Nursing Home Negligence

Recognizing and Stopping Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse has come out with their most recent statistics and the results are truly staggering. It begins by acknowledging that the “Boomer Generation” effect will continue for decades and predicts that between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population.  In fact, by 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to rise to 83.7 million souls, which is almost double its current population.  Older women will continue to outpace older men.

The survey concentrates on all forms of elder abuse and ranks the most common in the following order: financial, neglect, emotional, physical and sexual mistreatment.  Low social support is most commonly associated with elder abuse and seniors who are afflicted with dementia are 50% more likely to be exploited than their counterparts.  Approximately half of all people over the age of 85, the fastest growing segment of the population, have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.  In addition, this trend continues to   ascend.  Seniors who have previously suffered domestic violence were found to be at increased risk for emotional, sexual and financial mistreatment and women were at greater risk to be abused in this regard than were men.  Who are the perpetrators?  Surprisingly, family members were identified as most likely to engage in financial exploitation (57.9%) followed by friends and neighbors (16.9%) and home health care aides (14.9%).

Perhaps most alarming, however, are the statistics on abuse by caregivers, the very people who are charged with caring for the elderly.  The particular study cited revealed that 47% of the participants with dementia had been mistreated by their caregivers.  A previous study revealed that 50% of the people with dementia experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of their caregivers.

The study concluded by estimating the associated Medicaid costs of elder injuries at $5.3 billion per annum.

Discouraging elder abuse requires vigilance and action.  As is now a common societal refrain,  “if you see something, say something.”

 

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of nursing home 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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Tales From Our Files: Lessons Learned Concerning Nursing Home Negligence

“Walter” was an 87 year old gentleman who suffered Alzheimer’s disease and became a full time resident at the defendant’s assisted living facility.

Internal documents obtained from the defendant during litigation revealed that “Walter” was last seen in the hallway outside his room at 2:30 a.m.  He was uneventfully redirected back to his room by a staff member.  At 7:00 a.m. a routine bed check revealed that he was missing and a search of the facility ensued.  Documents obtained in discovery revealed that the defendant had previously promulgated a “Missing Resident” policy which mandated that “a resident’s whereabouts are to be known at all times.”  In addition, the aforesaid policy provided that preliminary search efforts by the staff should last no longer than approximately one hour from the time that the resident was first reported missing.  After that time, the policy mandates that the staff contact the local authorities.   Moreover, documents obtained by our office revealed that the facility waited nearly four hours before contacting police once their initial search proved unsuccessful.  We argued that this delay enabled “Walter” to elope from the facility and slowly wander ever deeper into nearby woods.  During the time that he was missing, he was unable to avail himself of the basic necessities of life including sustenance, hydration, shelter and his daily medications which included Coumadin, a medicine used to thin the blood to prevent a stroke.  To compound his unfortunate circumstance, the area received substantial rain during the entirety of the time that the he was lost in the woods and we were prepared to demonstrate this fact with the assistance of climactic records from the National Weather Service.  A massive search was thereafter undertaken and “Walter” was finally recovered deep in the woods approximately 36 hours after it was first noticed that he was missing.  He was rushed to a nearby hospital and treated.  Sadly, he suffered a stroke the following day and later died.

Accordingly, we maintained that the facility’s negligence (1) allowed “Walter” to elope from his building (2) thereby preventing him from ingesting his ordinary dosage of Coumadin and (3) leading to his eventual stroke and death.  The case settled at mediation.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities must take appropriate precautions to guard against the common phenomenon of residents seeking to wander or elope entirely.  As a concerned family member of a nursing home resident, you should make it a point to ask the facility’s director about the precautions that they take to avoid these serious problems.  Do they utilize and monitor closed circuit television?  Is there a staff person posted at the front door 24 hours per day?  Do they utilize a personal alarm for those residents who are known wandering risks?  How often do they “make the rounds” within the facility?  All of these are important questions that demand honest answers.

As always, vigilance is the key to safety.

Tales From Our Files: Undocumented Nursing Home Accidents

Regular readers of this column know that our office routinely undertakes the representation of senior citizens who have been injured and, in some cases, killed, due to nursing home abuse or neglect.  The facts that comprise each individual case are universally sad and nearly always preventable.  One recent case illustrates this point.

