Articles Posted in Orange County Nursing Home

obed-hernandez-592136-unsplash-copy-212x300Nursing homes in San Diego and throughout Southern California should be on warning that nursing home residents and their families are not willing to deal with understaffing problems that can easily lead to nursing home neglect injuries. According to a recent article in Advance Senior Care, there are 15 nursing homes in the state of California that are now the subject of class action lawsuits “alleging that their owner systematically understaffed them to increase his profits.” While these nursing homes are facing claims for nursing home negligence risks, a recent report from California Healthline stated that approximately 1,400 nursing homes in the country will now have to report lower Medicare ratings as a result of concerns about understaffing.

Southern California skilled nursing facilities are required to have specific staffing numbers in order to prevent patient injuries due to elder neglect. When facilities do not have adequate staff, patients can suffer serious and life-threatening injuries due to neglect alone. What should families in California know about the changes to Medicare ratings and how those might relate to the recent class action lawsuits in the state?

Understaffing Problems Lead to Lower Medicare Ratings for Nearly 1,400 Nursing Homes

rawpixel-487102-unsplash-copy-300x207One of the most common reasons that seniors sustain serious injuries from nursing home neglect is understaffing. When skilled nursing facilities do not have enough staff members, there are not enough people to provide the necessary care to patients and residents at the facility. Both California state law and federal law require skilled nursing facilities to have a specific staff-to-patient ratio to help ensure that seniors are getting the care they need. However, according to a recent article in The New York Times, many nursing homes across the country have been overstating their staffing numbers in order to be in compliance with state and federal regulations. As a result, patients have been suffering from nursing home abuse and neglect.

Federal Data Shows Inadequate Staffing Levels at Many Nursing Homes

For many years, according to the article, numerous family members of seniors in skilled nursing facilities have worried that staffing levels were insufficient. As it turns out, many of those suspicions and fears have some validity to them. Indeed, “on the worst staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.” Records also showed that there were significant fluctuations in staffing numbers at many facilities from day to day, with some days having adequate staff while others had grossly inadequate staff on hand to meet the needs of the residents.

alex-boyd-260321-copy-300x200Elder abuse is prevalent in Carlsbad, and many families seeking out nursing homes for their elderly loved one worry about nursing home abuse and neglect. According to an article in Health & Fitness CheatSheet, there are many things that nursing homes do not want patients to know—from information contained within admission contracts to the problems and limitations facing residents within the facility. If you are considering a particular nursing home or assisted-living facility for your loved one, you should always do as much research as possible into the facility, including looking at records of violations and visiting the facility itself to get a sense of the space. In addition, you might consider some of the following issues, which, according to the article, nursing homes may not want you to know.

Many Residents are Isolated from One Another in Nursing Homes

It is important for nursing home residents to have interaction with other people and to be able to socialize. However, residents often do not have as much freedom to move around the facility as they would like, and many feel isolated from other residents. According to the article, in a recent study, about 50% of nursing home patients interviewed reported that they “felt depressed due to a lack of independence and freedom, as well as loneliness.”

parker-byrd-139348-copy-300x200For anyone in Encinitas who is thinking about long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, it is important to do a substantial amount of background research before selecting a facility in order to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect. A new website from the state of California, “Cal Health Find,” was designed to make this research easier, allowing potential patients and their families to compare nursing homes and to consider safety ratings. However, according to a recent report in California Healthline, the website may be doing more harm than good. Nursing home advocates in California “are calling on the state to take it down,” describing the website as “incomplete, inaccurate, and a huge step in the wrong direction.”

Learning More About Cal Health Find and Potential Problems with the Website

The California Department of Public Health launched Cal Health Find to “help people compare the quality of nursing homes and other health care facilities.” The site was designed as a replacement for the Health Facilities Consumer Information System provided by the state, and it was supposed to be more user-friendly. The state invested about $437,000 to build and to operate the new website. What are some of the additions the state made to make it easier for Encinitas residents to learn about histories of nursing home abuse or neglect at certain facilities?

799px-Alcohol_bottles_photographed_while_drunkHow broad is the term nursing home neglect? For instance, when a senior has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse and lives in a nursing home or an assisted-living facility in Southern California, does the facility have a duty to prevent the senior from obtaining potentially harmful substances? And if the facility knows about a history of drug or alcohol abuse and does not take precautions to limit a senior resident’s access to alcohol or prescription drugs, can the nursing home be responsible for injuries that occur? According to a fact sheet from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), it can be difficult to recognize signs and symptoms of substance abuse among older adults.

Should we be able to expect that facilities will look into signs and symptoms of substance abuse among elderly residents? And if a facility in San Diego already knows that one of its residents has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, what must it do differently in other to avoid allegations of nursing home negligence?

