Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are charged with caring for those who are not able to fully care for themselves. The duty that a nursing home owes to its residents is a broad one, ranging from providing residents with assistance in completing daily tasks to ensuring their physical safety. Included in the duty nursing homes owe to their residents is the obligation to ensure that any medications that are prescribed to the residents are properly administered.

MedicationWhen a nursing home is negligent in administering a resident’s medication, the nursing home employee responsible for the mistake, as well as the nursing home’s management, may be liable for any injuries caused as a result. These nursing home negligence lawsuits can result in significant liability for a nursing home, and the pressure exerted by this potential liability has led some nursing homes to implement additional safety features when it comes to the delivery and administration of patients’ medication.

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Over the past few decades, arbitration clauses have become ubiquitous in the contracts that residents (or their family members) must sign prior to being admitted into the nursing home. These arbitration clauses may act to prevent a nursing home resident or their family from pursuing any legal action in the court system against the nursing home. Instead, these claims are settled through an arbitration company that will hear both sides and issue a binding decision. Arbitration clauses are enforced without regard to the strength of the evidence, meaning that even the strongest cases of nursing home abuse and neglect may be prevented from ever reaching a courtroom.

DocumentThe problem for nursing home residents and their families is that the nursing home selects the arbitration company in the pre-admission contract. As a result, the companies that are selected are potentially biased in favor of nursing homes. Additionally, the language of the arbitration clause is often buried deep in dense paragraphs, making it unlikely that potential residents or their family members will read and comprehend the rights they are giving up by signing the contract. This has led many arbitration contracts to be held to be invalid as a matter of law and also as a matter of good public policy.

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Earlier this month, the family of a nursing home resident who allegedly was tied to a wheelchair and given medication without her permission filed a lawsuit against the nurses as well as the nursing home, seeking $17 million in compensation. According to a local news report covering the recently filed case, the complaint claims that two nurses from the facility used bed sheets to tie down the plaintiff’s mother and then administered narcotic medication to “silence” her.

SyringeAccording to the plaintiff’s complaint, on the next morning, nurses found the plaintiff’s mother still tied to her wheelchair. She had allegedly soiled herself over the evening.

Additionally, the plaintiff claims that the nursing home did not disclose this occurrence to her and actually went so far as to cover it up. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the nursing home fired nurses who brought the conduct to the attention of management. The plaintiff characterizes the nursing home’s internal investigation as “clandestine and superficial.”

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According to a report that has been recently published by a local news source, several residents at a nursing home appear to have been victimized by acts of physical abuse committed by nursing home staff. Some of the abuse was witnessed by other residents or staff, but it had not been reported until a state investigation at one home uncovered nine possible victims of abuse, six of whom required additional administrative action. Despite that, law enforcement had not been contacted for any of those alleged acts of abuse.

Wrinkled HandLaw Enforcement Hears of Abuse, But It’s Too Late to Pursue Charges

The author of the report interviewed a spokesperson for the local police, who only heard about the alleged abuse from the media and reports of the administrative action and other state action taken against the home. According to the report, the police department expressed concern that they only just heard of the abuse, and they stated that they were not in a position to make any arrests because the state action disrupted the element of surprise.

Whether the police department could still investigate and pursue charges or not, at this point, charges appear unlikely. Although criminal charges may not be an option to hold the perpetrators of any abuse responsible for their acts, a civil nursing home abuse claim may be available to stop any abuse and recover damages for economic and non-economic harms that the victims of abuse have suffered.

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A recently published local news article discusses allegations of abuse that have resulted in state authorities preventing a privately owned nursing facility from admitting new residents until the allegations are properly investigated and any necessary remedial action is taken. Although the report notes that state prosecutors appear unlikely to pursue criminal charges against the parties responsible for the alleged abuse, victims of the abuse or neglect may still have claims for financial damages by filing a civil nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect lawsuit with the help of experienced legal counsel.

CourtroomState Administrative Report Details Abuse Against at Least Eight Residents

According to the report, the state regulatory authority was the first to receive notice that there was possible abuse or neglect occurring at the Brookhaven Manor nursing home in Kingsport, Tennessee. Authorities suspended the nursing home from taking new residents after an initial investigation found credible evidence corroborating the claims of abuse and neglect.

While these reports of abuse and neglect detail conduct that would certainly be criminal under state law, the prosecuting attorney’s office expressed doubt that any charges would be pursued. The attorney noted frustration with the fact that his office was not notified of any of the allegations or allowed to perform any investigation until after the state administratively sanctioned the home. This compromised the investigation by giving allegedly culpable parties an opportunity to tamper with evidence of wrongdoing.

