Massachusetts Nursing Home Patient Negligence: When Will This Industry Learn How to Improve? Part One of Two

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.

Aside from many other indignities she suffered, Mrs. Calandro was left alone in her wheelchair often, until one day she fell out of it. Rushed to a hospital after the fall, Emergency Ward doctors were shocked at what they found:

• A severe, festering pressure sore on her back • Acute appendicitis • A urinary tract infection so poisonous that it had invaded her blood stream, creating a raging fever • Kidney failure • Uncontrolled diabetes • Severe dehydration.

Can you imagine suffering from just one of these untreated conditions? Think about that for a while. Notwithstanding treatment by hospital doctors, the sum of all these physical ravages to her body prevailed, and this 90-year-old woman died several weeks later, in August of 2008. Garry Calandro, Mrs. Calandro’s youngest son, told reporters Wednesday that no amount of money could compensate the family for the pain and suffering that his mother was subjected to by this nursing home, but he held out hope that the unusually high verdict against the nursing home would cause the nursing home industry to re-think about patient care, treatment and safety. “That is the only way to send a message, or to punish people, and somebody in that business certainly needs to look at it with a more serious manner than just as a big money-making business,” he said.

What an awful way to die. What an awful way to live one’s last days. I pray that never happens to me or someone I love. As a Boston nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer, I have made it one of my primary practice areas to represent abused and neglected nursing home patients. I fight incredibly hard for these clients, as does the admirable law firm that represented Genevieve Calandro. Nursing home residents are among the most, if not the most, vulnerable members of our society. They are our mothers, father, aunts, and uncles. They were our teachers; our elders; those who helped, in one way or another, to make this world a better place – and we owe it to them to make sure that the companies that operate nursing homes and promise to care for these patients, DO just that: Care for them – not just warehouse them. They need to hire competent, well-trained and capable caregivers – not just low-wage “health aides,” without about all the qualifications and talents of a Walmart worker.

As long as I’m practicing law as a Massachusetts Nursing home abuse attorney, I’m going to make sure that this industry gets the message: Treat these patients the RIGHT WAY, or face the consequences legally – and financially.