Articles Posted in Nursing home abuse and neglect

The Rhode Island State Health Department has ordered that Charlesgate Nursing Home can not take in any new patients following the death of a resident a little over a week ago. According to news reports, which are not releasing the name of the deceased, a woman was brought to the hospital on July 20 after she was found to have a very high body temperature. She ultimately passed away with a body temperature of 107 degrees. While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, one can safely assume the extreme temperature contributed to her untimely demise. Further, the nursing home stated that the woman, who had lived at the home for over a year, was in good overall health and her death came as a surprise.

This unfortunate incident occurred during the heat wave Rhode Island experienced during that week. A spokeswoman for the facility stated that air conditioners were operational and that all residents had fans in their rooms. Unfortunately, the victim lived on the fourth floor of this facility which happens to be the only floor without air conditioners in every room.

It is early to speak on the matter, and I am certainly without all of the facts, but this sounds like a tragic event that could have been avoided. I am certain that during the heat wave, Charlesgate must have been aware of the condition of the fourth floor and something could have been done to avoid this tragedy.

Anyone watching the news on NBC 10 may have seen an investigative report this afternoon uncovering nursing home abuses and violations across Rhode Island but in particular at the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center in Warwick. The investigation began with news that the Rhode Island Department of Health was investigating an allegation that one of the residents may have been overdosed at Pawtuxet Village.

Once the investigation began, it was quickly discovered that there were dozens of complaints of patient violations at Pawtuxet Village, many of which were related to improper medication and dosing and improper transfer of patients. Some of the complaints also dealt with abuse and involuntary seclusion of patients.

For the meantime, the Rhode Island Department of Health has ordered Pawtuxet Village to stop admitting new clients. Inspectors said they found several quality-of-care issues at the facility, including problems with pain management, fall prevention, pressure ulcers, and range-of-motion issues.

These are very serious allegations. Unfortunately, all of these problems are classic examples of nursing home abuse and neglect. Overmedication, the primary complaint in NBC 10’s investigation, is a serious problem in nursing homes because it is means by which they keep the patients “quiet” and “under control.” A sedated and overmedicated patient is unlikely to complain or require much attention. Instead the become like “zombies” – the same term that the family who lodged the initial complaint against Pawtuxet Village used for the condition of their father.

Senior care centers and retirement homes have a major responsibility to care for the health and wellbeing of our elderly. Unfortunately, many of them ignore this responsibility because too many patients do not have actively involved families to speak out about these injustices and because too many patients are too sick of body or mind to be able to speak up for themselves.

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I have to thank a colleague for bringing this information to my attention. Rhode Island currently has seven nursing homes with outstanding citations and violations for substandard care. Those homes are Charlesgate, Woodpecker Hill, Harris Health Center, Summit Commons, Cortland Place, and Steere House. If you have a loved one at any nursing home, including those listed above, it is imperative that you keep in constant contact with your loved one to make sure that they are receiving proper care.

Nursing homes are notoriously under staffed and poor and negligent treatment can become quite common particularly for patients who do not have actively involved family members. Some of the common injuries and problems that can occur due to nursing home negligence include: Bed sores, neglected injuries or illnesses, improper and incorrect medication, verbal and emotional abuse, falls due to improper care and monitoring, etc.

The elderly and sick of this Country are vulnerable to nursing home abuse and neglect and the best defense is to keep active in your family members life so that the facility is aware of your involvement.

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Among the leading causes of injuries and death in RI and Massachusetts nursing homes continues to be medication error.

Some of the most common medication errors that occur include:

Giving Patients the Incorrect Prescription

Simple inattention (i.e. giving medication to the wrong person or misreading a label), poor handwriting (i.e. giving an incorrect dosage because a number is illegible, or confusing two drugs with similar names), lack of communication (i.e. failure to inform the nursing staff of a change in prescription), and failure to take an adequate medical history (i.e. failing to learn about medical allergies) can all lead to a patient receiving the wrong drug or the wrong amount.

Failure to Recognize Adverse Side Effects

A patients entire history has to be considered before administering drugs. Many drugs have serious and potentially dangerous side effects which must be considered before prescribing any particular medication. Nurses and doctors must all keep a proper lookout for any adverse reaction to a particular drug. Many patients are unable to speak for themselves or communicate adverse effects of a drug. If a nursing home has a shortage of qualified nurses, adverse reactions may go unnoticed for a long period of time.

Adverse Drug Interactions

Primary care physicians and pharmacies will often keep an eye out for potential adverse drug interactions. Drug interactions can reduce the effectiveness of the drug or cause dangerous and unexpected side effects. A nursing home must take steps to avoid improper drug interactions. Failing to notice a dangerous combination of drugs can lead to serious and permanent injury.

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A new study shows that approximately one in five nursing homes across the country rates poorly for the quality of care. That means that hundreds of thousands of senior citizens are residing in nursing homes that received the absolute lowest quality score and are subject to nursing home abuse and neglect.

Several years ago the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began attributing a score to nursing homes ranging from one star to five stars based on overall quality, staffing, complaint investigations, and the results of health inspections. The most horrifying statistic is that nearly all homes that consistently receive one or two stars (for overall poor quality) are owned by for-profit corporations. Cost cutting and profit seeking behavior may be putting helpless senior citizens at risk.

The following is a database of the 15,000 plus nursing homes that were assigned a grade. Click on this link to look at how nursing homes in Rhode Island and Massachusetts stack up from the best to the worst. The lowest scoring nursing homes averaged 14 deficiencies per facility which may be attributed to quality of life or overall safety.

Family members must be proactive if a loved one is in a nursing home because they often can not speak up for themselves. This is particularly true if the nursing home in which your family member resides scored very low in this study.

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While it is out of our jurisdiction it is worth noting that the 3rd Circuit has recognized a cause of action for civil rights violations at nursing homes resulting from inadequate and abusive treatment.  The case is Grammer v. John J. Kane Regional Centers.

The Court held that the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments (FNHRA) “is explicitly and unambiguously rights-creating,” and that its provisions make clear that “nursing homes must provide a basic level of service and care for residents and medicaid patients.”

Under the law, nursing homes:

are required to care for residents in a manner promoting quality of life, provide services and activities to maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of residents, and conduct comprehensive assessments of their functional abilities…

According to the holding the FNHRA also:

specifically guarantees nursing home residents the right to be free from physical or mental abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and any physical or chemical restraints imposed for the purposes of discipline or convenience and not required to treat their medical symptoms.

Recent years have seen an increase in nursing home abuse and neglect cases because families have finally begun to speak up for their loved ones who are often unable to fight for themselves.  This is an important decision and gives federal support to this area of tort law.

A Brown University Study of nursing home patients found a higher percentage of nursing home abuse and neglect among minority patients.  The University points out that this is not necessarily racially motivated, but likely because racial minorities are more prone to end up in nursing homes that are underfunded and poorly run.  Many nursing homes hire poorly trained and unqualified staff to meet the day to day needs of its patients.  Nursing home neglect can result in bedsores, improper follow-up of illnesses, improper administration of medicine, and failure to diagnose illnesses.  As this study points out, such abuse and neglect, is even more likely to occur if the nursing home is in a poor area and is underfunded.

Nursing home abuse and neglect is preventable if family and friends of the patient stay involved.  Often, poor care at nursing homes is allowed to continue because the patient has no family to lodge a complaint or to hire an attorney.  Nursing homes must treat our aging friends and family with all of the care that they deserve, but it is up to us to ensure this happens.

If you believe that your friend or loved one is suffering abuse or neglect in their nursing home, please contact us for a free consultation.