Posts tagged with "nursing home neglect"

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;

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.

Medical Negligence Now Identified As The Third Leading Cause of Death In U.S.

As unbelievable as it may seem, a study undertaken by Johns Hopkins has concluded that medical negligence is now deemed to be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.  The facts surrounding this revelation are nothing short of staggering.  For example, the study concludes that the majority of medical negligence incidents are typically unreported.  This means that the documented 251,454 deaths occasioned last year by medical negligence omits entirely the larger number of unreported cases.  It also omits deaths caused by negligence at nursing homes throughout the U.S.  This trend has been in escalation for quite some time.  For example, in 1999 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office reported that as many as 180,000 premature deaths were caused by medical negligence among Medicare patients alone.

Owing to disinformation perpetuated by a very effective, expensive and protracted marketing campaign, insurance companies have created the widely held impression that frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits have resulted in an exorbitant increase in physicians’ malpractice premiums.  This phenomena, so the fiction goes, has both escalated the consumer’s cost of health care while driving a certain percentage of qualified physicians to leave their  profession altogether.  Nothing could be further from the truth, however.  That the nation’s healthcare system is broken is undisputed.  The reason for its dysfunction, however, is the endless bureaucracy and red tape machinated by the insurers themselves.  As presently constituted, the  system foists artificial burdens and barriers on doctors who, after all, should make recommendations and decisions based upon a patient’s need and not upon the need to successfully navigate the insurance industry’s draconian rules.

In Massachusetts, there are other safeguards to prevent meritless lawsuits against physicians.  For example, in each instance, a Tribunal is convened in court which is comprised of a judge, a lawyer and a medical professional.  Unless a majority of the tribunal is adequately convinced that a potential case has merit, the case is dismissed.  This gate-keeping function, along with the not unsubstantial expense of pursuing a medical malpractice case usually discourages frivolous cases from being pursued in the first place.

Vigilance is the key to avoiding medical negligence.  You should seek to be your own advocate and ask your doctor lots of questions to satisfy yourself that you are receiving appropriate care.  To this end, there is no such thing as a “stupid” question.  Seeking a second opinion is yet another way of increasing your odds of avoiding malpractice.  While the United States enjoys the finest health care in the world, like all other things in life, it isn’t perfect.  Your avid awareness and participation in your medical care ensures the best possible result.

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.

Nursing Home Negligence, why is it on the rise?

Is the incidence of nursing home negligence growing?

The biggest reason people go from a regular home to an assisted living facilities isn’t because they want to play shuffleboard or have lunch with the neighbors – it’s because they need assistance from trained staff members to help take care of them. In many cases assisted living patient care, can lead to nursing home negligence and abuse.

So why so much Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse?

The problem we see with nursing home negligence and abuse is that far too many nursing homes have a lack of staff. These are private businesses trying to bring in a profit, which we accept and understand. Unfortunately, some of those nursing home corporations decide to increase their profits by cutting down on the number of staff members.

That is to say, some assisted living facilities don’t have enough people on hand to actually assist with everyone’s living! This leads to frail people trying to walk to the bathroom on their own without assistance and falling. It leads to people being left alone to stare at the walls all day. It leads to needless suffering, misery and even death. It leads to nursing home negligence and abuse lawsuits.

We take quality of life issues very seriously, and stamping out nursing home negligence is a crusade at Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin. If your loved one has been harmed by a negligent or understaffed nursing home, please give us a call.

The problems come from retirement homes where the staff has too much to do or little oversight. In those places, residents are left to fend for themselves half the time and become disengaged.

An effective nursing home has a full staff of eager, helpful and kind people who take an avid role in the care of your loved ones. They get involved, they interact, and this leads to a decrease in accidents and a better quality of life. That’s the kind of assisting people need.

Find out what you should watch for to see if your nursing home facility is up to par on nursing home standards! 


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.

Did nursing home negligence lead to attacks?

It can be difficult to make the decision to house a beloved family member in a nursing home. Great care is taken by families to ensure their loved one will get the best care. The family places their trust in the staff and management of the facility to ensure the health and safety of their loved one. The last thing they expect is to find out they are dealing withprovider negligence that results in harm to their loved one.

