Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Assisted living homes are common choices for elderly people living with dementia due to the care and supervision they provide. However, assisted living residents with dementia often wander from their facility if they are confused. In these circumstances, identifying and searching for the missing resident can be the difference between life and death. When assisted living facilities fail to notice a resident is missing, their inaction can have tragic consequences.

As a troubling Washington Post article reported, dozens of assisted living residents have died after wandering away without any staff noticing. According to the article, over 2,000 assisted living or dementia care residents have wandered away unnoticed or were left unattended outside since 2018. Nearly 100 have died. After investigating each incident, state inspectors often found evidence of severe neglect in these facilities. Moreover, in one out of ten cases the Post identified, regulators cited facilities for failing to properly report their missing residents. In one extreme example, an Alzheimer’s patient wandered from her facility, and staff did not look for her until eight hours later when they found her collapsed on the frozen ground. She later died at a hospital from prolonged exposure.

How Does the Government Regulate Assisted Living Facilities?

According to the Washington Post article, the federal government does not regulate assisted living facilities as it does with nursing homes. Individual states regulate assisting living facilities instead, and their level of regulation can vary widely depending on the state. In many states, regulatory fines are minimal, and facilities have largely evaded serious consequences. Maryland requires new assisted living employees to complete five hours of training on dementia and at least some training on other topics. The state does not mandate a certain ratio of residents to staff, meaning there is potential for understaffed facilities. Maryland’s Health Care Commission allows the public to look up complaints and inspection reports for each facility, including those with secure Alzheimer’s units.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of California issued a written opinion holding that a doctor, nursing home employee, or other person with a custodial relationship to an elderly person may be held liable based on that person’s failure to refer the resident to a medical specialist when the situation calls for such a referral. In the case, Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, the plaintiff was ultimately unsuccessful in establishing the necessary relationship between the defendant and the elder, but the court did note that liability could be appropriate in some situations.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case were the surviving family members of a woman who had died while in the care of the defendant doctors. The elderly woman was being provided outpatient treatment by several doctors. Neither of the doctors made a referral to a specialist, although some facts were evident that would suggest such a referral was appropriate. Ultimately, the elderly woman passed away from blood poisoning. The plaintiffs then filed a claim of elder abuse against the doctors, claiming that it was negligent of them to not refer her to a specialist.

The defendants asked the trial court to dismiss the case against them, claiming that only care custodians can be held liable for elder abuse. The lower court agreed. However, on appeal to the intermediate appellate court, the decision was reversed in the plaintiffs’ favor. The defendant then appealed that order to the state’s supreme court.

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The family of a woman whose body was found in the stairwell of a San Francisco hospital weeks after she went missing from her hospital bed has filed a legal claim with the city, indicating their intention to file a lawsuit. The claim is a mandatory prerequisite to a lawsuit against city and county agencies. The family’s claim alleges medical malpractice, negligence, dangerous property conditions, and violations of the state elder abuse and adult dependency statute. Hospital workers have accused the hospital of serious understaffing, to the point that it compromises patient safety. The hospital has announced two rounds of changes to its security procedures as a result of the incident, including access controls, patient checks, and a missing patient policy.

The decedent, 57 year-old Lynn Spalding Ford, checked into San Francisco General Hospital on September 19, 2013. On September 21, a hospital worker reported her missing. The worker allegedly described Spalding, who is white, as a black woman, and some hospital paperwork described her as Asian. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD), which handles hospital security, searched the hospital perimeter but did not classify Spalding as missing. Surveillance footage was not available to authorities until October 4. The hospital did not ask SFSD to search the entire 24-acre hospital campus until September 30, after Spalding had been missing for nine days. The search did not include all of the stairwells.

On October 4, a hospital employee reported a person lying on the 3rd- or 4th-floor stairwell of Stairwell 8. A fifth-floor employee reported hearing banging from Stairwell 8 the same day. There is no indication that anyone searched that stairwell in response to these reports. An employee with the hospital’s engineering department finally found Spalding’s body during a routine check of an exterior stairwell on October 8. Spalding had been missing for seventeen days. Both the hospital and SFSD said that the stairwell is alarmed, only exits to the first floor, and is only used as a fire exit. The medical examiner listed her cause of death as dehydration and alcoholism complications, but could not say for certain when she died.

