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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

Medicare, the federal insurance program that provides payments to many skilled nursing homes, is now penalizing skilled care facilities when too many patients end up admitted to hospitals over and over again due to avoidable issues. Many people — of all ages — end up in skilled nursing care for a time after surgeries, accidents and illnesses.

However, Medicare typically only fully covers 20 days of a patient’s stay, after which other insurance programs like Medicaid gradually take over. Since the profit a facility makes on a patient decreases the longer the patient is there, facilities can be in a hurry to discharge patients in order to maximize the profit made on each bed.

Patients sent home before they are ready often end up right back in the hospital again. In 2016, 11 percent of skilled nursing patients ended up back in a hospital due to avoidable problems within 30 days of their discharge from a facility. That’s a huge signal that something is wrong with the way skilled nursing homes operate.

Most people don’t associate soldiers with nursing homes — but that’s exactly where many older veterans and wounded warriors end up when there’s no one available to care for them.

Unfortunately, investigations into the method that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses to judge the quality of its nursing homes revealed some pretty dismal information. Almost half of the nursing homes maintained by the VA throughout the nation received only one out of five stars possible in the ranking method — meaning that they were performing at the lowest possible standard. These ratings have always been kept private from public view.

Other information has come to light about the problems within the VA nursing home system that are especially distressing. Staff members report that they’re subject to retaliation by management if they report any failures or grievances. There are reports of staff members being verbally abused, bullied even on their own time and forced into isolation at work — simply for complaining.

According to a report issued by Human Rights Watch, nursing home residents in Kentucky and the rest of the country who have dementia are given antipsychotic drugs on a regular basis so that they are more easily managed. This is in direct contradiction to nursing home regulations that prohibits the use of drugs as chemical restraints. It is also despite the fact that antipsychotic drug use is linked to a higher risk of death in dementia sufferers.

Information for the report was obtained from visits researchers made to over 100 nursing homes. The report estimates that over 179,000 older individuals in nursing homes in the United States are administered antipsychotic drugs every week without being properly diagnosed. In many instances, the drugs are administered without the informed consent of the nursing home residents or their families.

Vulnerable residents are provided little protection from the government, as they are sedated so that the overworked personnel at nursing homes are able to better cope. The use of antipsychotic drugs is often justified with the assertion that the residents are exhibiting disruptive behavior that has to be managed, when in fact they are exhibiting expressions of distress or pain.

Sadly, some nursing home owners are extracting millions of dollars in profits while dramatically cutting spending on the residents in their homes. Laws like the Kentucky Resident’s Rights Act are intended to prevent abuse and neglect of residents, but those laws only have teeth as long as there are lawyers who are willing to demand accountability from these owners in court.

What can you do if you or a loved one is in a long-term care facility? First, know your rights. Second, be vigilant. If something seems out of the ordinary, it probably is. Talk to nursing home management, but if the residents’ needs are not being met, you should talk to a competent attorney with experience holding nursing homes accountable.

What are your rights? The Kentucky Residents Rights Act is found at KRS 216.515 and includes the following residents’ rights:

Many people living in Kentucky eventually need to move into a nursing home or will need to place family members in one. While everyone hopes that they or their loved ones will receive compassionate, competent care, abuses do occur. In such cases, it is important that victims and their families have recourse against the facility.

Unfortunately, some nursing homes have made it difficult for abused residents and their family members to take action due to contracts that require aggrieved parties to seek arbitration before going to court. In some cases, the arbitration process is cumbersome, lengthy and biased, making it difficult for victims to receive compensation.

For this reason, some advocates support laws and regulations that would restrict the use of arbitration clauses in order to make it easier for nursing home abuse victims to file lawsuits against the facility and its management.

Kentucky families who rely on a nursing home facility to provide the daily care of a loved one may be interested to learn that about 25 percent of possible cases of abuse went unreported to police during 2015 and 2016. This is despite the fact that there is a federal law that requires all nursing homes to contact authorities immediately if physical or sexual abuse against a patient is thought to have occurred.

Health and Human Services inspectors analyzed a large number of nursing home abuse cases from 33 states. It was found that 134 cases had records from the emergency room that indicated that physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect had occurred. In 38 of those cases, the investigators found no evidence that the nursing home reported the incident to local law enforcement authorities.

