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Articles Posted in CANHR

The nursing home industry (and nursing home lawyers) was stunned earlier this year when a Humboldt County jury returned a class action verdict against the nursing home chain of $677 million dollars. The plaintiffs alleged, and the jury believed, that Skilled Healthcare, the owner of many nursing homes in several states, routinely understaffed its California nursing facilities, compromising patient care in an effort to maximize profits.

The case was a battle. ”Everything was fought tooth and nail,” Timothy Needham, lead trial lawyer for the team of plaintiff lawyers told the Times-Standard. The trial lasted six months. But the verdict was so big it created practical problems for the victors, and potentially fatal concerns for Skilled Healthcare, a publically traded company. Because of the size of the verdict, Skilled Healthcare could not afford to pay such a huge judgment and could not appeal the result (appeals require the posting of a bond, which is a percentage of the verdict), and the plaintiffs really didn’t want to take over the company. So, smartly, everyone agreed on a settlement.

It was announced yesterday that the verdict of $677 million was settled for $62.8 million.

A beleaguered nursing home operated by the Motion Picture and Television Fund was fined by the California Department of Public Health for failing to prevent a serious injury to an 87-year-old resident. The resident was injured in May of last year when, while transferring the resident with a mechanized lift, the resident slid out of the lift and fell to the floor, causing a wound so large that it revealed her cranium.

After its investigation, the DPH concluded that the nursing home failed to follow a plan of care that was designed to prevent the resident, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, from falling. The home was issued an “A” citation and a fine of $7,500.

The citation comes at a time when the nursing home operators, a charity, have decided to close down the home. Currently the home has only 54 remaining long term care residents, which remains open only after protests from current residents and their families.

The Sacramento Business Journal is out with an article accusing the State of California of exposing elderly nursing home residents to dangerous caregivers because state regulators have failed to implement a 2006 law that requires the creation of a centralized database for background checks on all long-term caregivers.

According to the article, an investigation by the state’s Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes discovered at least 20 incidents where individuals who lost their certification as nursing assistance because of wrongdoing were cleared and hired in a different facility.

“There is no excuse for allowing people with known histories of abuse to work in residential care facilities for the elderly or as caregivers in any other setting,” said Michael Connors, an advocate with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of nursing home and residential care residents.

All licensed nursing homes in California are licensed and certified by the California Department of Public Health, which conducts an annual inspection of every licensed skilled nursing facility in the state. In addition, the DPH is charged with the duty to investigate complaints of neglect or abuse, and issue the results of its investigation. Here is some general information about making a complaint against a nursing home.

First, who can make a complaint? Under California law, any person can make a complaint about a nursing home; it does not just have to be the resident, family member, or responsible party. Complaints may be made anonymously.

When is a good time to make a complaint? A complaint should be made whenever one considers the treatment problems to be serious enough to report. It is usually a good idea to express your complaints to the facility first, but if you feel like you’re not being taken seriously, call DPH.

In 2007, Dr. David Graham, a drug safety expert with the FDA, testified before Congress and stated that approximately 15,000 people die each year in U.S. nursing homes from the off-label use of anti-psychotic drugs. Off-label use is the use of the drug for a condition it was not intended. In California, it has been estimated that up to 60% of all nursing home residents are given psychoactive drugs, which is an increase of 30% in only 10 years. It’s no wonder that when we think about nursing homes, we think of isolated elderly people sitting hunched over in wheelchairs, or in bed, segregated from the world. That life is a sad realty for many.

To combat the misuse of psychoactive drugs, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have released a publication called Toxic Medicine – What You Should Know to Fight the Misuse of Psychoactive Drugs in California Nursing Homes. The 20-page booklet provides an overview of what psychoactive drugs are, their purposes, the risks associated with them, and an overview of the resident’s rights.

Primary among those rights is the requirement of consent. Before a psychoactive drug can be used, a physician must inform the resident (or his/her decision-maker) about the drug, why it is being recommended, and the risks associated with it, and then must obtain consent before prescribing it. The guide also provides a list of questions that should be asked of a doctor who is recommending a psychoactive drug, and what to do if it is suspected that the drugs are being used without proper authority.

If you considering using the services of a residential care facility for the elderly or an assisted living facility, you may be wondering how to select a good one. Unfortunately, there is no rating system like you might find in hospitals, and now nursing homes, but there are actions you can take that will help ensure you make the right choice.

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) have created a checklist to use when researching care facilities for the elderly. First and foremost, evaluate the most recent inspection report from the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing (DSS). Your local DSS office will have a complete inspection file on every facility within its jurisdiction, and you have a right to review. Simply contact the office and make an appointment to go review the file. (Click here to find your local DSS office).

When reviewing the file, you want to make sure to examine:

When a person has very serious concerns that a nursing home resident has been subject to abuse or neglect in the home, a complaint may be filed with the state. The California Department of Public Health (DPH) licenses and certifies all nursing homes in California, and maintains a process for investigating all complaints made against nursing homes.

The process of filing a complaint with the DPH is fairly straightforward, and the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have summarized it nicely:

1. Who Can File a Complaint? Any person, or even an organization, can file a complaint about nursing home neglect with the DPH. While it is usually a family member, it doesn’t have to be.

In a strongly worded report, the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes recommended major reforms to the California long-term care ombudsman program. The responsibility of the Ombudsman program is to investigate and resolve complaints made by individual residents in nursing homes.

According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), nursing home and assisted living facility residents in California at an increasing risk of elder abuse because ombudsman funding has been severely cut and the state ombudsman office has established unreasonable restrictions on ombudsman reporting of abuse.

The state report, entitled California’s Elder Abuse Investigators: Ombudsman Shackled by Conflicting Laws and Duties, revealed that ombudsman complaint referrals to the nursing home licensing agency dropped by a stunning 44 percent in the last year after the Governor Schwarzenegger slashed funding to the fledgling ombudsman program. Assisted living facilities have been affected as well. During the same period, complaints by ombudsman to California’s Community Care Licensing regarding assisted living and residential care facilities also dropped by more than 40 percent.

If you or a loved one is being threatened by eviction from your assisted living facility (or residential care facility), it is important to know that the law is on your side. Under the California Code of Regulations, an assisted living resident can be eviction for only five reasons:

1. A failure to pay rent within 10 days of its due date;

2. Failing to comply with state or local law (e.g. using illegal drugs, assault/battery, etc);

Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 303, a proposed law that would require doctors to inform residents about the dangers of psychotropic medications, and require nursing homes residents to give consent before such drugs can be given.

According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), the use of psychoactive drugs has become an epidemic in California. According to one study, nearly 60% of all California nursing home patients are administered psychoactive narcotics, a huge increase from only a decade earlier.

Governor Schwarzenegger admitted that misuse of antipsychotic drugs is a serious problem in nursing homes when he vetoed the legislation, and even cited a study that found more than have of all residents on psychoactive drugs are in violation of federal guidelines.

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