Articles Posted in Dementia in Nursing Homes

Our Baltimore County nursing home attorneys were stunned to see the recent details revealed in a nursing home abuse sentence from this month, where two women working at a Tennessee nursing facility were given a two-year prison sentence for engaging in the abuse of elders by taking video and photos of severely disabled residents on a cell phone in degrading and helpless positions.

According to the Knox News Sentinel, two Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center nursing assistants, Mary Ann Burgess and April Longmire, 52 and 37, were indicted after the TBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that the two certified nursing assistants took photos at the center from 2007-2009 that were, according to Judge Richard Vance, the Sevier County Circuit Court Judge, shocking, offensive and reprehensible.

The duties of the two women included changing, dressing and feeding adults in the home who were severely disabled, from mild dementia to severe Alzheimer’s disease. According to the TBI, the photos were discovered after a cell phone was turned in and administrators tried to figure out who the missing phone belonged to. After TBI interviews, it was determined that Longmire was the owner of the phone, who is also stated to be one who instigated taking the photos.

Photos that were taken by Burgess and Longmire reportedly include images of naked elderly residents in helpless positions lying on the floor, in the bathroom, or in their beds, as well as abusive and degrading shots of some residents attempting to eat while food fell from their mouths.

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In a recent blog, our Maryland nursing home attorneys discussed nursing home negligence and the prevalence of pressure sores plaguing elderly and immobile residents in nursing homes across the country, as well as the importance of pressure sore prevention to avoid nursing home injury or wrongful death.

Pressure ulcers commonly develop on areas of the body that are bony and close to the skin, with less padding by muscle and fat. Common areas include the tailbone, heels, hips, ankles, tailbones, shoulder blades, elbows, backs, shoulders as well as the back of the head. With pressure sores, one small inflammation can quickly develop into a deep crater that can be extremely painful, hard to heal, and can cause infections that are life-threatening.

To prevent bedsores, also called pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers, it is important to avoid lying directly on bony areas, as they are prone to pressure sore development. The Mayo Clinic recommends:

• If lying on your side, try lying at a 30-degree angle.
• When lying on your back, always support your legs with a pillow or soft pad from the middle of the calf to the ankle, to increase blood flow.
• Try to keep bony areas like ankles and knees from touching.
• Try and avoid raising the head of the bed more than 30 degrees, as this could cause the resident to slide down and increase friction. If the bed needs to be raised to a high height, pillows or foam wedges should be placed on hips and shoulders to help maintain proper alignment to reduce any rubbing.
• Patients who are lying down should be moved every two hours, and if in a wheel chair, should be manually moved every 15 minutes.

• Try mattresses and wheelchairs that are pressure-reducing.

For elderly or post-surgery residents who are immobile, diet is an essential part of pressure sore prevention and healing, as balanced meals supply the necessary nutrients needed to keep residents healthy. The Mayo Clinic recommends to:

• Eat smaller meals more frequently, to help ensure that residents are getting enough calories, protein, minerals and vitamins.
• Take advantage of times when residents have a hearty appetite, like when they are rested in the morning.
• Limit the amount of fluids given to residents during mealtime. Liquids can prevent a resident from eating higher calorie foods.
• If swallowing is a challenge, pureed foods, shakes and soups with protein can be easier to ensure calorie intake.

• Never rush a resident’s mealtime.

For families who have loved ones in a nursing home or care facility, it is also important to check the resident’s condition with each visit. The resident’s skin condition, weight, and general healthcare should be monitored with each visit, as well as weight. If there are any signs of nursing home neglect, like pressure sores, the nursing staff and doctor should be contacted immediately.

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In a recent blog, our Washington D.C. nursing home injury lawyers discussed nursing home negligence, and the danger of pressure sores in nursing homes today. Pressure sores, also known as decubitus ulcers or bedsores, affect around one million people across the country with nearly 60,000 people dying each year from complications of the very advanced stages of pressure sores, like osteomyelitis, a bacterial inflammation of the bones, and sepsis, an infection of the blood.

Pressure sores often develop as a result of nursing home negligence, when nursing home residents are immobile, confined to their beds or wheelchairs, have circulation problems, debilitating illnesses, incontinence, diabetes, dementia or other mental disabilities that lead to decreased mobility. When a nursing home resident sits or rests in the same position for long time periods without being moved by the nursing home staff, the circulation of blood to the skin is cut off, leading to the breakdown of skin, and pressure sores can rapidly develop.

There are four stages of pressure sore development, starting with Stage I, where an area of skin becomes red and discolored. In Stage II, the red area develops into a scrape or blister that forms an open sore, which results from the skin deterioration. If the wound is not cared for immediately, the skin continues to breakdown, leading to Stage III, where there is a greater degree of soft tissue loss beneath the surface of the skin, forming a shallow crater. With a Stage IV pressure sore, the crater becomes deeper, in some cases as large as a grapefruit, and the bone and muscle can be severely damaged, as well as joints and tendons. There is serious pain and depression associated with Stage IV pressure sores, and the deep craters can lead to life-threatening infections like osteomyelitis or sepsis, that can lead to nursing home injury or wrongful death.