On May 22, 2015, an elderly and long term Alzheimer’s patient, was transported from her residence at a nursing home to the emergency room of a nearby hospital with an obvious deformation of her right leg.  Her medical records at the nursing home revealed that she had been completely dependent on her caretakers for all activities of daily living.  She was mostly bed bound, and could only transfer to a chair via a Hoyer lift.  Upon arrival at the hospital, it was determined that she had sustained a displaced femur fracture.  The treating physician noted that this injury had the appearance of possibly having existed for days prior to his examination.  The resident’s family alleged that they had not been timely notified of any kind of accident or fall. Indeed, the resident’s medical chart at the nursing home made absolutely no mention of or reference to any sort of accident that may have occurred.  Upon examination at the hospital, the emergency room physician also noted that the resident’s bones were “diffusely demineralized.”  This compromised condition, the defense ultimately alleged, likely caused the bone to break organically, rather than as a result of an external trauma.  Throughout the pendency of negotiations, the defendant refused to acknowledge that an undocumented accident had in fact occurred.

As a result of her injuries, the decedent underwent a right femur debridement closed reduction pinning external fixator surgery on her open fracture.   Unfortunately, five days later, the resident died for unrelated reasons. 

Several well-known Boston law firms declined to accept this case, particularly because the resident’s death was seemingly unrelated to the injury she sustained while at the nursing home.  The fact that the resident suffered with this injury for only 5 days before her death was also a factor in persuading these “ivory tower” law firms to pass on accepting this case. 

It has never been our practice to reject what we believe to be a meritorious nursing home negligence case merely because the elderly victim’s suffering was limited to a finite period of time.  Rather, we felt honored to represent this senior citizen and to hold the facility fully accountable for their negligence and their purposeful failure to properly document their resident’s accident and resulting injuries.  

We ultimately settled the above case for nearly $200,000, (which had the concomitant effect of allowing surviving family members to feel somewhat vindicated after being ignored by the facility for so long).  What was perhaps even more satisfying, however, is that we successfully persuaded the facility to offer to the family a formal apology for their improper conduct.

 

Staffing Issues that Can Contribute to Nursing Home Negligence

Read Before Signing – What You Need to Know About Nursing Home Admissions

Nursing homes exist to care for the most frail and vulnerable members of our society. Placing a loved one in a nursing home is never an easy decision, but family members typically find peace in making such a decision with the knowledge that their loved one will be kept safe.

Most nursing home residents are well cared for throughout their stay, but sometimes things go wrong. When things go wrong, nursing home residents can suffer catastrophic injuries.  They can be abused, and they can be neglected.

Because such things can and do happen, most large nursing home chains frequently have new residents or their family members sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements to keep civil claims arising from such injuries, abuse or neglect out of the court system.

More often than not, the residents and their family members are never aware that an arbitration agreement was included in the stack of paperwork that was signed during the admission process. If and when they do find out, it is almost always after something has gone wrong, and at that point, their avenues of legal recourse are limited.

It is never wrong to read nursing home admission paperwork before signing it, and it is never wrong to ask questions about it. If the questions are not answered to your satisfaction, or if you have any other concerns, there is nothing wrong with consulting with an attorney.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country.

Staffing Issues that Can Contribute to Nursing Home Negligence

Staffing Issues That Can Contribute to Nursing Home Negligence

It is always a tough situation when a loved one must transition to a nursing home. As a relative, you no doubt research nursing homes in your area in order to find the most suitable living environment, with the assurance that your loved one’s needs will be met and that they will be well taken care of.

However, quite often those living in a nursing home face abuse and neglect. When such circumstances occur to someone you love, you feel a great deal of anger. While you may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done, be it physical or mental, but legal action can ensure that you and your loved one receives just compensation, as well as assurance that those responsible for the negligence are held responsible.

You can also hopefully avoid any such negligent behavior by choosing a nursing home that is adequately staffed. While there may be a variety of reasons staff members elect to neglect the patients in their care, it is understaffing itself that more often than not directly contributes to nursing home negligence.

Reasons Why a Nursing Home May Be Understaffed

There are many reasons while a nursing home may experience staffing issues and a general shortage of competent staff. For starters, there is a shortage of healthcare workers and nurse practitioners in the United States, with a great need to fill thousands of future positions in nursing homes and healthcare facilities.

The growth of nursing homes across the United States has created many positions that just aren’t being filled quickly enough. A new nursing home may appear clean, efficient and appealing, but you should also be sure that it is fully staffed before choosing to administer a loved one there.

A nursing home may also be understaffed if its employees aren’t paid fairly. Low wages can lead to a high turnover rate (not to mention the fact that it doesn’t give workers a great incentive to perform their job well). A high turnover rate also means new staff must be trained, which essentially means staff that is unfamiliar with your loved one’s particular needs and daily routine. Low pay could also result in not too many applicants accepting a position, as they may seek a position elsewhere for higher pay.

When visiting nursing homes for consideration, ask some of the staff how long they have been there, if they enjoy working there and if much of the staff has been there very long. If they answer honestly, you can get a good idea of how well the place may be staffed and if the staff is happy there.

