• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a rule forbidding nursing homes from “requiring residents to sign binding arbitration agreements,” and according to a recent article in Modern Healthcare, the rule is “long overdue.” While California currently requires nursing homes to use only voluntary arbitration agreements—something that the American Health Care Association has been seeking—even voluntary agreements can pose problems for nursing home residents in the event of an elder abuse claim.6337308344_52480361a7

Are Voluntary Agreements Always Voluntary?

To have a better understanding of why even voluntary arbitration agreements might not be so great, it’s important to recognize why nursing homes and other facilities use them in the first place. In short, they “help nursing homes avoid costly litigation.” In other words, if a patient (or her family) thinks about filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit, an arbitration agreement can prevent her from doing so. Instead, she’ll have to go through arbitration. And many arbitration agreements—even voluntary ones—appear amidst a lot of other paperwork that appears when a patient enters a nursing home.

It’s clear that mandatory arbitration agreements are detrimental to patients. But given that California already requires voluntary agreements, do those ultimately end up working any differently? According to one California elder law advocate, “every one of us could tell you horror stories about these arbitration agreements because they’re used for the wrong reasons all the time.” To be sure, the proposed rule “might not solve the issue of residents feeling as if they have no choice but to sign even voluntary agreements.”

The proposed rule does include language about requiring facilities to ensure that, when residents sign a voluntary arbitration agreement, they know what they’re signing. In particular, the drafters of the rule are concerned about the unequal bargaining power between nursing homes and residents who need care. To contend with that possibility, the rule instructs facilities to explain the language in an arbitration agreement “to the resident in a form, manner, and language that he or she understands, and have the resident acknowledge that he or she understands the agreement.”

Looking Out for the Patient’s Side of the Story

But even if a nursing home must explain an arbitration agreement in plain language to a resident, can we really trust that the resident truly understands what she’s signing? According to Stephen Ware, a law professor at the University of Kansas, “you can imagine the nursing home’s witness giving his or her side of that story, and you can imagine the resident or resident’s child giving his or her side of that conversation.”

Ware also has concerns about “who might be assigned to explain the agreements to residents.” Indeed, “detailed training would be needed” to ensure that elderly patients have a grasp on the language they’re hearing. The University of Kansas professor suggests that a uniform document that explains voluntary arbitration agreements could be particularly useful.

And in California, advocates contend that voluntary arbitration agreements simply look like they’re “part of the admissions packet” to a nursing home. In other words, even if patients aren’t absolutely required to sign, it looks like they’re required based on how the paperwork is presented.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s safety in a Southern California nursing home, it’s important to connect with a San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer about your case. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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Chemical Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse

Campaign Against Elder Abuse in California

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For the last 35 years, California’s Senior Legislature has been advocating for the rights of older adults throughout the state. Indeed, according to a recent report from NBC News, the ground has been proposing laws to state legislators aimed at preventing elder abuse throughout its tenure. Now, however, the advocacy group is facing a serious problem with funds and is taking steps to ensure that it retains a voice when it comes to lawmaking and the rights of the elderly in California.Getting from Here to There

Long-Time Group Advocates for Seniors’ Rights

The California Senior Legislature currently has 120 members, all of whom are volunteers. Its members come from a variety of cities throughout the state, from Southern California to the Bay Area. Each of the members, according to NBC News, is elected from separate senior organizations in their respective cities. “Throughout its history,” the report states, “the group has proposed a myriad of laws dealing with topics ranging from elder abuse to senior health issues.” Legislators recall members of the group actually walking through the state capitol in order to personally track down legislators and encourage them to carry proposals created by the group.

Some examples of the group’s work include the following:

  • A proposal to “force public buildings to add rails to staircases”;
  • Creation of a “senior notification system” in the event of a natural disasters; and
  • Proposal to use California’s Amber Alert system “to put out the word for missing seniors suffering from dementia.”

As of now, nearly 200 of California’s Senior Legislature’s proposal have become law.