As our nursing home attorneys in Washington D.C. discussed in a related blog, pressure sores are preventable, and at-risk residents should receive daily skin inspections for pressure sores, especially the bony areas of the body. Every two hours, bedridden residents should have their positions changed to relieve pressure on the skin, and every 15 minutes while sitting in a wheelchair. Residents should also have their skin protected from dampness caused by wound drainage, sweat, or incontinence. Some residents may benefit from a mattress or pad to relieve pressure on the skin, along with other technology designed to prevent pressure sores and nursing home injury. All nursing home residents should be also be given a healthy diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals to assist in pressure sore prevention and healing.

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In recent news that our nursing home injury attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland have been following, the wife of a nursing home resident who died last year after suffering from multiple nursing home falls as well as an infected pressure sore, has filed a lawsuit against the Illinois nursing home, seeking more than $50,000 in damages for nursing home negligence.

According to the lawsuit, Ralph Shafer was admitted to the nursing home in September of 2007, after suffering from two strokes, with signs of hypertension, dementia, and diabetes, among other health concerns. Shafer, who was 87 at the time, was reportedly at risk for nursing home falls, and according to Shafer’s wife, the nursing home facility failed to prevent his frequent falls. One tragic fall in 2008 led to a massive nursing home injury, where Shafer broke his hip and required surgery.

Shafer’s wife is also accusing the nursing home of failing to prevent the infection of a pressure sore on Shafer’s ankle, that reportedly developed as a result of his diabetes. Shafer died in April of 2009 from gangrene and osteomyelitis at the site of the wound, as well as complications from advanced dementia.

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial inflammation of the bones, that can develop when a Stage IV pressure sore causes severe damage to the skin, muscle and bone. As our Maryland nursing home injury lawyers discussed in a related blog, if a nursing home resident is bedridden, in a wheelchair, immobile with diabetes, has circulation issues or mental disabilities, and incontinence, the residents should be checked daily for pressure sores, and moved every two hours to relieve pressure and prevent skin breakdown that leads to pressure sores. The primary goal of pressure sore treatment is preventing them before they start.

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Our Baltimore nursing home injury attorneys have been following a recent lawsuit filed by the children of well-known Hollywood film and television actor Gene Barry, who allege that a nursing home neglected to monitor the actor’s health after he suffered a tragic nursing home fall, which led to his death.

Barry was reportedly admitted to Sunrise of Woodland Hills nursing home in stable condition in June of 2009 at the age of 90, even though the home was not equipped to properly care for the actor’s health needs, as he suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Barry’s children allege that their father suffered a devastating nursing home fall at the facility in December of 2009, that left him with major head injuries, brain damage, broken ribs, and an injury to his hip. The lawsuit claims that after Barry’s fall, the nursing home failed to notify a doctor and Barry’s children, and for four days he was neglected while he suffered in great pain. According to Barry’s family, this nursing home fall caused his wrongful death.

Barry’s children state that the nursing home staff, management and corporate officers are liable for nursing home negligence, elder abuse, wrongful death and nursing home fraud, in relation to the tragic incidents that led to Barry’s death. The suit claims that Barry was not properly assessed during the pre-admission process in the home, and the facility staff and management reportedly falsely represented the home to Barry’s children—as Barry was promised a nursing home environment filled with a proper standard of care that he was legally entitled to. The complaint alleges that the facility fell short of this promise, and was not equipped to handle Barry’s needs.

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In a recent wrongful death and negligence lawsuit settlement, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has agreed to pay the family of a retired Philadelphia police officer and Korean war veteran $250,000, after the elderly man wandered unsupervised from the state veterans nursing home and froze to death.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that our Baltimore nursing home negligence attorneys have been following, Chapman was 75-years-old, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. On December 31, 2007, Chapman reportedly wandered away from the home wearing his pajamas, to the outside cold that fell below freezing that night. The surveillance camera recorded Chapman’s exit, where he walked right by the security staff, and was unnoticed by the staff.

Chapman’s daughter alleged in the lawsuit that the workers were negligent in their duties and distracted because of the home’s plans for a New Year’s party. Chapman’s wandering was reportedly not noticed for two hours, even though it was their duty to monitor him. Chapman’s body was found the next morning, and according to his widow, it was only a few hundred yards from them home. The cause of death was ruled as hypothermia by the autopsy.

In an inspection report that came from the state Health Department, the home was cited for failing to take timely action, that resulted in harm and death to the veterans home resident. After the incident, records reportedly show that several of the veterans home staff were suspended or received reprimand. According to agency officials, procedures have been put into place to prevent a recurrence of this type of tragedy. The settlement agreement will reportedly be given to Chapman’s daughters, and to the family’s estate.

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As nursing home abuse attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland, we recently reported in a blog on a series of lawsuits against Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society in Albert Lea, Minnesota, by families of a nursing home abuse victims—after an investigation revealed nearly half a year of alleged nursing home abuse in 2008.

A recent article from the Argus Leader reports that yet another lawsuit has been filed against the nursing home in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota, as the Evangelical Good Samaritan Society’s corporate offices are based in South Dakota. In Minnesota, civil suits reportedly die with the abuse victim, but the abuse and assault claims are still open for South Dakota litigation.

