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Sexual abuse in nursing homes is a widespread issue that is often ignored, in part because admitting and addressing the problem can be extremely uncomfortable to the public. Recent reports out of Iowa demonstrate the breadth of this problem, as well as the difficulty in relying on nursing home staff to prevent or stop apparent abuse. A local news report discussing the controversy discussed how the alleged perpetrator, known as “Captain McFeelypants” among staff members, was able to continue abusing residents while other staff were suspicious of his behaviors.

According to the local news report, the nursing home at issue has faced scrutiny due to numerous violations, including its failure to protect residents from sexual abuse. The alleged perpetrator, a male resident with a history of inappropriate behavior, was discovered on several occasions over the course of one year engaging in sexual misconduct with other residents.

Initially, The director of nursing found the suspected abuser groping and kissing a female resident in her room. Although it’s unclear whether the encounter was consensual, the male resident was educated on the importance of consent. On several other occasions, the same resident was caught attempting to engage in inappropriate conduct with another resident. Ultimately, A nurse aide walked in on the male resident atop a female resident, engaging in sexual activity. The female resident, who had severe cognitive impairments, reported feeling violated.

Under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to select a good nursing home or care facility for your loved ones. Trusting such institutions to help our loved ones and family members following hospitalizations or for long-term care is a stressful and complicated process. That decision can be even more nerve-wracking when widespread practices of elder abuse, medication errors, and financial abuse are uncovered. When nursing homes and care facilities fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents, they must be held accountable.

To address this issue, President Biden recently announced a new proposed minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes. Under the administration’s proposal, every taxpayer-funded nursing home would be required to meet minimum staffing requirements to prevent gaps in care. The proposed standards call for every qualified nursing facility to provide a registered nurse on site 24/7 and for every nurse and nurse aide to provide routine bedside care, among other tasks. The proposal stated that research shows that increasing staffing levels saves lives and provides residents with a higher quality of life, preventing needless suffering. The proposal further highlights that despite nursing homes receiving nearly $100 billion annually from American taxpayers, they are too often understaffed, resulting in illness and death for patients. Implementing such changes will bolster current staff members who are struggling to meet the demands of an increasingly large nursing home resident population.

During the pandemic, shortages and insufficient levels of staffing were exposed, and over 200,000 nursing home residents and workers passed away from COVID-19. In recent years, private equity firms have been purchasing nursing homes and cutting key staff in order to increase profits, endangering the safety of nursing home residents in the process.

The State of New York has unveiled a distressing lawsuit that exposes the grim reality of nursing homes’ misuse of taxpayer money and the horrific consequences it has on the elderly. The case sheds light on the heart-wrenching mistreatment faced by vulnerable residents at four nursing homes in New York, owned and operated by a profitable corporate entity. The ordeal endured by these individuals emphasizes the need for strong legal representation to combat such atrocities and seek justice for the victims.

According to the facts discussed in a recently released news article, the owners, operators, and landlords of four nursing homes in New York allegedly diverted more than $83 million in Medicare and Medicaid funds away from the essential care of their residents. As a result, the elderly individuals entrusted to their care faced unimaginable suffering, including neglect, humiliation, and even death. The lawsuit highlights instances of severe dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores leading to infections and sepsis, as well as life-altering injuries caused by preventable falls.

This lawsuit highlights the critical importance of robust oversight and accountability in the nursing home industry. The accused nursing homes have reportedly been associated with such negligence for years. The lawsuit draws attention to the fact that these horrors were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their existence predates the outbreak. This demonstrates that addressing the inadequacies and misconduct within nursing homes is an ongoing battle that requires persistent effort and legal intervention.

Choosing the right care facility or nursing home for a family member is a stressful and complicated process. It is vital to know that our most vulnerable loved ones are being placed in a caring, comfortable, and safe environment. Unfortunately, recent events have left many nursing and care homes with staffing shortages, training deficiencies, and a lack of supplies. When nursing homes fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents or worse, they must be held accountable.

According to recent local news reporting, the care facility Pruitt Health in Lilburn has recently been under investigation for allegations of abuse. Adult protective services investigations in Georgia are confidential and closed, but police records indicate that officers in Lilburn have investigated at least three recent allegations of abuse at the facility. The reporting detailed multiple patients alleging abuse at Pruitt Health.

One patient, who is at the facility to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation following a truck accident that left him largely paralyzed, accused Pruitt of failing to provide any physical therapy for him. Following eight months in the hospital, he arrived at Pruitt Health, he said he’s since reported several instances of alleged abuse and neglect to his ombudsman, a government-appointed advocate tasked with investigating complaints. The patient stated that he’s been left sitting in his feces and urine for seven to eight hours at a time, he’s been verbally abused, and often has food shoved down his mouth. The resident states that he now suffers from anxiety attacks. Another patient at Pruitt had significant facial bruising when interviewed, while another suffered a broken shoulder while leaving their bed. A fourth patient alleged being raped at the facility.