Increasing Need for Advocacy, Fewer Funds

Given that California’s senior population is growing—and will only continue to grow in the next two decades—the need for the group’s advocacy “is at a premium.” To be sure, according to the California Department of Aging, between 1990 and 2020 California will have seen an increase in the elderly population of about 112 percent.

Despite the need for advocates for the elderly, California’s Senior Legislature is losing funding. The advocacy groups continue to lose money each year, and this year it plans to turn to electronic communication rather than in-person meetings to save on funds. The members hope they’ll be able to stay in business, so to speak, and so do legislators who have seen the positive effects of the group’s work.

According to Lauren Rolfe, a Senior Legislator, the California legislature passed the Amber Alert proposal. During its first year, the system “was activated 189 times,” Role reported. And because of the effectiveness of the system, “all but 10 of the instances resulted in the safe recovery of the missing person.” Indeed, Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine emphasized that the group certainly is “effective—forceful for their advocates.” He remarked upon each of the members’ impressive level of engagement in state politics. In short, California needs advocates to ensure that nursing home abuse and elder neglect reforms are proposed and put into law.

Do you have concerns about elder abuse at a California nursing home or assisted living facility? While efforts are being made in California to reduce rates of nursing home abuse and neglect, crimes against the elderly continue to be problematic in our state. Don’t hesitate to contact an aggressive San Diego nursing home abuse attorney if you have questions.

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Campaign Against Elder Abuse in California

Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

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Nursing homes in California continue to receive warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the use of antipsychotic medications given to elderly residents, yet the use of chemical restraints continues. Indeed, according to a recent news story from ABC News 10, nearly fifty nursing homes in our state “rate below average for the use of antipsychotic drugs.” Does the use of chemical restraints constitute nursing home abuse?3056268889_8235784d86

Dementia and Antipsychotic Medications

Many of us know that elderly nursing home residents, particularly those who have been diagnosed with dementia, may be prescribed antipsychotic medications in order to chemically “restrain” them. For those of us with loved ones residing in these facilities, it can be frustrating to learn that off-label drug use is taking place when it’s unnecessary and could lead to serious harms.

In case you didn’t know the frequency of these antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Government Accountability Office report that “one out of every three elderly nursing home residents diagnosed with dementia” ends up being prescribed such drugs.

But these drugs can be deadly, the FDA emphasizes. To be sure, the FDA underlines that they’re “heavy tranquilizers” that “have been linked to heart failure.” As such, the FDA required that a warning label be placed on Haldol, one of the more common antipsychotic drugs prescribed in the nursing-home setting. Why are they still being used if they pose unnecessary risks? And how can we prevent nursing homes from prescribing these medications to our loved ones?

Recent Report of Haldol Death in Sacramento Nursing Home

An investigative report on an elderly resident of a Northern California nursing home suggests that it may be more difficult than we’d like to believe to make sure that older adults—even those without dementia—aren’t prescribed these dangerous medications.

According to ABC News 10, the death of Genine Zizzo, 82, an elderly resident at Roseville Point Health and Wellness Center, illustrates some of the key problems linked to chemical restraints for older adults. Let’s take a look at the facts of the situation. Zizzo was admitted to the facility after suffering a fall at her home. The facility was supposed to provide physical therapy, reported Zizzo’s daughter, Marisa Conover. Yet Zizzo died only 12 days after being admitted to Roseville.

Conover emphasizes that when her mother entered the facility, “she was assessed . . . as a well-developed, well-nourished 82-year-old female complaining of back pain.” Yet less than two weeks later, Zizzo was “being triaged to Kaiser as ill-appearing, obtunded, which is a medical term for being in a vegetative state.” Zizzo slipped from a “vegetative state” into a “coma,” and her death certificate indicates that she died from “multiple organ failures.” Before she was admitted to Roseville, Conover was promised that her mother would not receive any antipsychotic medications. Indeed, Conover recalls, “no antipsychotic drugs were to be used on my mother for any reason or under any conditions.” Yet Conover later learned—after Zizzo’s death—that her Roseville injected her mother with Haldol during her residency.