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The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia partly granted and partly denied a motion to dismiss brought by the defendant in a lawsuit alleging failure to supervise a group home resident. Colbert, et al v. District of Columbia, et al, No. 1:13-cv-00531, opinion (D.D.C., Dec. 13, 2013). The plaintiff sued the District of Columbia and a private contractor operating a group home, asserting various tort claims and a constitutional claim after her daughter, a developmentally disabled woman, became pregnant while in the custody of the District. The court declined to dismiss the suit outright, but it dismissed the constitutional claim without prejudice, giving the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint. If the court dismisses that claim with prejudice, it may lose subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining claims based on DC law.

The plaintiff’s daughter, identified in the court’s opinion as KC, was hospitalized at the District’s request in the fall of 2008. A psychological assessment determined that KC needed 24/7 care and supervision, so she went to live at a group home operated by a contractor, Total Care Services, Inc. According to the plaintiff, KC had a history of sexual abuse and neglect, a history of failing to take her medication consistently, and mental impairment.

Total Care and the District were aware of KC’s history and how it affected her condition, the plaintiff claims, but they allegedly allowed her to have unprotected and nonconsensual sex with multiple individuals. The plaintiff does not appear to claim that any employee of either Defendant participated in sexual activity with KC. KC became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named TC, who was born prematurely in April 2011. The plaintiff was awarded sole custody of TC, but she was born with significant health problems and required frequent surgeries and hospitalization. TC died nine days after her first birthday.

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Our Washington DC nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers represent patients who have suffered serious illnesses and injuries at assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, one condition that we see and hear about way too often is bedsores (also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores). Many of the people we’ve represented who had bedsores didn’t have to develop this condition if only they’d receive the proper nursing care.

While a bedsore might sound like a mild sore, it can deteriorate to the point that infection, organ damage or death can result. The fact that bedsores can occur and are preventable is not news to anyone in the nursing home industry, so why, then, are so many patients still developing them? This is unacceptable, and if you or your loved one has pressure sores because he/she did not receive the proper nursing home care, then there is a good chance that you have grounds for a Washington DC nursing home negligence case.

Common causes of bedsores at assisted living facilities:
• Failure to regularly reposition/turn a patient in his/her bed
• Lack of mobility
• Prolonged pressure on one part of the body
• Dehydration
• Malnutrition
• Allowing a patient to sit in soiled bed sheets
• Letting moisture stay close to a resident’s skin for too long
• Failure to change wet diapers
• Inexperienced nursing staff
• Understaffing
• Failure to identify and treat bedsores

Bedsores can become extremely painful and debilitating. There is no reason why a patient should not get the appropriate nursing home care that would prevent pressure sores from developing.

Related Web Resources:
Nursing Home Directory, District of Columbia Department of Health
Bedsores, MayoClinic

Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog

More Blog Posts:

Psychiatric Report Says U.S. Needs to Prepare for Increase of Elderly Dementia, Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, June 8, 2011
Dementia Patient’s Wandering Leads to Death—Nursing Home Fined $20K for Negligence, Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, June 6, 2011
Florida Nursing Homes Investigated for Severe Abuse and Negligence, Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2011

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A class action complaint has been filed in federal court against the District of Columbia. The lawsuit contends that over 500 (possibly even up to 2,900 disabled) residents have been unnecessarily institutionalized against their own wishes because the city has failed to provide adequate community housing care alternatives. The lawsuit, filed by disability rights advocates, contends that the city is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 2007, the District was given a federal grant of over $26 million to move 1,100 disabled people and seniors from DC nursing homes. While 73 people have been transferred out of institutional settings, patients have not yet been transferred out of nursing homes. According to advocates, city agencies and nursing home staffs have failed to notify residents that they have other living options.

Nursing Home Negligence

Today marks the end of National Nursing Home Week. The week honors nursing home workers, professionals, residents, volunteers, and family members for their contributions to their communities.