Difficulty Identifying Senior Residents with Substance Abuse Problems

An 81-year-old nursing home resident beat his 94-year-old roommate to death with a closet rod in their Laguna Hills nursing home. Sheriff’s have arrested William McDougall of Mission Viejo for causing the death, and he has been booked for murder. The victim, Manh Van Nguyen of Laguna Woods, was pronounced dead upon arrival to Saddleback Memorial Hospital.

l9oh7z-l9oh6tmcdougall.jpg The motive in the killing is unclear. Both men were residents at Palm Terrace Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, a licensed skilled nursing facility in Laguna Hills. (More info about the facility here) “What prompted the attack is still under investigation. Obviously, this is very unusual,” sheriff’s spokesperson Jim Amormino told the media. Staff at the nursing home have apparently told sheriff’s investigators that there no prior conflicts between McDougall and Nguyen.

What causes violence such as this in the nursing home? It could be a number of things. First, it is not uncommon for residents with memory impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease to act aggressively toward caregivers and others. Our law firm has represented victims of peer-on-peer abuse in the past. Another possibility is medications. What medications was McDougall on (or not on) that might have contributed to this offense. And, of course, maybe McDougall is just a violent person. No doubt all of this will be uncovered in the criminal investigation, which is just starting.

This story makes one wonder what would happen if a hidden camera sting was done in every nursing home. The attorney general of New York placed a hidden camera in a single room of a long-term care facility, which resulted in an indictment against nine nurses, the nursing home, for a whopping 169 separate crimes.

The indictment filed in the case alleges 57 instances of neglect during a three-month period in 2009. With the family’s permission, a hidden camera was placed in the room of a 53-year-old resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis and other mental and physical illnesses. The video revealed that the nurses failed, on several occasions, to turn the patient regularly as required, failed to medicate as needed, treat his pressure ulcers, or even change the resident’s clothing. Of course, in the medical chart, these nurses stated that all this care had been provided. The fraudulent medical charting resulted in further criminal charges.

In interesting footnote to the story, when the alleged abuse revealed, several people came to The Record newspaper to tell their stories of abuse or neglect inside the facility, including unanswered call lights and untreated infections and bed sores.

A resident of St. Edna skilled nursing facility in Santa Ana (a Covenant Care facility) was awarded $3.1 million by an Orange County after the jury found that the nursing home failed to recognize that the resident was overdosing on morphine. The jury also found that the nursing home acted with malice or oppression, and will award punitive damages at a hearing next Tuesday.

St. Edna’s was among the many California nursing homes who received $880 million in Medi-Cal compensation from the state in a program that began in 2004, and was designed to promote care and avoid staffing deficiencies. Many homes that received the additional money still reduced staffing, despite profiting from the additional funds. Apparently St. Ednas was one of those homes.

In this case, Barbara Lefforge was admitted to St. Edna on Sept. 17, 2007, to rehabilitate from tendon repair surgery. Her surgeon mistakenly recommended 50 mg of morphine for pain instead of 50 mg of Demerol. That is a huge dose of morphine, which Lefforge’s attorney argued should have been promptly caught by the nursing home staff. According to reports, a nurse at the facility could not get the full does, so took 30 mg from an office emergency kit and gave it to Lefforge, who suffered an overdose, which itself went unnoticed by the staff. She suffered a major brain injury.

California Watch is out with a disturbing report alleging that California nursing homes that received more than $880 million in additional taxpayer funds under a law designed to boost care, took the money did the opposite by cutting staff and wages. [“Nursing homes received millions while cutting staff, wages“] In its investigation, California Watch found 232 California nursing homes that either cut staffing, or paid lower wages to workers after receiving money from the state.

It appears that many of the nursing homes investigated used the state money to improve their financial health, not the health of its residents, and those that cut the most staff had, not surprisingly, more deficiencies issued by state inspectors than those facilities that did not cut staff.

“There was an implicit good faith agreement that things would get better … and that was broken,” state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, told California Watch. “It was broken for the people of California and for a very vulnerable population – those that need the greatest care and those that can’t advocate for themselves.”

The heirs of an elderly nursing home resident have sued the nursing home for causing the death of their father Oliver Shrock. The lawsuit alleges that caregivers at Kindred Healthcare Center in Orange County ignored the family’s warnings that Shrock was at risk for falling, and failing to take appropriate fall precautions, such as using a bed alarm. On July 14, 2008, just two months after his admission into the facility, Shrock fell and struck his head. He died four days later.

The California Department of Public Health investigated the 77-year-old’s death and concluded that the resident’s death was caused by the nursing home’s negligent care. A AA citation was issued, and an $85,000 assessed.

According to the lawsuit, Shrock fell shortly after admission, and that while some fall interventions were taken, they were used sporadically. For example, a bed alarm was used on Shrock, but only occasionally. The visiting daughters would repeatedly after to remind the facility to use it. Sadly, on the day of the fall, the bed alarm was not in place. It was the day Shrock was going to go home.