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The family of a victim of nursing home abuse in Colorado has brought attention to the story of their loved one to raise public concern and awareness. The family also questions the effectiveness of the reporting policy of an area nursing facility after a 37-year-old employee was allowed to continue working at another nearby facility for months after he was accused of sexually abusing a volunteer.

WheelchairAccording to a report recently published by an industry news source, a former nursing home employee reportedly sexually abused the daughter of another nursing home employee who was volunteering at the facility. This conduct was reported to the facility immediately after it had occurred. Later, the victim’s mother expressed concern that law enforcement and regulatory authorities were not contacted after the abuse was first reported. In response, the facility explained that it was not required to report allegations of abuse by employees against volunteers, only by employees against other employees or patients.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a woman who slipped and fell in a nursing home while rushing after her husband as he was wheeled through the facility. In the case, Pipkin v. Azalealand Nursing Home, the court determined that the plaintiff’s proffered evidence was sufficient to survive the defendant’s summary judgment motion, and the lower court was wrong to grant the motion when there were two competing versions of the facts.

Wet FloorThe Facts of the Case

Mr. Pipkin was transported to the defendant nursing home by ambulance. As the emergency medical technicians were wheeling Mr. Pipkin down the hall through the facility, Mrs. Pipkin was trying to catch up. The evidence suggested that she was walking quickly and possibly with a cane. As she passed the shower room, Mrs. Pipkin slipped and fell.

There was conflicting testimony as to the condition of the floor immediately prior to Mrs. Pipkin’s fall. She recalls slipping on something “slick.” Her son, who immediately came to his mother’s assistance, recalls that as he knelt beside her, his knee got wet and that he then realized his mother was lying in a puddle of clear liquid.

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An employee of an Ohio nursing home has been convicted of felony charges of elder abuse after she physically assaulted a defenseless 85-year-old female nursing home resident, who was left bloodied and injured after an incident in the victim’s bedroom. According to a local news report, the defendant is currently incarcerated for other unrelated criminal charges and will be sentenced on the abuse charge in early 2017. Other residents of the same nursing home have also reported physical abuse by the same woman in separate incidents, leading to questions regarding the role of the nursing home management and other staff in detecting and addressing the abuse of residents by nursing home employees and assistants.

Wheelchair BoundThe Former Nursing Home Employee Admitted to At Least One Act of Abuse

The recent abuse conviction was the result of an incident that occurred in March 2016 at a Chillicothe, Ohio nursing facility. Earlier this month, a former nursing home employee pleaded guilty to felony abuse charges for beating an 85-year-old woman in her room after the resident was reportedly “acting belligerent” and calling the defendant names.

After the assault occurred, the nursing home released a statement that the employee was a state-tested nursing assistant and should not have been alone in the resident’s room with her. The nursing home stated that they terminated the woman’s employment once the abuse was reported, but according to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report that was prepared by government investigators, several other residents reported being abused by the woman, and the nursing home failed to prevent such acts of abuse, resulting in actual harm to at least one resident.

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Nursing home abuse and neglect have a well-documented history throughout the United States. Sadly, many of the victims of this abuse suffer from serious physical and mental health disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since the advent and expansion of social media, this unfortunate trend has accelerated. In fact, the problem has become so common that many state legislatures are looking for ways to curb the rampant nursing home abuse and neglect epidemic.

Security CameraAccording to one local news source servicing the Chicago area, Illinois lawmakers have recently passed a bill that will provide funding to install 100,000 cameras in nursing home facilities across the state. The bill, which would not allow for the installation of cameras without a resident’s consent, allocates a $50,000 budget annually to install and service the cameras. It is hoped that the presence of cameras will act not only to provide evidence of abuse after the fact but also to serve as a deterrent to nursing home employees.

Advocates of the bill call it a “win-win for all stakeholders,” explaining that truly innocent nursing home employees who has been wrongfully accused will be able to rely on the video footage to help prove the allegations were unfounded. However, it is expected that the policy will be met with some resistance from the nursing home industry, which is no doubt aware of the fact that the installation of cameras in facilities may result in exposure to additional liability through increased reporting of abuse and neglect.

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A pharmaceutical journal’s review of a recently conducted study concerning the prevalence of prescription errors in nursing homes found that while the total number of errors was relatively high, the prevalence of incidents that result in serious complications from the mistakes was surprisingly low. There could be several reasons for the higher-than-normal rate of prescription errors in nursing homes.

Various MedicationsFor one, nursing home residents are more likely than the general population to be receiving medical treatment that includes prescription medication. Nursing home staff may be responsible for dispensing out hundreds of medications from different doctors and pharmacies to various patients, who may not be verifying that they are receiving the correct medicine or dosage and could be harmed as a result. The study found that the level of serious incidents due to these errors was lower than expected, which the authors of the article attributed to the possibility that the errors that led to serious problems were being underreported or misclassified.

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