By law, nursing home personnel are required to immediately report incidents of potential neglect or abuse. If bodily harm occurred, nursing home staff have a window of two hours. Otherwise, they have 24 hours to make a report. If they fail to report the incident, the facility risks fines of up to $300,000. Medicare is also responsible for ensuring that nursing homes report these incidents. However, it has been argued that Medicare does not have adequate procedures to follow up with potential abuse or neglect cases.

Those considering Kentucky nursing homes for the care of their loved ones may want to know about proposed rule change that could shield facilities from lawsuits. A prior rule allowed facilities that receive federal funding to use mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts; however, they could not demand consent to arbitration as a condition of admittance. The new rule proposed in July would allow the inclusion of pre-dispute arbitration clauses as a condition of serving patients and their families.

Taking away the right of consumers to petition the courts could prove to be problematic. Pre-dispute arbitration clauses are commonly used in financial contracts, but the damages caused by nursing home abuse extend far beyond monetary value. Victims may suffer from neglect, which could include malnutrition, failure to monitor patient well-being, pressure sores and serious injuries leading to amputation or death. Since arbitration imposes confidentiality and other limitations, a victim and family may receive monetary compensation without exposing the nursing home to the community.

The potential for public court hearings, loss of reputation and jury decisions serve as a primary reason for nursing homes to maintain high standards of care, adequate staff levels and strict hiring policies. Some fear that mandatory arbitration will remove this incentive. Victims could also end up losing monetary compensation in arbitration with nursing homes typically selecting the arbitrator.

Placing elderly relatives who are no longer able to care for themselves in a long-term medical facility can be a difficult and emotional process for Kentucky families. Media reports about nursing home abuse and neglect are not uncommon, and one such story involves a Minnesota woman who placed a hidden camera in her 94-year-old father’s room after her efforts to get to the bottom of his deteriorating health proved fruitless.

According to news sources, the woman decided to take action after staff at the Forest Lake facility failed to adequately answer her questions about her father’s situation. The World War II veteran had been a resident at the senior living center for almost a decade when his health began to worsen rapidly. The man is legally blind and suffers from dementia, and the hidden camera placed in his room captured harrowing footage of his mistreatment and neglect.

The man requires assistance to eat, but the video footage showed members of the facility’s staff placing his food on a table and walking away. At least one member of staff was seen eating his meals. The camera also revealed that the man was often ignored for hours on end, and it captured images of him desperately trying to consume lotion from a bottle because members of staff had not provided him with anything to drink.

Elder Kentucky residents are often at risk for suffering abuse. However, it can be difficult to detect abuse in the elderly, especially if the person cannot communicate about the mistreatment they are suffering either at home or in a nursing home. Radiologists are often highly trained to detect cases of abuse in children. With the proper training, they could also be able to assist with elder abuse cases.

Although radiologists often have the tools to help in elder abuse cases, a recent study found that very few experts are actually trained to do so. For the research, 19 diagnostic radiologists were interviewed. Only two experts had received any training, formal or informal. However, all of the participants believed that they had missed cases of elder abuse. Even so, the participants were eager to receive additional training.

Elder abuse can be particularly difficult to spot, even with proper training. In particular, signs of elder abuse can be misdiagnosed as age-related changes to bone and tissue, use of certain medication and accidental falls. Furthermore, some patients are still extremely active at an older age while other are bed bound. This can have an effect on radiographic imaging.

Kentucky residents who have placed a loved one in a nursing home might be interested in a new ruling that will allow families more freedom to hold long-term care facilities accountable for the well-being of their residents. Under the new ruling, families will be allowed to sue nursing homes for neglect.

Nursing home contracts usually include clauses that forbid residents’ family members from filing lawsuits against the nursing home. Instead, when complaints were filed with a nursing home, families were usually forced into arbitration. According to the CEO of the Medicaid Advisory Group, the justice system in such cases was often not on the patient’s side. In addition, she says, the public was never made aware of what went on in these closed-door arbitrations, even when the ruling was against the nursing home.

Under the new ruling, families will be able to file wrongful care lawsuits against nursing homes. The Medicaid Advisory Group CEO suggests that family members of nursing home residents watch for signs of abuse or neglect. She says that often, patients with dementia are not taken seriously when they claim they have been mistreated. Sudden changes in behavior could be a signal that there is a problem, and claims of abuse or mistreatment should be investigated regardless of the resident’s mental health.

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