The Department of Aging and Disability Services has launched investigations into two separate nursing home attacks in Texas. In each case, one client at the respective facility attacked another. In the first case, one man allegedly beat two other men to death using the arm of his own wheelchair. A family member of one of the deceased men claims that the facility staff were asked to move the accused man out of the deceased man’s room previously due to violence.

In the second case, two family members were residing at the same facility when they allegedly got into an argument. The altercation then reportedly turned violent, with one man hitting the other with a dumbbell. The man who was struck was taken to a hospital. His condition is reported to be critical but stable.

It is a sad reality that bad things happen at nursing homes nationwide. Even in Massachusetts, reports of nursing home neglect and other forms of negligence are filed. What can family members do to protect loved ones? When there are problems at the facility, loved ones can seek legal advice in regard to their options and how to get the situation corrected for the one they care about.

Source: Click2Houston, “Man in critical condition after nursing home beating,” Courtney Zavala, May 6, 2014

Nursing home fails to provide residents with heat, hot water

As our loved ones age, we put our trust and faith in nursing homes to provide them with the care they need. Unfortunately, nursing home negligence is a very real matter that has the potential to cause victims and their loved ones serious physical injuries and mental anguish.

The 25 residents of a Massachusetts nursing home have been relocated after a disturbing discovery was made. Apparently, the facilities were operating without heat or hot water for several days, due to a broken boilerplate. The situation was discovered by the daughter of one of the residents, who during a recent visit observed residents eating off paper plates and wearing coats indoors. In addition to sanitary concerns involving the lack of hot water for activities such as cooking and bathing, the lack of heat itself was of particular concern, due to unseasonably cold temperatures.

Town health officials promptly shut down the nursing home, and the residents were sent to other nursing homes in the state owned by the same company. The Board of Health had jurisdiction to take these drastic actions without seeking a court-order, because it was deemed necessary to protect the health of the public.

While the residents in this situation made it through the ordeal in good health, many of those suffering from nursing home neglect are not so lucky. Neglect can take many forms, but any actions or conditions that result in the failure to provide for the health and safety of residents, whether intentional or not, may be considered neglect.

Fortunately, there are legal actions that a victim of nursing home neglect can take. Victims may pursue a civil lawsuit on the grounds of negligence or in certain cases breach of contract. In the most extreme of cases, some states allow criminal charges to be brought against those engaging in elder abuse.

Elderly people can be particularly vulnerable to nursing home abuse, especially if they are already physical or mentally frail. A personal injury attorney may be able to provide more insight as to what actions a victim of nursing home neglect may take.

Source:, “Nursing home shut down,” Joseph Fitzgerald, April 23, 2013

Elder abuse caught in nursing home

Many Massachusetts residents prefer nursing home care for their elderly family members, expecting that a nursing home is better equipped to care for them. It is assumed that a nursing home staff is trained and can tackle challenging situations. The staff is required to administer diagnosed medications, feed the residents if necessary and see to their personal hygiene.

Sometimes nursing homes may be negligent in caring for their residents. In a recent incident, six employees of a nursing home were accused of elder abuse. Massachusetts residents should be aware that such incidents can take place in nursing homes.

The employees allegedly hit a man who had dementia and treated him roughly. In a videotape, it was seen that the employees aggressively rolled the man in his bed, causing his head to hit the bed rail. He was also struck when he refused to cooperate as the employees attempted to turn him over. Four employees at this Indiana facility were charged with felony battery, neglect and intimidation. Two other employees were charged with failure to report abuse of an endangered adult.
Of course such treatment of nursing home residents is completely uncalled for and is subject to prosecution. Nursing home staff is entrusted with providing care and attention to residents, some of whom are chronically ill and unable to care for themselves.

Nursing home negligence can come in many forms and can be the cause of injuries or even death. In addition to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, nursing home negligence may involve medication errors, resident falls and fractures, dehydration, malnutrition, bedsores, pressure ulcers and failure to diagnose and treat illnesses, among other incidents.

When an injury to a resident of a nursing home in Massachusetts has occurred and is the result of nursing home negligence, individuals and families may file a claim for damages against the institution. The person may identify and interview witnesses to prove the abuse occurred. Help from a legal professional experienced in nursing home abuse may help in receiving fair compensation.

Source: Fox 59, “Nursing home employees charged following reported abuse of resident,” Feb. 12, 2013