The Haldol allegedly was used to calm Zizzo, who, according to a nurse’s notes, had been “screaming at the top of her lungs.” As a “quick fix,” Zizzo was prescribed 2 milligrams of Haldol for her “continuous combative behavior and screaming.” Carole Herman, the founder of Foundation Aiding the Elderly, explained that drugs like Haldol are used “to control the patient, to keep them in place.” Indeed, as Herman articulated, “they can’t walk anymore. They’re not mobile, so it’s easier for them to care for them.”

After being given the Haldol, Zizzo “was slumped over in a wheelchair and barely able to tell her what happened.” Conover believes the Haldol caused her mother’s death, and the facility may be liable for nursing home abuse.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Do you have concerns about your loved one’s safety in a California nursing home? Do you have questions about the legitimacy of chemical restraints? You should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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Largest Nursing Home Owner in California Cited for Abuse

Learning About Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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According to a recent article in the Orange County Register, Kerri Kasem has been heavily involved in a campaign against elder abuse that aims to both educate the community and change the laws on visitation. Kasem is the daughter of Casey Kasem, the radio personality who passed away last June. Given Kerri’s concerns that her father was suffering elder abuse at the hands of his wife, Kerri began campaigning for elder abuse awareness in California.9736400153_2289e66888

Family Caregivers Can Be Responsible for Abuse

Back in 2013, Kerri Kasem’s father had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was recently diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He had previously been residing in a nursing home, but his wife, Kerri’s stepmother, soon became his sole caregiver. At that time, Kerri’s stepmother prevented any of Casey’s children from seeing him, and she cut off the former radio personality’s contact with the outside world.

According to Kerri, “she ripped out his phone lines . . . no phone calls or emails returned . . . we couldn’t get in to see my dad, no matter what we did.” According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), caring for aging family members—particularly those with dementia—often triggers acts of abuse or neglect. Indeed, such caregiving relationships often become violent, with elderly dementia patients suffering physical harm at the hands of loved ones. In many cases the NCEA attributes this kind of elder caregiver abuse to be caused by the stress of caring for an ailing patient. More than one million elderly Americans suffer abuse from loved ones each year, according to Jennifer Ponce, a prevention education specialist with Laura’s House.

Whether or not caregiver stress plays a role in elder abuse, the patient deserves to be treated with care and respect. And emotional abuse is a serious problem for older adults who are receiving care from loved ones. As in Casey’s situation, one of the primary warning signs of emotional elder abuse is isolation. In other words, when a caregiver isolates the elder and “doesn’t let anyone in the home or speak to the elder,” it’s important to take action.

Changing the Laws Surrounding Emotional Abuse and the Elderly

In response to the emotional abuse Kerri feared her father was suffering, she filed a complaint in court. However, she soon realized that “there was no provision in California state law giving the judge the authority to rule on visitation.” Kerri eventually obtained a conservatorship, which provided her with access to her dad, but “she was outraged by the lack of legally enforceable visitation rights for the relatives of ailing adults.”

Kerri founded the Kasem Cares Foundation, which aims to prevent elder abuse and educate the community about its risks. One of Kerri’s first orders of business was to change the laws surrounding visitation. According to the article, “she proposed a visitation bill to her stepfather, attorney Robert Naylor, who collaborated with attorney Troy Martin, California senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, and California assemblyman Mike Gatto to draft a bill that is now in nine state legislatures.” Since then, versions of the legislation have been passed in multiple states. In California, the State Assembly unanimously passed such a bill, and it’s currently awaiting votes by the Senate.

