Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

I’ve written many times in this blog about how far too often I’m called by clients and prospective clients, reporting their suspicions that a loved one or friend in a nursing home is being neglected or abused.  As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect & abuse lawyer, I see these cases too often, and I can assure you that they are among the saddest – and most infuriating – of injury cases that I litigate.

Just yesterday, Massachusetts Attorney General’s office reported that it was imposing fines on seven Massachusetts nursing homes for substandard care, revolving around cases of patient neglect or abuse.  The fines range from a low of $30,000 to a high of $200,000.  As part of this civil settlement (and the civil nature of this action is key to this post,) these nursing homes will be – supposedly – required to “improve staff training”, conduct yearly self-audits of their progress, and report that progress to the attorney general’s office for the next three years.  While some might see this as severe disciplinary action against these nursing homes, as a Boston nursing home abuse attorney, I find these actions lacking in more severe punishment, and lacking in tougher oversight of these businesses.  Example ‘A’:  Exactly what does “improve staff training” mean?  It’s vague and nonspecific, as an attorney I have little idea of what it means, and I’m sure that these nursing homes don’t have any specific ideas, either.  Worse, Example ‘B’:  The “auditing” – i.e., oversight – that these nursing homes are required to follow up on, is self auditing – not auditing and oversight conducted aggressively submitting by an independent authority such as either the Attorney General’s office, or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Expecting a nursing home to self-audit its “improvement” is like asking a physically abusive person to report to authorities that he doesn’t push anyone around anymore, and expecting that person to be honest.  If anyone in the Attorney General’s office thinks for one minute that these businesses will honestly, aggressively and diligently police themselves, I have a bridge I can sell them a bridge in Brooklyn.

What was needed here was criminal prosecution, not merely civil fines and ‘settlement agreements.’  The neglect and abuse that these nursing homes were found to have engaged in, was not merely ‘troubling’, but sickening:  One patient was dropped by aides, and broke her legs.  The staff knew about the injuries, but didn’t report it for over a day.  The patient died after suffering massive internal bleeding.  Two other patients bled to death after suffering cuts that were not attended to.  Another died from a fatal medication error, and others were negligently allowed to wander off the property.  Yes, hitting such substandard and negligent nursing homes with financial fines will hurt them – but only temporarily.   Financial penalties, alone, won’t be enough to stem the tide of Massachusetts nursing home neglect and abuse.  As an attorney who specializes in nursing home neglect & abuse cases, I see the failure of the state to criminally prosecute these businesses, as analogous to the state failing to criminally prosecute the Catholic church for failing to stop sex abuse of children and minors by clergy members – instead expecting church leaders to police themselves. Such myopia, and frankly, stupidity, is stunning.  Had criminal prosecution of church authorities been pursued a long time ago, that crisis never would have escalated to the level that it did.

As I was pondering what to write about this New Year’s Eve 2018, I thought about various topics of Massachusetts injury law that I could talk about to my readers.  Defective and dangerous products? Medical negligence?  Commercial property slip & fall accidents?  Construction site accidents?  Workers compensation?  Wrongful death?  There’s a lot that I could write about.

But two areas stand out as requiring greater attention and vigilance both in the new year, and every year.  And they are these:

  1.  Cell phone use when driving, and 2)  Nursing home neglect & abuse.

In my previous post on this topic, I discussed what pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers (all the same thing) are, and why they develop. These types of rehabilitation facility and nursing home injuries fall into four basic categories:

Stage 1: This type is the least damaging. These sores only affect the upper layer of the skin. It may appear red or feel warm to the touch. If re-positioned, the sore may disappear within 2 or 3 days.

Stage 2: This occurs when the sore digs deeper beneath the surface of the skin. The skin is broken, leaving an open wound that may ooze pus or develop a blister. It’s painful. Again, re-positioning is critical, but the wound first needs to be cleaned with sterilized water or a salt-water solution and dressed with sterile gauze. Improvement should be seen within a week to ten days. Continue reading

One of the more frequent injuries we seen in our nursing home neglect clients, are pressure ulcers. While they are also clinically referred to as decubitus ulcers, plainly put, these are bedsores. They are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, which result from prolonged pressure being placed on an isolated area on the skin. Bedsores and pressure sores/pressure ulcers most often develop on skin and underlying tissue that lies over bony areas of the body, such as the coccyx (tailbone), the buttocks, the hips, the outside surface of the knees, and the ankles.

These injuries to the body can be excruciatingly painful. Worse, because they are open wounds to the skin, they are incredibly convenient portal for infection – most often bacterial, but viral, also. Not only are they painful and dehumanizing, they are literally open doorways to sepsis and septic blood infections. Most of the reasons for this high danger, is due to the fact that most nursing homes and rehabilitation and hospitals are filled with bacteria and viruses. Why? These facilities are filled with sick people – and the sanitation conditions in these places are far, far from anything approaching “ideal”. Continue reading

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