Nursing Home Neglect

Vote Yes on Question 1 and Keep Nurses and Patients Safe

Unfortunately, ballot questions in Massachusetts have become less about the issue concerned, and more about whoever has the better ad campaign.  This year’s Question 1 is not different.  But when you study the issue, I can’t see how anyone could credibly vote No.  Nurses, who are actually the ones  in the best position to weigh in on the issue seem to overwhelmingly support the measure.  And when all is said and done, the insurance company’s position in opposing the initiative is solely based on cost.  Insurance companies see this as something that will cut into profits.  They then invariably intimate if not explicit state, that they will pass these costs onto the consumer.  With profits and wages and astronomical levels, they do show a certain amount of unmitigated gall when then state that Question 1, if passed, will cause insurance rates to rise.  At its barest essence, Question 1 is about reasonableness and, in the end, safety.  There is only so much that a nurse can safely accomplish when dealing with these high stress matters that require laser focus; and often life and/or death hang in the balance.  Limiting their patients to a manageable number is a safety measure based in reasonableness and experience.  I would strongly urge people to Vote Yes on 1.

Massachusetts Question 1 has Nurses Divided

Few ballot questions have vexed Massachusetts voters more in recent times than Ballot Question #1 which seeks to put strict limits on the number of patients that nurses care for in a hospital setting.  How can we say that it is so controversial?  A WBUR poll of 500 registered nurses reveals that 48 percent plan to vote for the ballot question that would establish maximum nurse-to-patient ratios in state law, and 45 percent say they’ll vote against the very same measure. Only seven percent are undecided.  “Nurses are split on the question,” says pollster Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

Those in favor of the measure believe it will enhance patient safety while those against claim that a “one size fits all” approach is too inflexible and will lead to a host of unintended consequences from greater waiting times in emergency rooms to forcing smaller, rural hospitals to close due to their inability to afford the extra nursing staff that will be required.  Should the measure pass, the maximum patient to nurse ratio would be set at 4 to 1 but that ratio can vary depending on the condition of the patient or the unit that they’re in.  For example, in units with post-anesthesia care or operating room patients, the measure would mandate a ratio of one patient under anesthesia per nurse or a maximum of two post anesthesia patients per nurse.

While everyone desires a safer hospital environment for patients, there is no consensus that passing Ballot Question #1 will serve that end.

To Avoid Nursing Home Negligence, Know Your “Rights”

TO AVOID NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE, KNOW YOUR “RIGHTS”

 

 

Making the decision to admit a loved one to a nursing home can be an agonizing experience.  We are tempted to think of the care rendered by such facilities as impersonal and vastly inferior to that which we would provide to our loved one at home.  This is not always true, of course.  It is an undeniable fact, however, that the resources and attention offered by these facilities are often being stretched beyond the limits of what is safe.  As life expectancy increases, incidents of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have commensurately risen as well.  Population in the nation’s nursing homes has therefore swollen in recent times.  Most alarmingly, perhaps, is that these numbers are projected to dramatically increase over the course of the next several decades.  Our seniors find themselves at increased risk while a patient at these facilities.  The best guard against neglect, is to “know your rights.”  Massachusetts General Laws c. 111 section 70E provides a “bill of rights” that protects every patient.  While the statute is long and comprehensive, several provisions are particularly helpful to nursing home patients.

 

Massachusetts General Laws c. 111 section 70 E provides, in part:

 

Every patient or resident of a facility shall have the right:

*to privacy during medical treatment or other rendering of care within the capacity of the facility;

*to prompt life saving treatment in an emergency without discrimination on account of economic status or

source of payment and without delaying treatment for purposes of prior discussion of the source of payment                                                                  unless such delay can be imposed without material risk to his health, and this right shall also extend to those persons not already patients or residents of a facility if said facility has a certified emergency care unit;

* to informed consent to the extent provided by law;

* upon request, to obtain from the facility in charge of his care the name and specialty, if any, of

the physician or other person responsible for his care or the coordination of his care;

*to confidentiality of all records and communications to the extent provided by law;

Tales From Our Files: Nursing Home Abuse Is A Crime

A substantial portion of our clients are seniors who have unfortunately been neglected or abused while living as patients in a nursing home.  While the resulting harm may prove to be the same, there is a stark difference between the concepts of “negligence” and “abuse” in a nursing home setting.  Nursing home staff members are considered “negligent” if they fail to employ proper precautions in keeping their residents safe.  This can take many forms: accidentally dropping a patient; failing to dispense proper medication; giving a patient with a recognized choking risk foods that are notoriously hard to swallow, (like a hot dog or “sticky” bun).  “Abuse” on the other hand is a more sinister phenomenon which may also prove to be criminal in nature. One such act of cruelty was recently brought to our attention for redress. Suspicious that aides were abusing their loved one, our client secretly placed a “nanny cam” in their grandmother’s room.  The camera recorded video only, (as recording audio without the express permission of the participants is itself a crime).  Sure enough, the hidden video demonstrated aides brutally manhandling, slapping and pulling the hair of an aged and defenseless Alzheimer patient.  As a result of exposing this reprehensible conduct, the aides were promptly dismissed and criminally prosecuted.  Our clients promptly sought to remove their relative from the facility and we prosecuted a civil claim for money damages as a result.

Do I recommend that hiding a camera is always the appropriate solution?  No.  Nor would most facilities welcome such clandestine efforts. Rather, ordinary vigilance by family members is the key to assuring quality care and a safe living environment. By being intimately involved in the care of your loved one, you serve notice that you are closely watching what goes on.  You are also ensuring that the nursing home staff are taking the proper precautions to keep their residents safe.

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused while a resident of a nursing home, you should promptly consult an attorney to review your options.

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of neglect. For many years he has lectured and served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.  He has also been consistently named as a “Super Lawyer” by his peers as published by Boston Magazine.