Kerri believes that, if such a law had been in existence two years ago, her father would still be alive today. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety or have suspicions about elder emotional abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

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Learning About Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

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According to a recent story from ABC 7 Eyewitness News Los Angeles, “California’s largest nursing home chain has come under fire from government regulators, facing a flurry of citations and penalties.” Indeed, Brius Healthcare Services will have to account for the numerous elder abuse allegations against its facilities across the state.341653009_14c3f29e39

Serious Violations in Brius Health Services Facilities

Over the course of the past year, Brius facilities have been investigated by the police, they’ve been sued for nursing home abuse, and they’ve been the target of investigations conducted by state and federal agencies that have issued violations. The company has 81 facilities in California, and they cover a wide expanse of the state. Indeed, the facilities stretch from “San Diego to Roseville to Eureka.”

What has led to the current scrutiny over these facilities when they’ve been identified as risky locations for nursing home residents long before now? According to the Sacramento Bee, the “final straw” for government regulators occurred when Courtney Cargill, a suicidal nursing home resident in Pasadena, checked herself out of the facility without any attention from the staff.

After she left the facility, Cargill purchased a gallon of gasoline, doused herself in the liquid, and lit herself on fire. She died less than a day later, the newspaper reported, “with second- and third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body.” After Cargill’s death, government regulators “decertified South Pasadena Convalescent in January and yanked its Medicare and Medi-Cal funding.” And that’s only one of the recent regulatory actions taken against Brius.

Who is to blame for the numerous nursing home abuse and neglect violations in the Brius facilities? Some commentators point to the owner of the chain, Schlomo Rechnitz, and his limited understanding of running residences for the elderly.

Newcomer Nursing Home Owner

Rechnitz has become the owner of many California nursing facilities in a relatively short time. To be sure, he has acquired all of the 81 facilities since 2006, “many of them through bankruptcy court.” The Sacramento Bee reported that Rechnitz’s chain has “grown so quickly that he now controls about 1 in every 14 nursing home beds in California, giving him an outsized influence on quality of care in the state.” With Rechnitz’s relative inexperience in managing these facilities, some elder advocates argue that the owner isn’t ensuring the proper quality of care in the many nursing homes he owns.

According to Molly Davies, the administrator of the long-term care ombudsman program in Los Angeles, “what we’re seeing at the Brius locations is quite concerning.” Davies elaborated about how her program has “seen patterns of poor care, patterns of substandard care in some of these facilities.” To be sure, Davies indicated that members of her staff reported witnessing a “flagrant disregard for human life in some Brius-owned facilities.”

In the last five years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has only decertified six nursing home facilities (out of more than 1,200 licensed in the state). Three of those facilities—a whopping 50 percent of the total—belonged to Rechnitz. Decertification is a serious punishment—an “economic kiss of death that is extremely rare.”

Brius is now facing serious sanctions for the violations that have occurred at its facilities throughout California. We’ll need to wait and see whether many of these nursing homes remain in business.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

If you have concerns about nursing home abuse and neglect at a Brius facility, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. An advocate at the Walton Law Firm can help with your case.

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Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

Nursing Homes in Santa Cruz County Agree to Settlement

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Every year on June 15th, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Administration on Aging (AoA) provide awareness resources and prevention information for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). According to a press release from the AoA, WEAAD was established in 2006 by several different global organizations that partnered to help stop elder abuse across the world.4015324803_d0e5839192

Elder Abuse and Neglect Occurs Across the Globe

In conjunction with the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, the NCEA and AoA hope to “provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons.” What kind of tools are necessary to help global citizens understand elder abuse and neglect? While age is a primary risk factor for sustaining injuries resulting from elder abuse, nursing home abuse and neglect isn’t limited to just one socioeconomic or ethnic group.

To be sure, the AoA emphasizes that it’s important to look at “cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.” As the World Health Organization (WHO) points out, “in many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response.” And regions across the globe consider the subject to be taboo, and thus not one that’s open to large-scale awareness and prevention efforts. However, there is hope. WHO emphasizes that in some countries in which public discussions of abuse and neglect previously were avoided, it’s slowly becoming a topic of public health concern.

