Posts tagged with "nursing home abuse"

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.

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This is why we focus on nursing home negligence cases

The common theme that my law firm sees when we handle nursing home cases is a lack of staff. That is to say, too many people in the nursing home and insufficient staff to care for those people.

There are telltale signs, so like anything else, your loved one is better taken care of if you are proactive in trying to determine whether if the nursing home is equipped to meet their needs.

Stop in and observe. How many people are actually on the floor? How many people are tending to nursing home patients? How many people may be wheeled in a wheelchair and left in the hallway unattended? Sometimes you hear alarms go off, but the staff doesn’t respond to it.

We project that this problem is going to get worse in the near future as the Baby Boomer generation comes to that age where they need nursing home care or assisted living care. The nursing homes just aren’t equipped to handle that influx of people.

That is unless they decide at some future time to add much more staff, which they are usually resistant to do. That’s because that would increase their costs and after all, this is a business to them and they’re trying to make a profit.

If someone you end up in this unfortunate situation, please give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 and we’ll be happy to let you know what your options are.

Gender May Put Elderly Men in Massachusetts at Risk for Abuse

Many elderly men in failing health are finding it difficult to get the care that they need – not for lack of health care facilities, but because there are not enough beds for men. Since the elderly female population is so much larger, two-thirds of patients in nursing homes are women. This, coupled with the fact that Medicaid will only pay for semiprivate rooms, makes it difficult for health care facilities to accommodate men since male and female patients cannot be roommates – and rooms already occupied by men are hard to come by.

As a result, families may be forced to place their elderly male loved ones in facilities that are less than ideal – including many that may have substandard patient care. And this can put male patients at risk for elder abuse and nursing home neglect.

What Is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse occurs when the people who are supposed to care for senior citizens intentionally inflict harm on them, or neglect them. This abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial, and can often be caused by health care facility employees. In the case of nursing homes, some signs of abuse include:

  • Sudden weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Bedsores or other untreated infections
  • Unexplained bruises, cuts or broken bones
  • Bruises or marks on wrists or ankles
  • Unsanitary living conditions or soiled bedding

Elder Abuse on the Rise in Massachusetts

According to state social workers, there has been a 31 percent increase in the number of reported elder abuse cases in Massachusetts since 2008 – for both male and female together. In 2010 alone, there were 20,000 cases of elder abuse reported.

And, many more cases of elder abuse go unreported. A study conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College shows that for every case of elder abuse that is reported, there are about 24 cases that don’t get reported – oftentimes because the victim is dependent on the abuser in some way.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact an experienced attorney in your area today to be advised of your rights and options.

National Background Checks Could Prevent Nursing Home Assaults

A nursing home should be a safe environment where a patient can enjoy the remainder of their life while receiving necessary medical treatment. Unfortunately, some criminals exploit these safe havens looking for vulnerable victims. This behavior is especially offensive when the crime is physical or sexual abuse.

A shocking number of criminals work in nursing homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 92 percent of the 260 nursing homes it evaluated hired at least one convicted criminal. Half of those nursing homes had five or more employees with criminal backgrounds.

Only 10 states require nationwide background checks of nursing home employees. Massachusetts is not one of those states. But careless hiring of employees who pose undue dangers to residents can still constitute a form of nursing home abuse or neglect.

Serious Consequences

Several incidents in Pittsfield, Massachusetts nursing homes illustrate the problem. The Hillcrest Commons Nursing Rehabilitation Center hired certified nursing assistant (CNA) Jerald H. Sullivan in 2009 after a Massachusetts-only background check. In January 2011, another employee caught Sullivan raping an elderly female patient. Had Hillcrest conducted a nationwide background check it would have discovered Sullivan’s criminal past in Vermont.

At the Springside of Pittsfield nursing home, two former female employees were convicted of physically assaulting patients and another employee’s assault case is pending. At least one of those three former employees had a criminal record but the nursing home claims ignorance at the time of hiring.

More Should Be Done

The commonwealth of Massachusetts only requires nursing homes to conduct in-state background checks. The new national health care law set to take effect in 2014 proposes a national background check system. However, that system is currently optional for states. Participating states must put forth money to receive federal matching funds for the program. Massachusetts has not opted into this pilot program.

Nevertheless, several advocacy groups, such as the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and the Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Care Reform, have long pushed for Massachusetts to require national background checks for fear of criminals moving from state to state to escape their sordid pasts. Though national background checks are not foolproof, they provide some level of security.

Making Safety a Priority

Protecting patients from criminals preying on vulnerable victims should be a top priority for Massachusetts. Patient safety is worth the extra money and effort.

If you suspect a loved one has been abused at the hands of nursing home staff, contact an experienced attorney to discuss the situation and your legal options.

There are many types of nursing home abuse

When we put our loved ones in the care of a nursing home, we do so with the expectation that they will be given the utmost standard of care, and that their every need will be attended. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this does not always happen. There are many things that can go wrong in a nursing home, and negligence at any stage can cause harm to the residents.

Obviously, the purpose of a nursing home is to provide residents with exceptional care, using a team of experienced, qualified staff members who are capable of providing this care using medical equipment and products designed to facilitate the care of the residents. However, any one of these facets of nursing home care could become an issue, which could affect the care that your loved one receives.