National Nursing Home Week was established by the American Health Care Association. Last month, Representative Michael Arcuri (D-NY) introduced Resolution 1291, which supports the designated week. This year’s theme has been “Enriching Every Day.” Our Washington DC nursing home neglect and abuse law firm wants to honor those who do everything to make assisted living facility residents’ lives easier and more enjoyable.

Visiting Your Loved One at a Nursing Home

It is important to visit your family member once they’ve moved into the assisted living facility. Not only will you be giving him/her emotional support and maintaining your connection with each other, but also physically going to the assisted living facility will allow you to take part in your relative’s care.

The offers a number of recommendations for activities you can engage in when visiting a nursing home:

• Talk to your loved one
• Watch his/her body language for signs of loneliness, depression, abuse or neglect
• Take any complaints seriously
• Help the patient with leg or arm exercises
• Go for a walk together on the grounds or up and down the hall
• Bring gifts, such as flowers, mementos, family photos, or favorite foods
• Listen to music together
• Help with letter writing
• Share a meal together
• Check in with staff members about your loved one’s care
• Look around to make sure that the nursing home is still the kind of place where you feel comfortable letting your loved one live

Your physical presence also makes staff members aware that you are watching out for your loved one and monitoring their care and well-being. If you suspect Washington DC nursing home abuse your neglect, you may want to consider immediately removing your loved one from the assisted living facility.

AHCA Praises House Support for National Nursing Home Week, AHCA, April 23, 2010
Visiting in the Adult or Nursing Home, The Ribbon
Related Web Resources:

Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog

Nursing Home Directory, District of Columbia Department of Health

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Karen Feld, a socialite and a former DC gossip columnist, is suing Inger Sheinbaum, her former home-care companion and private nurse, for $1.5 million. Feld is alleging Washington DC nursing home neglect and fraud.

According to Feld, Sheinbaum lied about her qualifications as a registered nurse, failed to perform the nursing duties she was hired for, and allowed men who didn’t have permission into the 62-year-old woman’s hospital room. Feld, who had to undergo brain surgery in January 2008, hired the 61-year-old nurse because she needed 24-hour nursing care while she recovered.

Feld claims that Sheinbaum was away during numerous “critical junctures.” After one week of employment, Sheinbaum resigned. The nurse claims that Feld allegedly attacked her during a rant that included profanity. Sheinbaum’s legal representation says that the Washington DC injury lawsuit is unfounded.

USA Today reports that one in five of the 15,700 nursing homes in the US received low ratings for two years in a row under Medicare’s five-star quality rating system. The assisted living facilities that received the lowest ratings averaged 14 deficiencies each.

Medicare primarily determines its ratings based on data from the last two years, including inspection findings and complaint investigations. USA Today reports that there are Washington DC nursing homes among the assisted living facilities that scored poorly over consecutive years.

Our Washington DC nursing home lawyers are aware of the abuse and neglect issues that can arise for patients staying at an assisted living facility in the District of Columbia area. It is important that you remove your loved one from the nursing home where the abuse or neglect is taking place and that you explore your legal options.

Some of the signs that a patient may be experiencing Washington DC nursing home abuse or neglect:

• Bruises, cuts, burns, or fractures that can’t be explained
• Genital infections
• Mood swings
• Depression or withdrawal
• Behavioral changes
• Bedsores
• Broken bones
• Rope marks on wrist
• Unexplained anal or vaginal bleeding
• Sudden weight loss or weight gain
• Unsanitary living environment
• A patient who isn’t bathed and/or is left in soiled clothing
• Dirty linens
• Hazardous living conditions

Remember that nursing home abuse comes in many forms. A patient may be the victim of physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, or emotional abuse. It is also considered elder abuse to exploit a nursing home patient’s financial resources.

Analysis: Poor ratings persist for 1 in 5 U.S. nursing homes, USA Today, January 28, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Elder Abuse and Neglect,
Nursing Home Compare,
Nursing Home Directory, DOH Health Care Facilities Division

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