There is an inherent power balance between residents and staff in nursing homes. Staff members are in charge of feeding, treating, and caring for residents, often making residents fully or largely reliant on staff members. That imbalance can result in a hesitation to report or take action when abuses are occurring. Additionally, many residents may have trouble directly or clearly communicating their experiences. As a result, it often falls to visitors and loved ones to advocate for them when things go wrong. It is extremely important to take a resident seriously if they disclose or report instances of nursing home neglect or abuse.

A recent survey by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, examined 100 complaints by nursing home residents across the country. One of the biggest issues, the report found, was that residents rely so much on staff members, that any perceived issues could be met with retaliation, big or small. For many residents, staff members provide daily basic care, including assistance using the restroom, showering, and getting changed. The power imbalance is extreme, making individuals in nursing homes uniquely vulnerable to abuse. The survey even documented instances of staff members threatening family members of residents if they reported issues to the state or ombudsman association. Residents interviewed for the survey told investigators “they were afraid to voice concerns ‘because it backfires on you,’ as ‘staff became aggressive.’”

Compounding many of the existing issues is the lack of funding for nursing care facilities. The survey acknowledges that many nursing home staff members are “underpaid and undervalued.” The report suggests staff education as one of the methods to combat abuse within nursing homes. The survey stated: “What we already knew but learned again in horrific detail during COVID was that care in nursing homes is unacceptable . . . let’s understand the phenomenon. Let’s name it, let’s teach, how to prevent it, how to anticipate the way it feels to families and older people and the staff.”

It can be an incredibly difficult decision to trust the care of your loved ones in a care facility. Entering into the process is always easier when you know you can trust the staff members at a facility. As people age, it can sometimes be necessary to consider nursing homes and other care facilities as an option. An unfortunate reality in the nursing home business is that understaffing has led to a string of elder abuse throughout the nation.

Who Should You Contact if You Suspect Elder Abuse?

In Maryland, the appropriate program to contact if you suspect your family member or loved one is suffering from abuse is the Maryland Adult Protective Services (APS). APS investigates the exploitation and abuse of adults and elderly individuals throughout the state, including physical, mental, emotional, and financial abuse. Common signs of abuse include unexplained bruising, burning, scarring, depression, confusion, or dramatic changes in spending habits. Simply staying in close contact with your family member or loved one can tip you off to these common symptoms and could potentially save lives. It is important to remember that abuse can be perpetrated by a loved one, caregivers, and staff at a nursing home facility.

A recent news article detailed an elder abuse event.

A recent news report highlights that a New Hampshire nursing home is under investigation after a state report accused the facility of abuse of several residents and of failing to prevent abuse that might have contributed to a resident’s death. According to the report, a resident had unexplained injuries that contributed to their death, and several other residents were allegedly abused by staff. The Department of Health and Human Services conducted an inspection of the facility. The report alleges that the facility failed to ensure that residents were free from abuse and neglect. In one incident, a resident said that a licensed nursing assistant “slapped his buttocks, smacked them with plastic bags and laughed about it.” The report also documented that a resident’s autopsy should that they had a fracture and dislocation to the right shoulder and a dislocation to the left shoulder which contributed to the resident’s death. The case is being further investigated. The report also detailed some changes made by the facility, which included random weekly audits to make sure staff members are following procedures to prevent abuse and neglect.

What to Do to File a Lawsuit After Nursing Home Abuse?

Elder abuse in Maryland is unfortunately not uncommon. In 2020, the Maryland Department of Aging, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program received a total of 283 abuse allegations. This included 110 physical, 70 gross neglect, 49 psychological, 37 financial, and 17 sexual abuse allegations. This one department in Maryland, although there are multiple departments that received other substantial reports of alleged abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities in that year. When preparing to file a lawsuit due to abuse suffered in a nursing home, it is important to collect the necessary evidence to help prove your case – it can even be helpful to collect evidence that you have available before meeting with your lawyer, although your lawyer can help figure out ways to collect such evidence. Evidence may include medical records from the nursing home, medical records from hospitalizations related to the suspected abuse, an autopsy report and/or death certificate if applicable, funeral expenses if applicable, any documentation of relevant communication with nursing home, photos of injuries, and any other documents you believe may be helpful. In addition to collecting evidence, it can be extremely helpful to find a lawyer who has experience handling these types of personal injury cases to discuss a plan for filing a claim, and a timeline.

