonging to Esformes have been the subject of 20 wrongful death suits since just 2013. Three of the cases, as described by the Tribune, involve gross negligence that allowed two elderly residents to wander off to their deaths outside the facility (one by drowning, another hit by a vehicle).  In another horrifying case, a 73-year-old, terminally-ill and bedridden patient was beaten to death by his 41-year-old roommate who had a history of violent episodes and was revealed to not be taking his prescribed antipsychotic medication. It was alleged that after the perpetrator was found with his hands bloodied, he was left unattended to walk to a smoking patio, putting other residents in immediate danger.

These cases are separate from the overarching fraud accusations, which involve allegedly cycling about 14,000 patients over 14 years through various nursing homes. Some of these patients were given addicting narcotics without a prescription to keep them in the system. Some patients were used as a means to order expensive treatments they did not need to game more money out of the Medicare system.  Attorneys for Esformes and attorneys representing his retirement facilities have denied any wrongdoing, but it isn’t looking good for the wealthy retirement home magnate. The Department of Justice worked with one of Esformes’s co-conspirators to wear a wire in a conversation where Esformes talked about defrauding the federal government and ways to flee the country. This 200-page transcript was used recently by the Department of Justice to deny Esformes from posting bail before his trial, scheduled for February.

 

Across the United States, over 3.2 million adults are currently residents of nursing homes or similar long term care facilities.  Up to 40 percent of adults will live in a nursing home at some point during their lives, and this percentage is expected to increase as the population ages.  Although many of these adults are well taken care of at these facilities, many of them suffer abuse by the nursing home and facility staff.  Abuse that occurs at elderly facilities can be difficult to detect; for every case of abuse that is reported, there are five cases that go unreported.  Aside from the pure fact that this abuse is inherently wrong, it can also have other effects on the health of those abused.  For example, seniors who have been abused are 300 percent more likely to die within the 3 years following the abuse compared to those who do not suffer abuse.  This abuse is more prevalent than many would like to believe.  One particular survey of residents of nursing homes showed that 44 percent of residents reported being abused while living at the nursing home and 95 percent said they had witnessed another resident mistreated by caregivers.   Even with the anti-elder-abuse laws enforced in all 50 states, abuse in nursing homes still runs rampant.

Nursing home abuse can take several forms.  Physical abuse is one type of abuse that causes physical harm to a resident, either intentionally such as hitting or pinching or through neglect of the resident.  Sexual abuse is another type of abuse that can occur which involves unsolicited sexual attention or exploitation.  This includes sexual focus on patients who cannot verbally or physically express their wishes, a resident with dementia for example.  Psychological abuse is less clean cut, but can include yelling, humiliating, or shaming patients.  Financial exploitation occurs when caregivers take advantage of residents’ financials by directly stealing from them or participating in financial fraud using the patients’ names.  Neglect is a form of abuse that commonly occurs when homes are understaffed and can include insufficient food, water, and clothing provided to the patient or failing to take care of the patients’ personal hygiene.  The aforementioned abuses are most often a result of the caregivers actions, but there can also be resident-to-resident abuse in which patients are allowed to abuse each other.

There are several notable signs of the various kinds of nursing home abuse.  These include physically visible signs such as broken bones or fractures, bruising, cuts, bed sores, frequent infections, signs of dehydration, unexplained weight loss and poor physical appearance or lack of cleanliness.  Certain changes in the mental or emotional state of patients can also signify abuse.  These changes include general change in mental status, mood swings or emotional outbursts, reclusiveness or refusal to speak, refusal to eat or take medications and caregivers not wanting to leave patients alone with others.  Although these symptoms do not guarantee nursing home abuse, any of these signs should be further investigated to rule out possible abuse. Continue reading

Abusers often target our most vulnerable citizens; young children, individuals with mental or physical disabilities, and the elderly. Considering that many nursing home residents are elderly and have an age-related physical or mental disability, these individuals are at an increased risk of abuse and negligence. Unfortunately, elderly residents often keep the abuse to themselves out of fear of retaliation or punishment. While the vast majority of nursing home staff have residents’ best interests in mind, there are far too many exceptions. A recent nursing home abuse case in Lowell, MA is yet another example. Contact a Boston Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today.

Jay Bousquet’s 76-year-old mother was a resident at the Wingate at Belvidere when employees humiliated the elderly woman on social media. Bousquet’s mother, Jane, was undergoing dementia and Parkinson’s treatments when two nursing aides took several unflattering videos of the confused woman and shared them on the video messaging app, Snapchat. “It breaks my heart for what happened to my mother, it breaks my heart for what happened to the other victims,” said Bousquet.