A nursing home may also expect too much of its staff. A staff member who must handle multiple responsibilities that are better served by additional staff members is unlikely to have the time to sufficiently see to the need of his or her patients.

And finally, nursing home management may simply refuse to hire the proper amount of staff in order to keep profits high.

Negligence: The Unfortunate Consequence of Nursing Home Understaffing

As you might have now realized (or even experienced already with a loved one currently in a nursing home), understaffing can cause serious problems in a nursing home, especially patient neglect. Such neglect isn’t always intentional — as mentioned above, staff members can often be overwhelmed with many responsibilities and daily tasks, making it hard to give their patients the time and care they require.

Additionally, staff that isn’t treated properly by management or paid poorly can become disgruntled. As employee morale suffers, so too does their work ethic, and the overall work dynamic can lead to instances of abuse or neglect.

With many patients dependent upon nursing home staff for a large amount of care, neglect can lead to physical injury, psychological trauma and even death. Patients that are suffering from limited mobility are dependent upon their caregivers to help them move in order to avoid maladies such as atrophy or bedsores.

Additionally, receiving medication and food at the proper times, being provided with regular bathing and grooming, and help with going to the bathroom are all basic needs that can be overlooked or neglected due to understaffing.

Legal Repercussions of Nursing Home Understaffing

Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide proper care for the patients within their walls. Failure to do so can often result in strict fines, and rampant episodes of neglect and abuse have served to shut down many nursing homes. Additionally, nursing homes have been sued for wrongful death and/or illness of patients in their care that suffered due to neglect.

With understaffing being recognized as one of the leading causes of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, it is being viewed more and more as a crime. Staffing violations should be reported so as to ensure that no patient suffers needlessly.

If you or a loved one has experienced abuse or neglect in a nursing home, contact the law office of Colucci Colucci Marcus & Flavin, PC. Our personal injury attorneys can help you take the necessary steps to receive just compensation and/or justice in cases relating to nursing home understaffing and neglect. You may call us at (617) 698-6000, or you can also contact us online to set up your free initial consultation.

Nursing Home Abuse

Tales From Our Files – Unreported Nursing Home Abuse

Both state and federal laws mandate that nursing home facilities report serious cases of abuse to local police, yet a recent National Public Radio report citing an investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General reveals that more than one-quarter of serious cases of nursing home abuse were not reported to authorities. Shockingly, some of these unreported cases of abuse involved injuries that were so severe that their victims ultimately required emergency room care.

Federal Law Mandates

Some of the cases are particularly infuriating. One elderly woman was sexually abused after being brutally beaten. Federal law mandates that an event of this magnitude be reported to police “within two hours” or risk a $300,000 fine. The nursing home purposely failed to comply with this rule, however. “Instead”, says Curtis Roy, Assistant Regional Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, “…they cleaned off the victim, [and] in doing so, they destroyed all of the evidence that law enforcement could have used as part of an investigation into this crime.” Remarkably, the nursing home didn’t alert the victim’s family until the following day. Equally shocking, it was the victim’s family that first alerted the police, not the facility. Once local police became involved, the nursing home actively tried to dissuade any ongoing investigation into the attack.

Unreported Nursing Home Abuse

Mr. Roy’s comprehensive investigation, which covered 33 states, revealed that the majority of the unreported cases involved sexual abuse of elderly patients.   Mr. Roy concluded that a relatively simple change of protocol by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services likely holds the key to uncovering a facility’s unscrupulous practice of failing to report abuse to the authorities. By merely cross referencing a nursing home patient’s Medicare claims with their contemporaneous claims from an emergency room visit, an incident of abuse or neglect can be suspected or inferred. Once a patient’s emergency room diagnosis is scrutinized, authorities can better appreciate whether a resident was a victim of a crime such as physical or sexual assault.

By most estimates, approximately 1.4 million Americans currently reside in our nation’s nursing homes. That number is expected to balloon as more from the “baby boomer” generation reaches retirement age.

It is important to point out that abuse in a nursing home setting is not the norm nor is it inevitable. By employing simple awareness and vigilance, however, a resident’s family can discourage, prevent and/or detect incidence of nursing home abuse.

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of nursing home 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.

Nursing Home Neglect

How to Tell If a Nursing Home Is Neglecting a Loved One

Nursing homes and other assisted living care facilities are businesses a family hires to look after elderly loved one who can no longer safely look after themselves. Sadly, a lot of these places let folks down and nursing home neglect is a growing problem in America as the Baby Boomer generation ages and more of its members require assistance.

It’s common to find nursing homes that are understaffed or that lack adequate services, but the average person may not be able to tell which places are superb and which ones allow people to suffer. If you suspect your loved one isn’t being taken care of properly, try these simple strategies.

