Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

Readers of this blog know that I carry a special torch for nursing home residents in general, and for victims of Massachusetts nursing home neglect or abuse in particular.  Of the several types of legal wrongs that can bring me to my feet, elder abuse and nursing home patient neglect are among the strongest.

On August 1 2016, I posted that the federal Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) was conducting hearings on changing an especially onerous and unconscionable provision (clause) that is presently in almost all nursing home contracts and long term care facility contracts.  That provision is known as a ‘pre-dispute arbitration clause,’ and what is essentially did was to force families and patients who entered nursing homes and long-term care facilities, to agree in writing to this clause, or the patient would not be admitted to the facility.  It’s also referred to as “nursing home forced arbitration.” What did this clause – often referred to as a “hammer clause” – mean?  It required – on day one, long before any dispute about care of the patient even arose – that the matter be submitted to forced arbitration – instead of the matter being decided in court. Continue reading

As I think many of you know, a good deal of my injury law practice involves representing victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. In this post, I’m asking you to prioritize just a few seconds in making a very time-senstive, important statement now to the federal government, on the subject of nursing homes across the United States. Believe me, the issue at stake here is anything but “unimportant” or “boring” -especially if a loved one or you needs to go into a nursing home. So I’ll try to make this quick, easy to understand, and importantly – easy to have your voice heard on.

The problem: Whenever anyone enters a nursing home for the first time, almost all nursing homes require the patient or family member to sign what is called a “Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clause.”

What these clauses say and do: They force the patient or family member to agree in advance that any problem or dispute concerning the care of the patient, will be decided by private arbitration, and not by the court system. Most of these types of claims involve patient neglect or abuse that often involves horrific harm, broken limbs, medication errors, dehydration, body ulcers, and untreated pain.

Politics is often a sickening business.  A place where honesty, ethics, the public interest and conscience take a back seat to money, expediency, self-interest and cowardice.  Money talks in politics – it is the fuel that drives it.  And individual career interests are almost always the hands on the steering wheel, directing where something a given bill ends up.  The realistic know this in the present; the idealistic will in the future.

But when the effort that is scuttled is a bill that would have increased the financial penalties that the state could slap scofflaw Massachusetts nursing home operators with – thus abandoning the weakest and most vulnerable members of the public – that is beyond sickening.  You see, the Massachusetts Legislature seemed all set – in both the House and Senate – to include an amendment to the annual state budget, that would have empowered the state to do just that.  The amendment was drafted and admirably lobbied for by state Sen. Mark Montigny of New Bedford.  As a Massachusetts nursing home abuse attorney, I can assure you that he is to be hailed for that effort.

When Sen. Montigny attached the amendment a few months ago, appropriately named “Preventing Patient Abuse in Nursing Homes,” no one on Beacon Hill openly opposed it.   Strategically, this is how it works – because any elected (or even appointed) official opposing such a laudable measure probably wouldn’t last too long in public life.   But there were those in the legislature who opposed it – lurkign behind the scenes.  They just kept their mouths shut until the “right time,” when they would act on behalf of their moneyed masters, otherwise known as nursing home lobbyists.

For anyone who reads this blog, it’s no secret that I’m passionate about protecting the rights of elders and sick, disabled people in Massachusetts nursing homes and extended care facilities.  Today’s post is Part Three of three recent posts I’ve dedicated to this subject, and it will outline the typical warning signs of nursing home patient neglect or abuse to look for. Continue reading

In my immediately previous post, I wrote of the steps that family members must take on their own, to assure that their loved one in a Massachusetts nursing home or extended care nursing facility is well cared for.  If you haven’t read that post yet, I’d suggest that you take a look at it.  Family members cannot rely on state regulators to asusre their loved one’s proper care – and it is far more important to prevent nursing home neglect or abuse, than to deal with it after it has been discovered.

In today’s follow-up post (sorry, I meant to post this last week, but have been preoccupied with a very busy trial) I’m going to address the common warning signs of nursing home patient neglect or abuse. Continue reading

In a previous post, I wrote of state & federal government agencies that family members can report suspected cases of Massachusetts nursing home neglect or abuse to.  While you can & should copy the contact information for several agencies that are outlined in that previous post, I don’t want readers to get a false sense of security about the existence of these agencies.  The sad and disturbing reality is that the families and loved ones of nursing home residents must be their own ‘first-line watchdogs,’ and serve as the primary point of monitoring the care of their loved one who is living in a nursing home.  Government agencies, whether state or federal, are simply too-thinly staffed, too over-worked, and in some instances, simply too inattentive, or incompetent, to protect Massachusetts nursing home residents from abuse & neglect.  It’s just one of the sad-but-true realities of the nursing home industry.

