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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence

In March 2017, the journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery published a study analyzing the incidence of traumatic facial injuries in U.S. nursing home residents. According to the study results, between January 2011 and December 2015 a total of 109,795 nursing home residents needed emergency care for facial trauma. Most traumatic facial injuries are suffered in fall accidents.

Traumatic Facial Injury Statistics

The study reported that female residents are victims of traumatic fall injuries more than their male counterparts, accounting for about 65.1 percent of injuries requiring emergency treatment. The statistics below provide additional insight into the severity and frequency of facial trauma injuries among nursing home residents.

  • The median age for those who require emergency treatment is 84.1.
  • The most common facial injuries requiring emergency treatment are lacerations (44.3 percent), hematoma, avulsions, and contusions (41.8 percent), and fractures (12.7 percent).
  • The most common locations of traumatic facial injuries are nasal and orbital (eye).
  • Most nursing home facial injuries are caused by structural housing and fixed items (57 percent), or occur during the transfer of residents to and from bed (22.6 percent).

Although nursing home patients can fall for reasons that have nothing to do with improper care or negligence, many falls could have been easily prevented by taking minor safety precautions. A 2012 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that about 59 percent of resident injuries that occur in nursing homes are preventable. A MA nursing home negligence attorney can help you determine how to recover damages if your loved one has been injured due to negligence

Nursing Home Negligence

When we make the difficult decision to move our loved one into a nursing home, we do so with the hope that staff will provide excellent care and treat our loved one with kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, nursing home negligence – and even abuse – occurs with shocking frequency. The statistics below shed some light on the severity and frequency of this problem. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect.

  • Approximately 1.4 million people currently live in nursing homes in the U.S.
  • In 2003, more than 20,000 official complaints were received by authorities.
  • Only one out of every 14 cases of nursing home abuse is properly reported to authorities.
  • More than 90 percent of nursing home facilities fail to hire adequate staff to properly care for residents.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect

If you notice any of the signs below when visiting your loved one, they could indicate that your loved one is suffering from neglect.

  • Dehydration
  • Appearing agitated, withdrawn, or non-communicative
  • Fractures
  • Head injuries
  • Malnutrition
  • Infections
  • Bed sores
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Unexplained wounds, bruises, and cuts
  • Sudden and unusual behavior changes
  • Reluctance to speak in front of staff members
  • Isolation

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According to the AARP Foundation, a settlement has been reached in the wrongful death lawsuit between the family of Bobby Glenn Tweed and the nursing home they allege is responsible for his death. The family claims that the facility misused strong psychotropic drugs to make the 78-year-old Alzheimer’s patient docile and compliant.

The misuse of psychotropic drugs by nursing homes to “treat” Alzheimer’s patients is not new. In 2014, AARP released an investigative report revealing that psychotropic drug overuse in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia was occurring nationwide, and at an alarming rate. And the drugs aren’t being administered for the medical benefit of these patients; rather they are being used to “manage” patients who are considered disruptive. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if a loved one has been harmed in a nursing home facility.

The vast majority of nursing homes and staff have their patients’ best interests in mind at all times…but there are exceptions. Negligence and mistreatment occurs with shocking frequency in nursing homes, and the use of drugs to prevent patients from complaining, or being “difficult,” is a growing problem. In some instances, psychotropic drugs are given to patients who are thought to be dangerous to themselves. Although this use may be viewed as medically necessary, there are additional concerns; psychotropic drugs are actually linked to deaths in dementia patients.

When negligence or mistreatment results in the injury or death of a patient, nursing homes can be held liable. Just as hospitals can be sued for negligence and medical malpractice, so can nursing homes. In Mr. Tweed’s case, his daughter – who held the power of attorney – was not consulted about the administration of psychotropic drugs. When a lack of consent to administer medication is evident, a nursing home can also be liable for assault and battery.

Elder Abuse

Older Americans are often forced to rely on others for personal care due to physical and cognitive impairments. Unfortunately, this makes them easy targets for abuse and neglect.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is defined as “any abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust.” In addition to being physically vulnerable, elderly victims of abuse are often reluctant to report the abuse; they may fear retaliation, or think that nobody will believe them. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine if your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect.

The New York City Department for the Aging and Cornell University conducted a study in 2010. The “Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study revealed that the rate of elder abuse is nearly 24 times greater than what is actually reported to the authorities and social services. Psychological abuse is most common. An earlier report done in 2000 found that 44 percent of the 2,000 nursing home residents surveyed had been abused and 95 percent had been experienced neglect. Further, the same studied revealed that more than 50 percent of staff had admitted to mistreating patients. Continue reading

The decision to move your loved one to a nursing home facility in Massachusetts is generally difficult, and quite emotional. We want what’s best for our elderly parents and grandparents, and sometimes we are unable to give that to them without professional help. When physical or cognitive impairments make it necessary to move your loved one into a nursing home, you hope that staff will provide exceptional care and kindness at all times. At the very least, you hope that your loved one will never be a victim of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect happens every day, affecting thousands of elderly or disabled Americans annually. In extreme cases, abuse and neglect can result in death.

It’s important to state that the vast majority of nursing homes and staff have the best interests of their residents in mind at all times. But neglect and abuse do occur. In some cases, elderly residents are seriously injured or die as a result of an accident, but intentional abuse also occurs. When nursing home negligence or abuse leads to the death of a resident, the family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. These lawsuits operate much like personal injury lawsuits, with one main difference – the family members of the person who was injured bring the lawsuit. A Boston nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand your rights and options when filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

The best way to prevent your loved one from becoming a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect is to thoroughly research multiple facilities before deciding on the best home for your family’s needs. Once your loved one is living in the chosen facility, visit often and pay attention to your loved one’s physical appearance, mental state, and the cleanliness of his or her surroundings. The signs below may indicate neglect or abuse.

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Bed sores
  • Infections
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Fear of being touched
  • Frequent illness
  • Your loved one appears agitated, withdrawn, or non-communicative.

If any of the above symptoms are present, report the issue immediately. A MA nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you believe your loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse.

Types of Abuse and Neglect

Any of the following types of abuse and neglect can result in the death of a nursing home resident.

  • Assault and battery (this includes shaking, beating, and emotional and physical abuse)
  • Lack of adequate care (failure to move immobile patients to prevent bed sores, failure to give correct doses of medication, failure to monitor and / or treat existing health conditions)
  • Sexual assault and rape
  • Physical restraint
  • Seclusion
  • Deprivation of food and water
  • Failure to keep the patient’s living conditions safe and sanitary

$83 Million Award in Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuit

An 83 year old nursing home resident was hospitalized after she became extremely dehydrated. Upon recovering, she returned to the nursing home, only to develop bed sores and be re-hospitalized. She died at the nursing home after developing an infection related to the bed sores.

The victim’s family sued the nursing home, alleging that her repeated hospitalizations were the result of understaffing-related neglect. The lawsuit also claimed that the nursing home was guilty of fraud for concealing past issues and accidents in the facility’s history. The family was awarded $83 million. Continue reading

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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