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Assisted Living Facilities Must Not Expose Residents to Unnecessary Risks of Harm

Posted in Elder Issues, Levels of Care, Nursing Home Information

In New Jersey, Assisted Living encompasses providing various coordinated supportive personal and health services, available 24 hours per day, to residents who need those services. Its purpose is to promote resident self-direction and participation in decisions, with an emphasis on independence, individuality, privacy, dignity, and homelike surroundings.

And thus, corporations that operate Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) must provide, at a minimum, services for:

  • Nursing
  • Recreation
  • Medical Transportation
  • Personal Care
  • Social Work
  • Activities
  • Housekeeping
  • Dining
  • Pharmacy

Indeed, ALFs and our nursing-home lawyers know that potential residents have the right to live in an ALF that does not admit more residents than it can safely accommodate while providing those services and other care. And for persons who currently live in an ALF, the corporations operating the ALFs know that those residents have the right to receive care and services at a level that addresses the residents’ changing physical and psychosocial status.

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New Jersey Nursing Homes Must Protect Resident Rights

Posted in Elder Issues, Protecting Your Rights

Our nursing-home lawyers frequently explain that in 1976, the New Jersey Legislature expressed a broad policy and goal for protecting nursing-home resident rights. And in doing so, it empowered the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health with setting the path and rules that nursing home corporations must follow to ensure that they do not violate their residents’ rights.

Nursing Home Mandatory Resident Rights

In fact, New Jersey nursing-home law holds nursing home corporations responsible for developing and implementing policies to protect, preserve, and guarantee nursing-home resident rights. Our nursing-home lawyers understand that those rights, as provided by New Jersey nursing-home law, include the following Mandatory Resident Rights:

  • To live in a nursing home that does not admit more residents than it can safely accommodate while providing adequate nursing care, N.J.A.C. 8:39-4.1(a)(11);
  • To live in a nursing home that does not subject the resident to neglect, N.J.A.C. 8:39-4.1(a)(5);
  • To live in a nursing home that does not subject the resident to physical and mental abuse; N.J.A.C. 8:39-4.1(a)(5); and
  • To live in a nursing home where the nursing staff protects the resident’s dignity and individuality by treating the resident with courtesy, consideration, and respect, N.J.A.C. 8:39-4.1(a)(12).

Furthermore, New Jersey’s nursing-home law requires nursing homes to inform and explain the mandatory resident rights, and many other rights, to a nursing-home resident, the resident’s next of kin, and the resident’s guardian, N.J.A.C. 8:39-4.1(b).

Nursing Home Rights Include Following the Standard of Care

Empowered by the New Jersey Legislature, the Commissioner has created the Mandatory Resident Rights, above, as well as rules and standards intended to assure that nursing-home corporations deliver high quality care to the residents who live in their long-term care facilities. The rights, rules, and standards address access to care, continuity of care, comprehensiveness of care, coordination of services, humaneness of treatment, conservatism in intervention, safety of the environment, and professionalism of caregivers.

Voicing Complaints About Nursing Homes

Importantly, nursing-home residents also have the right to voice their complaints without being threatened or punished. A nursing-home corporation must provide residents and their families with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers for the government agencies that will accept and document any nursing-home complaints of abuse and neglect. Here are two nursing-home government agencies that families may contact

  • New Jersey Department of Health, Health Facilities Evaluation & Licensing, P.O. Box 358, Trenton, NJ 08625-0358; and
  • Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, P.O. Box 852, Trenton, NJ 08625-0852.

Residents and families may file a complaint by calling the hotline at 1 (800) 792-9770, Select #1; but anyone may use the hotline, even nursing-home corporation employees and other members of the public. Or they may file a complaint online here: online complaint. Finally, anyone can submit a complaint by downloading and completing form AAS-60, located here: [.pdf] or [.doc]; and then faxing the form to (609) 943-4977 or (609) 633-9060.

The State of New Jersey created the Mandatory Resident Rights, rules, and standards in order to protect nursing-home home residents from neglect and abuse. When nursing-home corporations refuse to follow the rules and the standards of care, which protect and preserve those rights, our nursing-home lawyers litigate cases against them on behalf of caring families whose loved ones have suffered catastrophic harm and loss.

Yes, Nursing Homes Can Prevent Pressure Ulcers (or so-called Bedsores)

Posted in Elder Issues, Practice Tips

Pressure ulcers, which people sometimes call bedsores, develop when a person spends too much time in the same position while lying in bed or sitting in a chair. During that prolonged time, the person’s body weight and bones create pressure by pressing the skin and soft tissue against the—harder—bed or chair surface. The pressure reduces blood supply to that area, and damages or destroys the skin tissue.