Nursing Aides Abused Patient Trust

According to prosecutors, Jane was not the only victim. “All of the victims in this case were vulnerable elderly women that had dementia,” said prosecutors. Kala Lopez and Sabrina Costa pleaded guilty to elder abuse in court in April. Although they apologized for their actions, their words provide little comfort to the victims’ families. “They abused their responsibilities, they abused the trust that they were given to take care of these people,” Bosquet said.

Furthermore, these incidents were not isolated events. In the Lowell area, there were at least four other nursing home violations over the last year. However, this most recent case is drawing attention to the violation of patient / resident privacy on social media, and federal action is being sought. Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the attorney general in March of this year, requesting a federal investigation into privacy violations involving nursing home residents and social media. In addition, Grassley is discussing improvements in nursing home inspections with Medicare and Medicaid. “This sort of abuse is just the opposite of human decency,” said Grassley.

According to Snapchat, the incidents violated their guidelines and users are able to report violations. However, that does little to remedy this growing problem. For victims and their loved ones, stricter criminal penalties and changes in policy may be the only effective methods of reducing this form of abuse. “Anything to prevent these types of things from happening again in the future, I’m all for,” Bousquet said. Wingate’s attorney claims that the nursing home has banned employee cell phone use. Costa and Lopez received a sentence of three years’ probation for their actions. Continue reading

Although Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia, many older Americans without Alzheimer’s have another form of dementia. In fact, according to reports from the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every three seniors dies with some level of dementia. All types of dementia are irreversible, progressive cognitive disorders. The disease typically begins by affecting a person’s memory and thinking skills. Eventually, dementia affects the ability to complete even small tasks. Unfortunately, in addition to the emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges of dementia, there is another concern. Nursing home residents with dementia are significantly more susceptible to abuse and neglect. In fact, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), approximately 47% of nursing home residents with dementia have suffered mistreatment. Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today.

Dementia and Abuse Statistics

About half of all people over the age of 85 and more than 5 million people age 65 and older have dementia, according to the NCEA. The University of California Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect recently published a fact sheet outlining the problem of elder abuse as it relates to dementia. Here is what they found:

  • About 7.7 million people will have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2030
  • About 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2050
  • The rate of abuse of dementia patients is between 34% and 62%
  • In a survey of elder care workers, 20% said they feared becoming violent with their dementia patients
  • Up to 10% of elder care workers admitted to being physically abusive to dementia patients
  • One study found that 60% of elder care workers had been verbally abusive to dementia patients

Signs of Abuse in Dementia Patients

If you are concerned that a loved one who has dementia is the victim of abuse or neglect, the following list provides common signs of abuse. If you notice any of these signs, they should be reported immediately. If you suspect abuse, it is also in the best interest of your loved one to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer right away.

  • Cuts or bruises
  • Marks on wrists (this may indicate excessive use of restraints)
  • Burns
  • Bedsores
  • Broken bones
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Unsanitary living area

Is My Loved One at Risk?

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of elder abuse and neglect for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. These include:

  • Severity of the disease
  • Caregiver’s relationship to the patient earlier in life (family member, associate, friend, or stranger)
  • Elder’s use of verbal or physical aggression
  • Isolation (typically seen in at-home care)
  • Caregiver substance abuse
  • Caregiver depression

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Last month we wrote about the rise in safety and health violations at several Synergy Health Center-owned nursing homes in Massachusetts. One of the facilities in particular, Woodbriar Health Center in Wilmington, has been cited by state inspectors for multiple problems since it was purchased by Synergy. The problems include substandard care resulting in bedsores and medication errors, and issues with the facility itself, including crumbling plaster and broken tiles in almost half of the inspected bedrooms. Up until this point, the violations have only resulted in citations and some controversy. However, a recent violation may have led to the death of 83-year-old Woodbriar resident, Mary Meuse. Contact a Boston Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today.

On Christmas Day, one of Woodbriar’s certified nursing assistants used a mechanical lift to transition Meuse from her bed to a wheelchair, without the help of another staff member. In doing so, the employee violated an important safety rule. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at least two people are required to safely operate most mechanical lifts. When the 21-year-old aide attempted to move Meuse onto the lift, the patient fell to the ground, breaking both legs. Despite the severity of her injuries, and the fact that Meuse was on blood-thinning medication for a heart condition, she was not sent to a hospital until the following day. Unfortunately, it was too late. Meuse, who was bleeding internally, died in the hospital on December 27.