But don’t go thinking that nursing home abuse or elder neglect only occur in certain parts of the world. Both developing and developed countries have to contend with elder abuse injuries, and elder abuse and neglect are “typically underreported globally.” According to WHO, it’s important for primary health care providers, as well as social services employees, to have proper training for identifying and reporting elder abuse.

Awareness Day Encourages Communities to Help Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

While WEAAD is a great time to get involved in awareness programs in your community, at the same time, the activities in June can serve as a reminder of the kinds of programs we can create year-round. Some ideal activities for San Diego-area residents might include:

  • Helping to develop an educational program about nursing home abuse
  • Creating a press conference to discuss elder abuse problems in Southern California;
  • Volunteering at a local nursing home; and/or
  • Writing an editorial about elder abuse for publication in a local newspaper, such as U-T San Diego.

Remember, contending with the massive elder abuse problems across the country can’t resolve itself with an annual awareness day. However, each step helps, and WEAAD reminds us each year that we need to do more to combat elder abuse in San Diego and to assist elderly Californians who have been injured while residing in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

Do you have questions about how you can get involved with nursing home abuse prevention measures in Southern California? Or do you have concerns about an elderly loved one in a nearby nursing home or assisted-living facility? You should speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

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Debate Over Psych Meds in Nursing Homes

Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

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According to a recent article in the Courthouse News Service, a California senior’s family filed an elder abuse lawsuit against “the nation’s largest nursing home chain” after the patient was accidentally given a fatal dose of morphine. The victim, Jonathan Bell, had been a dialysis patient at American River Center in Sacramento when his nurse mistakenly administered the morphine. Bell’s family has alleged that the nursing home “refused to let an ambulance take the catatonic man to a hospital” after the medical mistake occurred. Bell died the following day.1921401904_b3e2bdfd81

Nursing Home Concerned About Sanctions

Why wouldn’t staff members at American River Center allow an ambulance to take Bell to the hospital for care? His daughters argue that “the nursing home feared sanctions for giving him the wrong treatment and tried to cover up its mistake by letting Bell remain in a catatonic state for more than 24 hours without medical attention.” Indeed, according to the family’s lawyer, “they tried to bury their mistake and buried his life.”

Based on the complaint, Bell realized he had taken a narcotic and told the nursing staff. However, he soon “became non-responsive and catatonic,” and the nursing staff allegedly left him to “sleep off the morphine.” Bell’s roommate also alerted the nursing staff to Bell’s condition. It was only 24 hours after Bell received the lethal dose of morphine—and two hours after the facility refused to have the victim transported in an ambulance—that the nursing home called an ambulance to take him to a hospital. But, according to the complaint, “Bell quickly died in the hospital.”

Suspicion of Nursing Home Negligence

Like numerous medication errors, Bell’s dose of morphine proved to be fatal. And the complaint argues that the nursing home didn’t seek treatment for the patient because it was concerned about a medication error citation.

Bell had been admitted almost two years prior to the incident after he suffered a stroke. During the time of his residence at the facility, the victim’s daughter were concerned that he suffered other injuries as a result of nursing home negligence. For example, Bell’s daughters reported that he lost about 30 pounds during his stay at American River Center, and that “he fell nine times while under the supervision of American River Center’s staff.” Advocates for Bell have indicated that the facility was severely understaffed, as “the nurse assigned to him was working a double shift and ignored him altogether.”

This isn’t the first time that American River Center, owned by Genesis HealthCare, has been listed for having nursing home abuse issues. To be sure, another of Genesis’s facilities in Sacramento is “one of six nursing facilities in California listed on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ list of centers with serious quality issues.” And Bell’s family alleges that American River Center, too, has “a record of substantiated complaints against it.”