Without immediate intervention, pressure ulcers will develop, and then progress through the soft tissue located between the bone and the skin. In the most advanced stage, a pressure ulcer, which is an open wound, exposes muscle and bone, which can lead to osteomyelitis (a bone infection).

Nursing homes can prevent pressure ulcers and bedsores from developing.

In our Nursing Home Litigation Practice, our nursing home lawyers have long since understood that nursing home staff can detect the early changes occurring in a patient’s health status that indicate that the patient’s skin is about break down and develop a pressure ulcer—if they fail to immediately implement well-recognized and accepted interventions for avoiding pressure ulcers.

Tn order prevent a pressure ulcer from developing, the nursing home staff must routinely perform the process of inspecting the patient’s body from head to toe—every day. Nursing homes typically call that process the Daily Skin Assessment or, when pressure ulcers already exist, the Wound Care Assessment. This is the standard of care that nurses in the community, and nursing experts across the nation, recognize and accept when our nursing home lawyers litigate nursing home negligence cases involving pressure ulcers or bedsores. By merely inspecting the patient’s body, nursing home staff will detect the occurrence of the following early signs that indicate that a pressure ulcer will develop: skin redness (nonblancable), warm areas, spongy or hard skin, and breakdown in the skin’s top layers.

If the nursing home management adheres to the recognized and accepted standard of care for detecting those early signs, it can easily ensure that its nursing staff immediately implement the necessary interventions to prevent a pressure ulcer or bedsore from developing; and more importantly, spare the patient the unnecessary and avoidable pain, complications, and prolonged healing process that accompany a pressure ulcer or bedsore.

When the nursing home management fails to follow the recognized and accepted standard of care for detecting the early signs of a developing pressure ulcer or bedsore, it has committed nursing or nursing home negligence by failing to ensure that its staff is able to provide the necessary interventions.

That nursing home negligence will often cause the avoidable and unnecessary occurrence of a pressure ulcer or bedsore. And when left undetected and untreated, the pressure ulcer or bedsore progresses into a serious health problem for the patient. That is so, because when a patient has a break in the skin, the patient will have all of the issues associated with healing broken skin, plus the problems of caring for an open wound, including preventing life-threatening infections.

Our nursing home lawyers litigate nursing home negligence cases for caring families whose loved ones have developed pressure ulcers or bedsores, only against nursing homes that refuse to employ enough trained nursing staff on the recognized and accepted standard of care for preventing pressure ulcers or bedsores.

Healthcare Whistleblowers, the Role of the Nursing Home MDS Coordinator, and the Role of the Lawyers in Whistleblower Cases

Posted in News, Nursing Home Information, Protecting Your Rights

Eric Dakhari, Esq., member of the firm’s Nursing Home Litigation Group, was featured on WIMG and WPHY’s Trenton Talks – In the Public Interest, which was hosted by Shareholder David Cohen, Esq.

The program discussed at length the rights and role of healthcare whistleblowers, the role of the nursing home MDS Coordinator, and the role of the lawyers in whistleblower cases. Check out the clips below:

Eric Dakhari, Esq. explains the rights of healthcare whistleblowers and why they should be wary of non-disparagement clauses.

Eric Dakhari, Esq. explains the role of healthcare whistleblowers and the duty of care responsibility.

Eric Dakhari, Esq. talks Abraham Lincoln, the False Claims Act, and the role of lawyers in healthcare whistleblower cases.

Eric Dakhari, Esq. explains the role of the nursing home MDS Coordinator in financial fraud.

New Report Suggests Ways for Elderly to Stay Mentally Sharp

Posted in Elder Issues, News, Practice Tips

Placing someone in a long-term care facility is a very difficult decision to make. Many times, this decision is not due to physical limitations, but mental ones. Older folks who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s may be physically mobile, but due to cognitive issues, they require 24-hour supervision. They may forget where they are, get lost driving, forget to eat and drink or take their medications.

A new report was released by the Institute of Medicine and reported by ABC News and study co-sponsor AARP. The study examined the aging process and the brain. Not surprisingly, AARP found that staying mentally sharp was a top concern for its members.

The study recommended many things, including:

  • Avoid isolation and keep socially active;
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption;
  • Get a good night’s sleep;
  • Be physically active;
  • Participate in the arts; and,
  • Maintain a healthy diet.

You can read the articles by ABC News (click here) and AARP (click here). Download the full report for free from the Institute of Medicine by clicking here.

New Article Slams Harborview Nursing Home for Rodents

Posted in Documentation & Reporting, Elder Issues, Levels of Care, Nursing Home Information

Harborview, a defendant in a case we took to trial last year, is back in the news.  During the trial, the ownership and management spoke of the facility in glowing terms – terms that were contradicted by state inspections and other testimony.  The article recounts rodent problems – and even chronicles a resident that bought his own glue traps.

