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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.


Stark & Stark Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Guest Speak at Local Radio Station

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

Have you ever wondered about the difference between for profit and not for profit nursing homes? Listen to Stark & Stark Shareholders, David Cohen and Michael Brusca, along with Associate, Eric Dakhari, as they explain the difference and how it may affect you and your loved ones.

Arbitration – Unnecessarily Giving up Your Rights

Posted in Nursing Home Information

In my practice, I am currently responding to a motion to dismiss a lawsuit because of a forced arbitration document that was slipped into admission paperwork.  “Arbitration” is basically something written in the fine print where a person “agrees” to waive their right to a jury trial and go to a secret forum for disputes.  These arbitration documents are so offensive they used to be illegal in New Jersey nursing homes.

The reasons companies do these are because they typically pick the rules and an arbitration company, and historically they get better results at arbitration then they do in court.  Also, a person generally has to pay very high costs at arbitration – costs they would never pay in court.  Most importantly, what happens in arbitration is secret – so even for the worst care or abuse no one will ever know what happened if there is an arbitration.  You never see these things explained in the fine print – it will just tell you how much cheaper and faster arbitration is, which is frequently a lie.

These pre-dispute “agreements” only help the company, and never the resident or the resident’s family.

To be clear, you do not need to sign these things.  They do not help you – they can only hurt you.  Because of the significant advantage arbitration gives to a company, they will agree to arbitration after something terrible happens if you want it after the fact.  There is no reason to sign them before a person is injured or killed.

A new video by a pro-consumer group documents how abusive arbitration can be.  In one case, a woman was fired because of her military service, something that is totally illegal.  The arbitrator disregarded the law and found for the company.  You can watch the brief video here:

When admitting a resident, if you see these documents slipped into the admission paperwork don’t sign them.  You don’t have to, and you’re only hurting yourself.  If you’ve already singed one, tell the administrator you want to cancel it.  No one wants to believe that a resident will hurt in a nursing home or assisted living facility but it happens.  If it happens, you want to be sure you have the full might of the law at your disposal.

Welcome Reform Measures to Correct Questionable Self Reporting Staffing Levels in Nursing Homes

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

As an advocate in New Jersey  for nursing home residents, one of my greatest frustrations has been the lack of oversight for self reported staffing levels.  This has lead to an extraordinarily low incidence of short staffing citations – and worse yet, has allowed some understaffed facilities to crow over their lack of such citations.

The reality on the ground is that an alarmingly high number of long term care facilities CHOOSE to short staff their facilities to increase profit levels.  By falsifying staffing numbers, they can often evade scrutiny on this extremely important issue.  That is, nursing homes rarely have their payroll records cross referenced against their reported staffing numbers – leaving them free to fudge the math.  In our cases, we have uncovered such records, but I am fearful that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Indeed, this fear is supported by the confounded families who see barely a foot on the ground, a complete lack of care for their loved ones – yet no citations from the State for failing to meeting staffing requirements.

Recognizing this problem, the White House just announced additional funding to assist authorities in preventing this type of dangerous conduct.  In the end, residents will benefit – as will overworked staff who need a helping hand to protect these vulnerable folks. If you or a loved one has been impacted by an understaffed nursing home, contact the New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Stark & Stark today.

Rating the Nursing Homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Posted in News, Nursing Home Information

The official U.S. government website for Medicare provides a tool that allows consumers to compare information about nursing homes. It is called Nursing Home Compare, and contains quality-of-care information on every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The tool creates that information based on the “skilled” care that nursing homes provide, which is care given when you need skilled nursing or rehabilitation staff to manage, observe, or evaluate your health status. For example, skilled care includes intravenous injections and physical therapy.

The “Overall 5-Star” Rating System

To rate the nursing homes, the tool uses an “Overall 5-Star” rating system. It assigns 1 to 5 stars, with more stars indicating better quality, across three “domains.” Those domains include: (1) Health Inspections, (2) Quality Measures, and (3) Staffing. The tool reports the ratings in table or profile form. Here is example of a nursing-home profile:

The Domains

The tool generates the rating for the  Health Inspection Domain based health-inspection ratings from the three most recent annual-comprehensive inspections, and inspections instigated in response to complaints in the last three years. It places more emphasis on recent inspections.

It generates the rating for Quality Measures Domain by combining the values on 9 out of 19 Quality Measures. Some of those measures include, for example:

  • the percentage of long-stay high-risk residents with pressure ulcers;
  • the percentage of long-stay residents experiencing a fall with major injury; and
  • the percentage of long-stay residents who self-report moderate to severe pain.

The tool derives those values from clinical data that nursing homes regularly report on a form called the Minimum Data Set.

And finally, the tool generates the rating for the Staffing Domain based on (1) the Registered Nurse (RN) hours per resident day, and (2) the “total staffing” hours per resident day. Total staffing includes: RNs, Licensed Practical Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses, and Certified Nurse Assistants. Nursing homes report staffing hours, which are from a two-week period just before the state agency conducts an inspection, to the New Jersey or Pennsylvania state-inspection agency. The agencies, in turn, report those data on Nursing Home Compare.

At Stark & Stark, our nursing-home negligence lawyers dedicate their entire practice to prosecuting nursing-home negligence lawsuits. We highly recommend the Nursing Home Compare tool when trying to assess a nursing home’s quality.