According to the lawsuit, Sylvia Wulff, now deceased, was one of the victims of the alleged nursing home abuse in Good Samaritan Society’s facility. Wulff’s family reportedly filed the lawsuit on September 29 in Sioux Falls, claiming that the company failed to monitor the staff, and properly screen the employees. Wulff is the sixth deceased victim who has had a lawsuit filed in South Dakota.

Brianna Broitzman and Ashton Larson were charged earlier this year with civil assault, disorderly conduct by a caregiver, abuse of vulnerable elders, and failure to report abuse, among other charges. In August, Briotzman pleaded guilty to three counts of disorderly conduct by a caregiver. Four other women, who were teenagers at the time, were reportedly charged in the case as juveniles with failure to report abuse.

According to the investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health, Larson and Broitzman were found to have allegedly encouraged young staff members at the facility to routinely abuse fifteen dementia and Alzheimer’s nursing home residents in a sexual, emotional, and physical way, while videotaping the abuse.

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In a related blog, our Baltimore nursing home injury attorneys discussed the use of chemical restraints in nursing homes, and the recent indictment of a registered nurse from Britthaven of Chapel Hill Nursing Home, after a nursing home resident died from a morphine overdose. The nurse, 44-year-old Angela Almore was charged last month with one count of second-degree murder, and six counts of felony resident abuse, for over-medicating residents with morphine, that allegedly caused hospitalization and wrongful death.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that they are recommending that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should fine Britthaven nursing home the maximum allowed fine by federal law, $20,000.

The nearly 100-page report based on the investigation performed by the North Carolina Nursing Home Licensure and Certificate Section reportedly revealed details of patient lethargy and altered states with the residents who tested positive for opiates.

The Herald-Sun reports that further investigation from the toxicology reports indicate that 14 residents out of 29 in the Alzheimer’s wing at Britthaven tested positive for opiates in February. Not one of these patients had prescriptions for opiate medication. Rachel Holliday, an 84-year old resident, and one of the hospitalized patients with high levels of morphine in her system, died on February 16, 2010 from pneumonia due to reported morphine toxicity.

Britthaven was reportedly investigated after patients were hospitalized from the Alzheimer’s wing of the nursing home, which lead to the discovery of opiates in their blood. A criminal investigation was launched in February by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Investigations Unit, and The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), to investigate for nursing home abuse or neglect, over-medication, or chemical restraint in an effort to make the nursing home residents more manageable.

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In yesterday’s blog, our attorneys discussed the prevalence of pressure sores in nursing homes and assisted living residences, that often result in injury or wrongful death.

In a recent wrongful death lawsuit, the family of Frances Graham, a former 81-year old resident of an assisted living home in San Leandro, California, is suing Graham’s doctor, as well as the assisted living home, after Graham suffered from nursing home violence and devastating pressure sores all over her body, some reportedly as large as a baseballs—that lead to her tragic death. Graham’s family is also suing the nonprofit responsible for her care, the Center for Elders Independence, claiming that they put profits over her nursing home health and safety.

According to the suit, Graham was kept at the Andrew Elijah residential care home even though laws require that Alzheimer’s patients are cared for by a nursing staff that is skilled for such illnesses. Graham reportedly shared a room with a 72-year old dementia patient, who in June of last year, was found attacking Graham with a plastic hair pick. Graham suffered dozens of cuts on her body, and her left eye was bleeding and also bruised. Graham was reportedly treated by a doctor, and sent back to the Andrew Elijah home and put in a room that was private.

Graham’s son claims that soon after, Graham was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia, where a doctor discovered multiple bedsores on her body, so many that the doctors wrote in the notes that they weren’t sure that they even seen them all. The worst sore was allegedly a 4-inch hole that had eaten down to the tendons and smelled horribly. The doctor also found her to be anemic and dehydrated. Graham was moved to another health care center, and died two days later.

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In recent news that our Maryland Nursing Home Injury Attorneys have been following, an assisted-living facility in Rochester, Minnesota is being sued for negligence, wrongful death and medical malpractice, after a resident with dementia was allegedly assaulted and died.

According to the civil lawsuit, Donald R. Salli, 78, was assaulted by another resident in September of last year. The complaint claims that Salli was found by the staff at Sunrise Cottages on the floor on September 19th, with a resident assaulting him. Salli allegedly had a large hematoma on his head, as well as a red area from where he had been kicked in the back. He was reportedly not evaluated by a licensed nurse until seven hours after the attack.

The lawsuit also claims that the next day, Salli was found on the floor of his cottage apartment by three staff members, crying and in a great amount of pain, and was unable to walk on his own. He was documented as being unresponsive, sleeping through the day, was unable to stand or communicate, and yelled in pain when his back was touched.

After Salli’s daughter, Elizabeth Pulsifer, asked that Salli be sent to the emergency room, they discovered that he had suffered a fractured skull with internal bleeding and three ribs were fractured. He reportedly remained in the intensive care unit until he was transferred to hospice care, where he died on October 7, from a brain injury. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, neglect was the direct cause of his demise and they cited the facility for negligence.

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