The recent incident in Sacramento is only one example of nursing home abuse in California. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

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Nursing Homes in Santa Cruz County Agree to Settlement

Debate Over Psych Meds in Nursing Homes

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When emergency medical responders receive a call to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, they may be in the best position to identify signs and symptoms of elder abuse. According to a recent article from ABC 7 KRCR News, “paramedics and first responders are sometimes the first to notice something is wrong.” As such, they can help to ensure that victims of nursing home abuse can receive they help they need.red-cross-29930_1280

Training Paramedics to Look for Signs of Neglect

A recently reported case of elder abuse in Redding has led to an increased emphasis on paramedics and their unique position to identify signs of elder neglect. To be sure, according to Mark Belden, an operations manager for American Medical Response, when paramedics enter the home of an elderly adult, they’re “trained to look for signs of neglect.” Under California law, paramedics must report suspicions of elder abuse or neglect, but it’s important that these first responders have the necessary training to know what they’re seeing.

For instance, paramedics in California and across the country receive training that requires them to do a “visual inspection of the patients’ surrounding and environment,” and to attempt to determine whether those patients are getting “proper nutrition.” Emergency responders also “look for the presence of old wounds and bruises.”

While paramedics certainly aren’t trained to investigate reports of elder abuse—their aim is to move a patient out of a potentially dangerous situation and to transport them to a facility where they can receive the care they need—emergency responders can make reports about their observations. As Belden explains, “we’re not police, we’re not investigators. We’re going to report what we see, we’re not going to ask questions about what’s going on there.” Yet simply knowing what to look for can help elder abuse investigators down the road and can result in a patient being safely removed from a dangerous environment.

Research on Emergency Medical Responders and Nursing Home Abuse

When paramedics think they see a sign of elder abuse, do they always report what they’ve observed? Or do we need to provide emergency medical responders with better training for spotting symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect? A report from the National Institutes of Health suggested that “paramedics and EMTs lack complete understanding of their role in the identification and reporting of elder abuse.”

Elder justice advocates tend to agree that paramedics could be a first line of defense when it comes to cases of nursing home abuse. What barriers exist to persons in these professions successfully identifying and reporting suspected cases of abuse? According to the report, paramedics need better training in identifying elder abuse, and, perhaps more significantly, they need to know who should learn about their suspicions. The following reasons existed for emergency responders failing to report suspected situations of nursing home neglect:

  •      Lack of certainty about which authority to report to;
  •      Unclear definitions of elder abuse and neglect;
  •      Lack of knowledge about mandatory reporting laws; and
  •      Concerns about anonymity.

Do you have questions about elder abuse and neglect? In some cases, signs of elder abuse may be difficult to identify. It’s very important to discuss your concerns with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. You may be able to file a claim for compensation.

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Debate Over Psych Meds in Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Inspection Reorganization

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Back in September, we discussed a federal lawsuit concerning nursing home abuse in Watsonville. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, the leaders of those two Watsonville nursing homes involved in the suit have agreed to a $3.8 million settlement. The lawsuit alleged that the owners “provided ‘substandard or worthless services,’ overly medicated residents, and submitted false Medicare and Medicaid claims.”2189387168_cc27c053e0

Background of the $3.8 Million Nursing Home Abuse Settlement

Filed eight months ago, the lawsuit alleged gross misconduct related to elder abuse and neglect. Now, almost a year later, the leaders of those Watsonville nursing homes have agreed to settle the case. The facilities include Country Villa Watsonville East (now renamed as Watsonville Nursing Center), and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (now renamed as Watsonville Post-Acute Center). Other named parties included the CF Watsonville East, LLC, CF Watsonville West, LLC, and the entities overseeing the finances and nursing home management of the facilities.

According to the initial complaint, “the leaders received more than $20 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments for services characterized as non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless.”

One of the primary practices at issue was overmedication. To be sure, the complaint contended that residents of the facilities were given narcotics and antipsychotic drugs to treat symptoms of dementia, depression, and pain. Overmedication and off-label drug use is a serious problem in nursing homes, and the facilities in Watsonville are just one example of locations that attempt to supply “chemical restraints for the convenience of management.” In addition to harmful medication practices, the facilities didn’t “keep proper medication records” or “monitor medication side effects.”

