Back in March, we wrote about a sad instance of nursing home abuse in which an undercover 'granny cam' showed a staff member at a New Jersey nursing home striking an elderly resident, removing her oxygen max unnecessarily, and otherwise harming the 87-year-old woman. Now, the resident's family has sued the employee, the facility, and various other defendants, claiming that the nursing home abuse caused the resident's untimely death.
With the struggling economy, it seems that everyone is feeling the pinch. Nursing homes are not immune to dealing with a tightened budget, with cuts in state and federal aid and slashes in funding all too common these days. However, a new report indicates that New Jersey nursing homes are using improper and unsafe methods to deal with their reduced budgets.
Many different emotions usually play into a decision to place a loved one into a nursing home or assisted care facility. Feelings of guilt, abandonment, sadness and sorrow are usually involved, as well as anger and frustration. However, what most people don't anticipate is the fear and worry that accompanies a suspicion of nursing home abuse or neglect.
For most families, deciding to place a parent or other family member in a nursing home marks the start of a difficult transition. There is often an extended period of stress, guilt and concern as everyone in the family adjusts to the new living situation. These negative feelings can be eased by a sense of trust and security in the nursing home and its staff. But if a family member has suspicions of neglect, abuse or mistreatment from nursing home staff, it is impossible to feel secure in the choice to place a loved one in that facility.
In a new study performed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it was learned that approximately five percent of nursing home employees have at least one criminal conviction. DHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson says that the lack of continuity in state requirements for nursing home background checks has led to this alarmingly high number.
In a nursing home, it is easy for staff to overlook the younger, healthier patients for those with more severe health problems that require more time and effort. However, it is important to for aides and medical professionals to keep track of all of the residents' needs, no matter how minor they may seem.
One of the most telling signs of nursing home neglect is the existence of bedsores. Also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, bedsores are common among elderly or disabled patients who are bedridden or who are in wheelchairs, unable to move and change positions without assistance. According to nursing home industry standards, such patients need to be moved at least every two hours to prevent bedsores from forming. However, a busy staff means that doesn't always happen, which can lead to injury or even death.
Golden Globe Award winner Gene Barry had a long and successful career. He began acting on Broadway in the 1940s and soon made the move to film, starring in The War of the Worlds in 1953. He then worked in television, holding the title role in Burke's Law in 1963-65 and again in a 1993 reprise. When Barry began to suffer from dementia-related diseases in the late 2000s, his children decided to place him in a nursing home, believing it would be a safe and healthy place for him. However, six months after he entered the home, Barry suffered serious injury and passed away four days later. His children have filed a lawsuit against the nursing home, claiming the staff neglected Barry and ultimately caused his death.
As any family with a loved one in a nursing home is well aware, it can be difficult to monitor the care situation from a distance or when visiting in short increments. Therefore, nursing home neglect is not easy to identify or stop. This inevitably leads to many lawsuits by residents and family members against nursing homes. After a recent New Jersey appellate court decision, however, plaintiffs may be limited in their available courses of action against negligent nursing homes.
Although this shocking story did not take place in New Jersey, it is a worst-case scenario of the kind of nursing home negligence that can occur if residents and their families do not remain vigilant about the home's facilities and level of care.