For example, if a nursing home is negligent in its hiring practices, then the staff members may not be able to provide adequate or necessary care to the residents. Being unable to administer an injection, for example, could cause your loved one to be injured or even killed depending on the circumstances. Additionally, negligence in properly maintaining equipment could cause a critical part of a patient’s care regimen to fail, leading to serious injury.

We all want what is best for our loved ones, which is why we place them in nursing homes in the first place. As we become unable to care for our loved ones, we entrust their well-being to others, but when they fail in their duty to provide adequate care, the consequences can become disastrous. If you live in Massachusetts, and your loved one has been injured while in the care of a nursing home, consider meeting with an attorney. You could be entitled to compensation.

The Difficulty of Amputation Cases

Amputation cases are among the saddest and most difficult cases to handle. The loss of a limb is devastating to the injured party and requires not only extensive medical treatment but emotional support as well. We have had the honor of representing people who have suffered such tragedy. Whether it be as the result of an industrial accident, car accident, boating accident, or medical negligence, the long road back can be made easier when reasonable compensation is obtained. To be certain, no amount of money can ever truly make someone whole, but it can allow these injured people to truly concentrate on their rehabilitation and life’s adjustment. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it all comes down to the skill of your lawyer.

I represented a particular individual who had lost his foot in a work related accident. We grew close as the case progressed and I witnessed his struggles, adjustments and ultimately his coming to terms with his new future. I was proud that I played a role in his recovery, both physically and emotionally.

Understand the rights of nursing home residents

Nursing home negligence and nursing home abuse are extremely dangerous, primarily because nursing home residents are usually frail or in poor health to begin with, and they may be unable to defend themselves. We trust the care of our elderly loved ones to nursing homes because we want what is best for them; we want them to receive the specialized, constant care that they need. The last thing they deserve is to be treated with neglect or abuse.

One of the best ways to ensure that your loved one will receive the care that they need and not be mistreated in a nursing home is to employ the services of a home that is very clear and transparent with its treatment of residents. There are federal guidelines that establish the ways in which nursing homes must prohibit the mistreatment of residents, including development and implementation of written policies to ensure such abuse or neglect does not occur.

In addition to the written policies of the nursing home, which the resident is to be made aware of both upon admission and throughout residence, there are other rights that nursing home residents should not be denied. These include rights such as the ability to see family members, the use of personal possessions and clothing, equal treatment, confidentiality and much, much more.

If at any point your loved one is denied these rights, you should investigate the care they are receiving and consider taking legal action. Consulting with an attorney can give you a better understanding of how the law treats nursing home negligence, and can also help you receive compensation for any mistreatment your loved one received in the nursing home’s care.

Nursing homes may not be the best place for your loved one

As our loved ones grow older, they begin to require specialized care that we cannot provide both because we lack the expertise and we lack the time. This is why many people choose to trust the care of their elderly loved ones to a nursing home. In a nursing home, residents can receive the specialized care they need from medical professionals while also enjoying recreational activities with others of their age.

Unfortunately, even though we expect nursing homes to give us the peace of mind of knowing that they are being well cared for, this is not always the result. Some nursing home employees abuse their positions and mistreat their patients. Others take advantage of the elderly?s weakened physical state to sexually abuse them. Depending on the circumstances, you may not even know it is happening.

Much like victims of domestic abuse, nursing home residents who are being abused may be too frightened to report their abuse for fear that the harassment will get worse. For certain elder individuals, depending on the nature of their medical concerns, they may literally be unable to report the abuse. Of course, physical and sexual abuse are not the only issues that a nursing home resident might face.

We expect that the medical professionals working at a nursing home will provide top-notch care for our loved ones, but for one reason or another, they may not, even in a city like Boston. Dehydration or malnutrition are other types of abuse that nursing home residents may suffer. Visit our webpage for a more comprehensive list of nursing home abuse issues.

All of this is not meant to frighten you or discourage you from entrusting the care of your loved one to a nursing home, but instead to make you aware of the issues that your loved ones could face. It is important that you check up on your loved ones regularly and discover how they are being treated in their new home. If you believe that they are being mistreated, we can help you build a case against the nursing home and recover compensation for your loved one?s suffering.

Nursing home cited for failing to protect against abuse

They’ve cared for you their entire lives — fed you, nursed your cuts and bruises, cried with you at life’s tragedies and rejoiced with you in all your victories. Parents give us life and dedicate their lives to ensuring we are cared for through every step of our journeys. So, it’s only right that we do the same for them when they reach an age where they can no longer care for themselves. The nation’s nursing homes fill this role for us when we can no longer do it and they have a sacred obligation to provide at least a reasonable standard of care for our loved ones.

Sadly that isn’t always the case. Nursing home abuse is, unfortunately, a relatively common occurrence in Massachusetts and across the country. Following a May 19 incident, the state of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services cited an elder care facility for not being able to keep their residents from being abused. The citation is related to an incident in May that left bruises on one elderly patient in their care. Apparently, the staff got into a physical altercation with a resident that left him with the reported injuries.

Talks between the department and the facility’s doctor indicated that the man succumbed to the injuries incurred from the incident and other medical issues from which he was already suffering. He died June 3.

Cases like these are a sad reminder that sometimes nursing homes can be negligent and fail to provide proper care. Residents often suffer from physical and mental abuse because of a lack of safeguards or poorly trained staff.

Our loved ones should never have to suffer this type of abuse. If you suspect mistreatment, a Massachusetts attorney may be able to help you build a case.

Source:, “NC cites nursing home, alleges lack of abuse protection,” July 2, 2014