Elder Abuse and Neglect that Shocks the Senses

In addition to the $3.8 million, the defendants in the suit agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement. This agreement will require the facilities to “implement and maintain compliance” with specific regulations. According to Ivan Negroni, the special agent in charge of the investigation with the Office of the Inspector General, “it’s outrageous when nursing home owners accept Medicare and Medicaid money to care for vulnerable nursing home residents and in return provide care so lacking in quality and compassion it shocks the senses.”

According to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the settlement also has terms that will help to hold the nursing homes accountable. They’ll be required to have an independent monitor, in addition to other protections designed to keep residents safe, in order to prevent the type of elder abuse for which the lawsuit arose in the first place. Haag emphasized that her agency is “committed to investigating such substandard care” and ensuring that nursing homes and other elder care facilities provide “appropriate, high quality care in the future.”

If you have concerns about a loved one’s safety or care in a California nursing home or assisted-living facility, it’s extremely important to discuss your case with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Signs of elder abuse and neglect can sometimes be subtle, and it’s essential that poorly run facilities providing substandard care be held accountable. If you have questions about filing a claim, contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Nursing Home Inspection Reorganization

Elder Abuse or Medical Malpractice?

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How dangerous are psychiatric medications when they’re prescribed for dementia patients in nursing homes? According to a recent article in Modern Healthcare, the benefits of the long-term use of psych meds when they’re prescribed for the disorders for which they’re designed—would “need to be colossal to counter known harms associated with their use.” And while the off-label use of antipsychotics to treat dementia symptoms appears to have declined, it remains a significant problem in Southern California and throughout the country.


Stopping Use of Psychotropic Drugs

Researchers across the globe are speaking out about the dangers of antipsychotic drugs. To be sure, a debate about their efficacy and long-term effects recently sprung up on the website for the journal of the British Medical Association. According to Dr. Peter Gøtzsche, who serves as the director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, the lack of benefit from these medications, particularly when they’re used in an off-label manner, means that “we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm.” For even when they’re used to provide short-term relief, he emphasized, they pose serious long-term harms.

In the United States, psychotropic medications simply are overprescribed. A study featured in JAMA Psychiatry in 2012 reported that “rates of patients visiting their doctors for a prescription for antipsychotics more than doubled . . . between 1993 and 2009.” And those figures represent one of the growing problems of these drugs—they’re used far too often in nursing homes “to manage challenging behaviors in elderly dementia patients.”

To be clear, antipsychotic drugs weren’t designed to treat or manage symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. When the drugs are prescribed for reasons other than those approved by the FDA, we describe this situation as “off-label” use.

Antipsychotic Drug Use Inside and Outside Nursing Homes

While many elder care advocates as well as federal health officials have attempted to limit the use of psychotropic drugs for dementia patients, it’s important to recognize that this abuse isn’t solely taking place in nursing homes. Indeed, a recent report from the Government Accountability Office showed that “overuse among the elderly is not exclusive to nursing homes.” Rather, “internists, family medicine physicians, psychiatrists, and neurologists wrote more than 80 percent of the prescriptions for antipsychotics for older adults with dementia in 2012.”

In other words, even when older adults are living at home with caregivers, the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs to manage dementia symptoms continue to be a problem. And in 2012, the Medicare prescription drug program ended up paying around $363 million for antipsychotic drugs prescribed for elderly dementia patients.

While some physicians argue that these medications are “working well for people with dementia,” others cite the numerous adverse events that occur each year as a result of taking these drugs, from overdoses to severe brain injuries. Other side-effects for the elderly can include “increased risk of heart failure, sudden death, and pneumonia.”

Do you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s care in a San Diego nursing home or assisted living facility? An experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney can answer your questions today.

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