You can read the full article here.

 

 

When on Antibiotics in Nursing Home or Hospital Watch for Diarrhea – It Could Be C-Diff

Posted in Elder Issues, Medication, Nursing Home Information, Support & Resources

One of the most common illnesses I see in nursing homes is C-Diff – a bacteria that can cause severe dehydration or death.  C-Diff is most common in nursing homes and hospitals, and 80% of fatalities from C-Diff are in people over 65.  A recent article in the LA Times reports a recent study and gives the important statistics.

Anytime a person receives antibiotics C-Diff can become a problem.  C-Diff is resistant to most antibiotics (C-Diff is short for the Latin name Clostridium difficile – a Latin word meaning difficult, stubborn, or unreasonable).  We all have lots of bacteria in our gut, but when a person is on antibiotics the rest of the bacteria in the gut are killed, leaving the C-Diff as the only bacteria.  There is nothing to compete with the C-Diff and it proliferates.  Unfortunately, one of the side effects of the C-Diff breaking down food in the gut is toxic, and the body tries to rid itself of the poison with diarrhea.

If you have a loved one who just got antibiotics, be on the lookout for diarrhea.  Many times a person suffering from C-Diff will have diarrhea that is green or black, and it most likely has a very strong distinctive odor.

The most important thing is to be sure your resident is properly hydrated.  By knowing the symptoms of C-Diff you may save your loved one’s life.  We’ve had cases where un-trained staff miss these obvious symptoms, and in some cases even give people suffering from C-Diff anti-diarrhea medication so the toxins stay in the body, further poisoning a person.  Any diarrhea after antibiotics should be of concern. Stark & Stark’s Nursing Home Litigation Group has handled many cases of neglect and issues that arrise such as this, contact us today for a free consultation.

 

Neglect and Poor Care Linked to Urinary Tract Infections in Nursing Homes

Posted in Elder Issues, Levels of Care, Nursing Home Information

Urinary Tract Infections, or UTIs, are a common complaint among families with a mom or dad in long-term care.  UTIs can be dangerous.  First, UTIs can become a serious infection if untreated.  However, UTIs also lead to falls, because UTIs cause people to feel as if they have to go to the bathroom constantly – a problem when someone with dementia forgets to ask for help to go to the bathroom.  This problem is made worse by the fact that UTIs can also cause people who have no cognitive problems to exhibit signs of dementia, like having hallucinations.

Aggravating the diagnoses of a UTI is the fact that a recent study has linked UTIs in New Jersey nursing homes to a failure to administer medications and poor supervision.  A recent study written about in McKnight’s, a long-term care publication, reported the findings published in Geriatrics. You can read the full article here.

The study, conducted by the University of Colorado College of Nursing, confirms what many of us practicing in this field know – that UTIs may be evidence of poor care and neglect.  UTIs are many times caused by improper cleaning after toileting and being left in a diaper for too long.

If a loved one is experiencing recurrent UTIs, demand a care planning meeting.  Find out why the UTIs are happening and what is being done to prevent them. If you or a loved one are dealing with issues due to poor care, contact Stark & Stark today for your free consultation.

Nursing Home Guilty of Abuse Pushes to Change Rules Limit Legal Exposure

Posted in Documentation & Reporting, Elder Issues

Many times, in the world of nursing home litigation and medical malpractice, you hear things like “caps on damages,” “tort reform,” of “medical review panels.”  These measures are presented as ways to “Stop the crisis!” or “Reign in out of control juries!”  The reality is, there is no crisis, juries are reasonable, and these measures are usually promulgated by nursing home companies solely to avoid liability.

A recent article from WFPL in Louisville, KY, recounts the story of Hazard Health and Rehab Center.  Within the walls of that facility, among other issues, two residents sexually abused a 91 year-old resident and another resident suffered a “gaping pressure ulcer.”  For the sex abuse, the facility paid a fine of $20,000, and for both incidents the facility was sued in civil court.

The nursing home industry in that state backed by among others state Republicans and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, want to make-up a law that will require a board of three “healthcare providers” that screen cases for merit – before a plaintiff can even file a lawsuit. This is designed to be yet another hurdle to achieving timely justice.   Helping to bankroll this idea?  Hazard Health and Rehab.

The article goes on to state that it’s the poor state of health care in KY is what’s causing the legal problems, not the law.  According to the article KY has more below average nursing homes than all but 8 other states.  “That just shows there’s widespread abuse, neglect, mistreatment of residents occurring in far too many nursing homes,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care.

You can read the full article here.

Be cautious whenever you hear of measures that limit a person’s ability to hold anyone person or company accountable in court.  There’s usually a lot of money behind the idea, and very little consideration for the good of the population. If you have any questions about a Nursing Home situation, contact Stark & Stark today.