Wilmington Facility Understaffed Since Opening

Synergy owns 11 facilities in Massachusetts, several of which have received citations since the company began buying MA nursing homes in 2012. Nursing home licensing laws in the state have changed drastically over the last year. However, when Synergy applied for Woodbriar’s license, it received little public scrutiny. Woodbriar is one of four Synergy-owned nursing homes that most likely would have been denied a license under the current, stricter licensing regulations.

Since Synergy’s purchase of Woodbriar last March, the facility has been understaffed, according to two former employees who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions. In addition to this most recent tragedy, Synergy’s nursing homes have been cited for many other potentially-life threatening violations. These include poor infection control, inadequate training, and unhygienic practices, among other concerns.

According to the father of the nursing aide involved in Meuse’s accident, Woodbriar was understaffed on Christmas Day and his daughter had to work because the nursing home was desperate for staff. In fact, the young woman was asked to work a second shift immediately following the first. However, she was traumatized by the accident and left work at 3 p.m. In addition to the excessive hours, the young woman’s father said that she was also asked to care for more patients than is typical for a normal shift.

Woodbriar’s Serious Fall Injuries Nearly Twice State and National Averages

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,800 nursing home residents are killed in falls every year. However, Woodbriar’s record of falls resulting in major injuries is almost twice that of the state and national averages. According to reports, between October, 2014 and June, 2015, about 5.9 percent of Woodbriar’s residents suffered a major injury after falling, compared to only 3 percent of statewide nursing home residents. Continue reading

A nursing home in Brockton is under fire for racking up multiple health and safety violations while the owners extracted $1.8 million in pay last year. Braemoor Health Center is owned by parent company, Synergy Health Centers, which owns a total of 11 nursing homes. Concerns about Synergy-owned centers have begun to emerge, including complaints about medication errors, inadequate training of staff, and improper treatment of festering pressure sores. When Synergy entered the Massachusetts market in 2012, it had no previous record of owning nursing homes. Today, it presides over the care of more than 1,200 residents in the state. Contact a Boston Nursing Home Negligence Attorney Today.

According to a Globe investigation, Synergy provided false information in its nursing home license applications. Even though there were federal tax liens against the Braemoor property in 2013 and 2014, Synergy stated that all taxes were paid up on the application for licensure.

Braemoor Nursing Home Owner Has Arrest Record

In addition, Larry Lipschutz, owner of the Braemoor property and part owner of eight more Synergy nursing homes, has an arrest record. The native New Yorker received fines in the tens of thousands of dollars for a New Jersey apartment complex that he owned and ran into the ground. Ralph Caputo, a New Jersey state Assemblyman who assisted tenants with lobbying for repairs spoke about the severity of the situation. “There were broken windows, flooded areas, rats. It was unbelievable,” said Caputo. During a March 2004 inspection of the property, state inspectors cited Lipschutz for approximately 1,400 violations. He was arrested after pleading guilty to the violations. Lipschutz received $49,369 in fines, but state regulators offered to cut those fines in half if he addressed the problems. According to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs records, he has only paid $3,000 and has neglected to fix the problems.

Two former Synergy staff members have alleged that the company purchased a suite at Gillette Stadium for $25,000 in 2013. “It really offended me because I had to do battle to get basic nursing supplies,” remarked one of the former staffers. During that same time period, Synergy began purchasing lower-quality adult diapers and less fresh fruit at its facility in Sunderland. In addition, the same facility was cited for more than a dozen violations. Continue reading

The transition of a family member to a nursing home can be an emotional and confusing time for everyone involved. Relatives hope for the best possible care. However, the unfortunate truth is that many patients suffer from dehydration and malnutrition at some point during their residence in a nursing home. The most prevalent reason for this form of neglect is insufficient staffing.

Medical issues resulting from poor diet and dehydration include bone problems, tooth decay, low blood pressure and anemia, all of which can lead to death. One recent study revealed that an estimated 85% of nursing home residents do not receive proper nourishment. This study analyzed patients in over 17,000 facilities across the United States. The same study reports that 30% to 50% of residents are underweight. Family members can help prevent these types of neglect by knowing which symptoms to watch for, and by addressing any potential warning signs as soon as possible.

Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987

In response to the Institute of Medicine’s discovery of an epidemic of nursing home neglect in a 1986 study, the Nursing Home Reform Act became law in 1987. This act established the Residents’ Bill of Rights and ensured services to provide higher levels of physical, mental, and psychological wellness. Nursing facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid income require compliance with certain practices in the Nursing Home Reform Act. These practices include:

  • Thorough care plans for each resident, to be assessed periodically
  • Full nursing care
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Pharmaceutical services
  • Nutrition services
  • Full-time social worker services for homes with more than 120 beds

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