In today’s post, I want to offer some suggestions as to what family members can do to minimize the chances that their loved one will become the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Continue reading

Readers of this blog know how many times I’ve written previously in this blog about the atrocious conditions that many Massachusetts nursing home residents live in every day.  It’s sickening, it’s cruel, it’s a stain on our society, and it’s a moral outrage.  Yet it goes on, and on, seemingly unstopped.

Why?  The answer lies in a collision of factors, but at the heart of the problem lies nearly one constant:  Corporate greed and the never ending quest for profits at the expense of human dignity, exhibited in this industry by hiring incompetent and/or inadequate staff; cutting costs to bone, and reducing quality of care for the most vulnerable of patient populations.  Yes, other factors do come into play also, not the least of which is the often abysmal ‘oversight’ by state and federal regulators charged with making sure that nursing homes and nursing facilities adhere to state and federal laws mandating quality patient care standards.  Another major factor:  The nursing home industry’s very conscious awareness that the regulators and inspectors charged with policing them, such as those employed at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health – Health Care/Nursing Homes Licensure Division – are woefully understaffed and lax in their “enforcement” of  regulations that apply to them.  Many, many Massachusetts nursing homes know full well that the Massachusetts DPH is a “paper tiger” – that the odds that any state or federal authority figures will “find them out,” or discover their lax care of patients – are extremely low.  Understaffing at the DPH, state budget cuts, over-worked inspectors and staffers – all these factors coalesce to create the perfect environment, or “perfect storm,” for many Massachusetts nursing homes to flout laws, rules, regulations, and basic morality in how they run their facilities. Continue reading

Anyone who reads my blog here knows how strongly I feel about the special care and dignity that is owed to Massachusetts nursing home residents.  Readers also know of my distrust of the nursing home industry in general, though I do allow for exceptions, as there are some good nursing home providers out there.

The problem is that the good ones – those that care for their patients diligently  and compassionately – ethically and morally – are far too few.  More and more these days, impersonal, out-of-state corporations are coming into Massachusetts to buy up nursing homes operated by smaller businesses.  What takes their place can be horrific:  Uncaring, unethical, downright shady operators whose primary goal is singular:  Cut costs  – and patient care – to the bone, in the name of maximizing corporate profits.  “Exhibit A” on that point, has recently been Synergy Healthcare Services, which I’ve written about previously on this blog.   This New Jersey-based business has purchased or acquired 11 Massachusetts nursing homes in just a year or so – and in the process has racked up stunning level of grievous complaints about patient care. Continue reading

Readers of this blog know that I’ve reported previously on the subject of how many Massachusetts nursing homes have been found to advertise that they “specialize” in dementia care and Alzheimer’s Disease – when in fact, they have received no such credentialing from the state, at all. We all have the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to thank for exposing this serious problem.

This trend, of course, is little more if anything, other than a craven attempt by many nursing facilities to capitalize on the growing population of elders afflicted with these tragic disorders – and in the process, capture more market share. Now, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has publicly released the names of the Massachusetts nursing home facilities that have been cited for either outright false and misleading advertising about dementia care, or failing to submit required paperwork to prove that they are in compliance with particular state requirements for Alzheimer’s and other dementia-afflicted patients.

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In my previous posts on this important subject, I wrote of the growing number of Massachusetts nursing homes that are making advertising and marketing claims that they “specialize” in caring for Alzheimer’s Disease patients and other patients suffering from dementia. They like to use terms such as “Memory Care Center,” “Alzheimer’s Specialty Units,” and similar.

I’ve previously warned my readers not to buy this marketing so quickly. Over 60% of it is pure lies: Gross exaggerations that seek to capitalize on the growing population of people suffering from dementia. This week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) announced the enactment of regulations that (in theory) prohibit Massachusetts nursing care centers and nursing homes from making these claims, unless they have first complied with certain qualifications.

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