Under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to select a good nursing home or care facility for your loved ones. Trusting such institutions to help our loved ones and family members following hospitalizations or for long-term care is a stressful and complicated process. That decision can be even more nerve-wracking when widespread practices of elder abuse, medication errors, and financial abuse are uncovered. When nursing homes and care facilities fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents, they must be held accountable.

A recent news report detailed a concerning pattern at a local Washington D.C. rehabilitation and nursing home facility. According to the report, The D.C. Department of Health has launched an investigation into Capitol City Rehab nursing home following a near-deadly medication error episode on site. The report states that Rosezena Jackson’s family checked her into the nursing home in December of 2022 to recover from a hospitalization for a blood clot. They trusted the facility to take care of Rosezena fully, including administering prescription medications. However, issues quickly arose, and doctors had to put the 74-year-old Rosezena into a medically induced coma for over a week to help her survive. At the nursing home, Rosezena was given medications that were not intended for her, including a blood pressure drug that she is severely allergic to. The drugs had a different person’s name and were not meant for Rosezena.

Further review of federal inspection reports revealed that Capitol City Rehab had similar episodes in 2020 and 2021. In both years, the facility’s pharmacist failed to properly identify a medication error and on several occasions, staff members failed to administer prescription medication. In one instance, the staff failed to administer a physician-ordered drug for 19 days. The D.C. Health Regulation and Licensing Administration is currently investigating Capitol City Rehab and declined to comment on the ongoing case.

When sending a loved one to a nursing home or a long-term care facility, we expect and hope that the facility team members will do their job and do it well. Putting the care of a loved one in the hands of others is an act of trust, but when facilities fail to effectively care for patients, this goes against federal and state laws that serve to protect patients. In a recent case from Florida, a Florida jury awarded $12.5 million in damages after a wrongful death lawsuit involving an assisted living facility. The deceased’s family brought the suit against the facility, alleging that the facility’s negligent care resulted in their family member developing a fatal bloodstream infection from a bedsore. The deceased, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, was alleged to be physically healthy when she entered the facility, according to the lawsuit. However, two months after moving to the facility, the elderly woman developed severe bedsores and pneumonia, which required emergency medical care.

The lawsuit alleged that the woman developed a severe bedsore on her back, which caused an open wound deep enough to expose the bone. The wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the facility was understaffed and negligent, which caused the deceased to develop a severe and fatal stage of pressure ulcer. In the end, the jury sided with the plaintiff, and the family was awarded a $12.5 million verdict.

What Are the Risks of Bedsores?

Bed sores, which may also be referred to as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are skin lesions that can develop in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term care facility due to a lack of blood flow to an area of skin that is exposed to prolonged pressure. In long-term care facilities, it is standard protocol to pay close attention to those who have a higher risk of bedsores, either by changing the patient’s position every two hours or using pillows, for example. In cases involving bed sores due to neglect of the nursing home provider, the neglect may be that they failed to monitor or reposition patients who have limited mobility.

Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is all too common. In many cases of neglect, the nursing home fails to hire and train sufficient numbers of staff to care for its residents. Too often, nursing homes focus on profit, accepting more residents without increasing staff to provide adequate care to each resident. Even the most dedicated nursing home staff may be overwhelmed by the number of residents they are tasked with assisting.

According to a recent news article, a nursing home is under investigation by the Connecticut Department of Public Health for severe neglect and staffing shortages. In its inspection report, the Department found that residents were left in their beds for hours at a time without trips to the bathroom or diaper changes, and they received food late. As a result, several residents suffered from skin ulcers and urine-soaked diapers. Other residents reported that they often did not receive care at all. The lack of adequate care stemmed, in part, from significant nurse’s aide shortages. For example, one nurse’s aide told inspectors she only saw 12 of her 18 patients nearly four hours into her shift. The Department’s report identified the ratio of residents to nurse’s aides as 18:1. As a result of the investigation, the health department recommend civil monetary penalties and ordered the nursing home to correct its various issues.

What Are the Consequences of Nursing Home Staffing Shortages?

Unfortunately, shortages of trained staff in nursing homes can have especially poor effects on residents’ well-being. For example, according to the same news article above, another facility within the same parent company admitted patients struggling with substance abuse without hiring the proper staff to care for them. As a result, at least twelve residents overdosed. This egregious wrong led the Massachusetts Attorney General to fine the nursing home’s parent company $1.75 million for neglect. In other cases, staffing shortages can lead to delays in care that carry serious consequences. For example, if a nursing home lacks sufficient staff to move residents from their beds every few hours, the residents may suffer from bed sores or ulcers. Similarly, a delay in bathing schedules or trips to the bathroom could leave residents with unclean diapers for hours at a time. As the news article reported, these delays could lead to urinary tract infections and other health conditions. If you suspect a nursing home is not providing adequate care to your loved one, you may decide to sue the nursing home for negligence.

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