 

Ask Questions

Go right up to staff and ask them how many people are on duty, and how many seniors they are looking out for. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their credentials and qualifications. Do you see mostly teenagers and college students working there?

If something looks odd or out of place to you, ask about it. Is another resident in a wheelchair just left in the hallway facing the corner? Don’t be shy, ask what is going on.

 

Listen to Complaints

Most people being taken care of in nursing homes still have their wits about them, and if your loved one is talking about a problem, take them seriously. The seniors themselves are often the best source of information about problems in the nursing home. If they say someone else isn’t being taken care of properly, follow up on it and see if it’s true.

 

Pay Attention to Injuries

Does your senior have strange sores on their hips, heels, ankles or tailbone? That’s most likely a bedsore, and it’s the most common sign of nursing home neglect. These sores come from someone left lying in bed all day without being turned or moved.

Broken limbs are also a problem, and this can come from a senior who tried to move on their own and fall, such as if the staff doesn’t respond to their requests for help. That’s not the fault of your loved one, that’s a neglect issue and it needs to be followed up.

 

What Can You Do?

If someone from your family has been neglected at a nursing home or other care facility, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your rights and what you can do next.

The Wrongful Death Double Whammy

No event is as painful and life altering for a person as the sudden loss of a loved one. The unexpected and preventable wrongful death of a family member is emotionally scarring and often financially devastating.

There are frequently many unanswered questions which tend to anger and frustrate surviving family members and these questions complicate the grieving process. Additionally, vulnerable family members are forced to abruptly confront anxiety provoking issues like unpaid medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of income and other unexpected and substantial financial consequences.

The stark financial realities that a family must face can be overwhelming — particularly at a time when they are struggling to cope with such devastating news. Not only did you just lose someone you love; you could be on the cusp of losing your home too.

Our firm, Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., can help.

 

No Time To Spare

“Time is of the essence” is our informal motto. From the first moment we are consulted, our team employs an urgency that is truly unique in the legal profession. Our aggressive investigations find critical witnesses before they disappear, secures evidence that would otherwise have been lost or gone unnoticed, and ultimately uncover the truth so that our clients can eventually begin to achieve some measure of acceptance and peace of mind. Our long case track record of holding accountable those responsible and obtaining maximum recoveries for our clients speaks for itself.

The sudden loss of a loved one always causes more questions than answers. We can make your life a little less uncertain.

Over the years, many hundreds of vulnerable clients have honored us with their trust to guide them during some of their most difficult days. During all of that time, our philosophy has remained unchanged: “Do today what others won’t do so that tomorrow you can do what others cannot.”

It’s Time to Act

If you’ve lost someone close to you, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can get started right away and help you get through this difficult time.

Three Things You Need to Hold a Facility Liable for Nursing Home Negligence

We’re always eager to take on nursing home negligence cases. There’s a large industry that far too often takes advantage of people and consistently understaffs its facilities, despite making a lot of money from families and the government. People get hurt when the staff can’t stay on top of everyone’s needs, and if you know someone who has been hurt please give us a call and we can talk about the legal options you have.

We are happy to explain to you over the phone or in person as to what is needed to make a case against a retirement home. In the meantime, here’s an overview of the three basic steps needed:

 

Liability

Just like any other personal injury case, a nursing home negligence case requires that the resident was harmed while they were under the care of the defendant. Was the resident hurt because of the negligent actions of the nursing home staff or administration?

As an example, we’ll use bed sores, which are the most common type of nursing home negligence injuries we see. Bed sores happen when someone is allowed to lie down for long stretches at a time and the pressure of their weight on a surface harms the body. We need to show that the resident received these injuries while lying in a nursing home bed owned by the defendant.

 

Causation

Causation means that the injury was caused by the actions of the staff or administration. In our bed sores case, did staff members fail to turn over or move the patient from time to time? Were there too few people on staff to keep up with each and every nursing home resident? It’s not enough that the injury occurred while at the nursing home, it also has to be caused by the actions or lack of actions from the people who work there.

 

Damages

Lastly, now that we’ve established where the bed sores occurred and why they occured, we have to show that the bed sores harmed the senior we represent. Bed sores are an actual injury, and they are both easy to spot and easy to demonstrate that they are harmful. We can then show the medical intervention needed to care for the victim. These have to be actual sustained injuries, not potential injuries that were narrowly avoided.

With liability, causation and damages all demonstrated, we are able to continue the case and seek compensation from the nursing home who causes the inexcusable injuries. Remember, we’re the experts, you don’t have to come to us with the proof of liability, causation or damages. We will investigate to make your case as strong as it can be.

The most important thing you need to do is contact us as soon as you suspect there is a problem, as the sooner we get started the better your chances will be of receiving justice. You can visit our website at www.ColucciLaw.com or give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657.