Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

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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In my previous post on this important subject, I discussed how many Massachusetts nursing home centers, have in the recent past begun to advertise themselves as “Alzheimer’s Care Centers,” or claim that they “specialize” in caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Many will adopt names such as “Memory Care Centers,” and similar. You’re seeing this sudden increase in such advertisements, because of businesses seeking to maximize profits from the exponential increase among the population in the number of people being afflicted with Alzheimer’s and similar memory-related disorders or dementia.

Much of this Massachusetts nursing home advertising is false, driven by nothing more than the never-ceasing corporate desire to take advantage of new profits – at almost any cost (the truth being the least important.) As revealed in my previous post on this problem, the Alzheimer’s Association of Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire recently released a study showing that almost 60 percent of nursing homes make such false claims, and are engaging in false advertising. Worse still, these businesses – many owned by large chains – are flagrantly violating state laws designed prohibiting nursing homes from making false claims about their nursing and patient care services.

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Make a buck – at any cost. That’s what drives so many businesses, whether it’s product manufacturing or service providers. False or misleading advertising? Means nothing to most businesses.

But it should, especially when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society: The elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Yet, still, it doesn’t. Exhibit “A“: The rapid rise in the number of Massachusetts residents and other Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. As the population ages and lives longer, the increase in elderly people who become afflicted with this horrid disease (and even relatively younger people in their fifties,) is exploding exponentially. And with this explosion of Alzheimer’s victims, comes an economic opportunism that in some cases is even criminal: Nursing homes who advertise that they “specialize” in the care of Alzheimer’s patients – when they don’t have any such “specialty.” Many of these Massachusetts nursing homes even call themselves Alzheimer’s “Care Centers.”

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In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of the disturbing trend of out-of-state corporations buying up smaller and struggling Massachusetts nursing homes – with extremely disturbing – not to mention unconscionable – results. One particularly egregious example of this new practice is found with a New Jersey and Florida company called Synergy Health Centers. They’ve bought up at least ten Massachusetts nursing facilities – almost all experiencing drastic decreases in patient care from the moment Synergy Health took over.

Some examples that state regulators have discovered:

• Elderly left to soak in their own urine and feces (New England Health Center, Sunderland Massachusetts.)

As a Boston injury lawyer, there’s one thing I cannot stomach or tolerate, and that’s the abuse or neglect of a patient in a nursing home, or “skilled nursing facility.” Most people I know dread the thought of visiting the majority of these places – and with good reason: Unless the facility is one of the most expensive, highly-rated nursing homes in Massachusetts, what happens inside these places would likely shock you.

Such as what? Try to think of the following (warning: You’ll need a strong stomach for what follows)::

• Urine-soaked diapers being left on a patient for hours on end. Even worse – feces-soaked diapers.

In Massachusetts right now, there’s a bit of a war going on between the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As is so often the case, while the consumer is the party who is supposedly is designed to benefit from these regulatory skirmishes, that isn’t always what results.

Have you ever noticed these ‘Assisted Living Facilities’ when driving around Massachusetts (or elsewhere,) and wondered, “What are these places?” Well, in theory, they were developed about 15-20 or so years ago as a kind of an alternative to a nursing home, for primarily elderly residents who need some kind of care outside their families’ homes, but weren’t so seriously disabled that they needed a nursing home or skilled nursing facility with round-the-clock care. These facilities – or real estate developments as many would call them – supposedly offered primarily elderly residents (or otherwise infirmed persons) an alternative environment to a nursing home. In theory, many such residents would need limited assistance – perhaps to bathe or similar functions – and many would hire their own part-time nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN,) or nurses’ aide to come in for a few hours every day to help with these daily living functions. In practice, many assisted living facilities operate more like apartment complexes that have almost exclusively elderly residents, than anything else. Advocates for the elderly have criticized this practice, saying it’s an essentially low-ball way to make money off elderly patients – without being regulated as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities.

This ‘sub-nursing home’ option became quite popular with the public, for a variety of reasons: 1) The primary one is that the cost for an assisted living facility is usually far less than that for a nursing home of skilled nursing facility. 2) Next, in theory at least, these facilities offered the resident a greater degree of independence and autonomy; but 3) – and as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, in my opinion this next one is very important – they offer the adult children of the elderly parents that they place in these facilities, a ‘way out’ of the guilt that usually results when placing an aging parent in a traditional nursing home. So, for a variety of reasons, assisted living facilities have grown rapidly, to the point now where approximately 14,000 in Massachusetts live in these facilities across the state. These facilities are regulated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs – but trust me, as a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home lawyer – the oversight to date hasn’t exactly been strict or aggressive. However, it looks like that’s about to change, and that’s what the current battle between the state, the nursing home industry and the assisted living facilities is all about.

A couple of events occurred recently that bring about this post and another post to follow on the subject of Massachusetts nursing home abuse. The first occurred just a couple of days ago, when a Middlesex County jury returned a verdict against a nursing home in a shocking case of patient neglect and abuse. While the amount of damages awarded in the verdict was shocking, what was even more shocking were the underlying facts that prompted the verdict against the nursing home, and the damages that were awarded to the plaintiff’s family: $14 million. This is the largest nursing home-related verdict in Massachusetts in at least ten years, according to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which reports on such verdicts.

Powerfully illustrating the shocking level of patient neglect and abuse in this case, $12.5 million was for punitive damages – damages that a jury or judge awards to punish the defendant for the particular wrongdoing alleged. Of the $14 million awarded to the plaintiff’s family, $1.5 million was earmarked for compensatory damages – to compensate the victim for pain and suffering.

Who was the victim in this story? An old woman by the name of Genevieve Calandro. Of course, she was once a young woman, vibrant and in full. Perhaps beautiful; perhaps passionate; perhaps funny; perhaps witty. But not when she was a patient in the now-defunct nursing home: Radius Health Care Center, once located in Danvers. There, she was a frail, weak, vulnerable old woman. She needed the dedicated and gentle care of the “nursing home professionals” that had been paid to care for her. And what happened instead was, literally, a nightmare.