To increase protection of its elderly and disabled citizens from abuse and neglect, the state of New Jersey is expanding its Safe Care Cam program to nursing homes, residences for the developmentally disabled, and other institutional care facilities. The Safe Care Cam program loans free surveillance cameras to New Jersey residents to monitor the treatment provided by caregivers. The cameras are provided for free 30-day loans to families who suspect or question whether a care provider is abusing or neglecting their loved one.
In December of 2010, Stark & Stark launched the Personal Injury Law Journal as a way to provide clients throughout the state of New Jersey with timely information, news alerts and commentary on recent case law. Our attorneys offer updates on a wide range of legal issues including motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death claims, birth injuries, medical malpractice claims and many more. In addition to written posts, the blog also features podcasts and video-podcasts, individual RSS feeds for each practice area and attorney author and information on upcoming speaking engagements and events.
Without a hearing, our new congress wasted no time in trying to severely limit damages in nursing home abuse claims. A newly proposed law called the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 H.R. 1215, seeks to limit non-economic damages in all medical cases to $250K for everyone in the country.
Just this week the New Jersey Attorney General, Christopher Porrino, and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced an exciting new program to protect individuals from the abuses of home healthcare providers. It is called the Safe Care Cam program and the purpose of the program is to provide micro-surveillance cameras for free 30 day loans to families that suspect an in-home care giver is abusing or neglecting their loved one.
Special kudos to the Reading Eagle on its recent series on nursing homes – in particular the editorial We Must Demand Better from Nursing Homes, Regulators, published on December 11, 2016. For those of us who work hard to hold nursing home corporations accountable when seniors are neglected, abused, seriously injured, or die, this series of articles is a vindication.
In our practice, we represent individuals, who are often diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their families. It is not uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer from poor safety awareness and poor decision making. This can lead to devastating results and injuries if a nursing home does not properly care for the resident’s individual needs and safety. Due to the debilitating nature of Alzheimer’s and dementia, researchers have been studying the disease and there appears to be some good news on the horizon.
A November 21, 2016, article by Liz Szabo posted on CNN.com discussed how a recently published study showed that dementia rates have fallen nearly 24% from 2000 to 2012. The significant rate of decline is attributed to Americans’ rising educational levels and better heart health.
The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, began in 1992 and focused on people over 50 years old. The researchers collected data from the participants every two years. The data included interviews, physical tests, body measurements, blood samples, and saliva samples.
Researchers are not certain why dementia rates are declining, but the evidence is mounting that higher education and better heart health are related to the decline.
This is promising news because currently, according to Alzheimer’s Association of America, as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is also estimated that a half million Americans under 65 have some form of dementia.
It was recently reported by ABC27 News that the Pennsylvania Attorney General Office has brought a lawsuit against Grane Healthcare and their facilities individually for understaffing and not providing basic services to its residents.
More troubling is the fact that the state alleges that “Grane’s business practices are deceptive and misleading because it advertises that it strives for a very high staff-to-patient ratio.”
After doing nursing home neglect and abuse claims day in and day out, it is encouraging to see state agencies stepping up and holding these facilities to task as well.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) can be a serious problem for the elderly in nursing homes. Those afflicted with UTIs can have delusions, dementia-like symptoms, and will feel the urge to urinate all the time. This can be a recipe for disaster for a person that requires help to get to the bathroom. Many serious and fatal falls occur because residents with UTIs will constantly feel like they need to get to the bathroom, forget to use the call bell, and will get up on their own.
Additionally, if UTIs are not treated they can lead to sepsis and death.
One of the historically typical and easiest solutions to avoid UTIs was to just drink cranberry juice. Unfortunately, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported by KFOR places this common wisdom into doubt.
Although drinking cranberry juice was not discouraged, the study showed taking cranberry capsules (pills with cranberry extract) had a “limited potential effect.”
Families know their loved ones best, and many times it is families that diagnose UTIs and not a facility. Watch for signs of increased urination, delusions or odd behavior, fever, or general lethargy. With quick treatment, most UTIs clear up, but if they go untreated they can be lethal.
I was recently speaking with someone about a woman who worked for a non-profit nursing home for many years. She liked it there and the facility provided good care. Then the facility was sold to a for-profit corporation. Overnight, staff hours were cut, pay was cut, and care declined. The person I was speaking with could not believe this could happen–I was not surprised as sadly I’ve seen this occur many times.
If an administrator at a non-profit tells her board of directors she made a little money that year and gave great care, she’s applauded. However, if that same administrator tells the same thing to a for-profit board, she’s getting fired. The replacement knows that staffing is the biggest expense and that’s where you will see the cuts.
I’ve written before about how important it is to know what prescription medications are being administered in nursing homes and long term rehab facilities. Many do not have good efficacy, may be dangerous, or may cause problems when mixed with other medications. A new study indicates it is now also important to find out what over the counter (OTC) medications are being given.
The study, reported in the Observer, showed a link between certain medications in the class called anticholinergics and cognitive impairment in the elderly. OTC medications in this class include Dimetapp, Dramamine, Benadryl, and Unisom. This class of medications also includes the prescription medications Toviaz, Paxil and Seroquel. In the study, people using these types of medicines exhibited reduced brain function and increased brain atrophy. Specifically, the study showed that use of these meds affected immediate memory recall and cognition, and may also induce cell death.
Throughout the country, trusting families are signing nursing home, rehab, and assisted living admission paperwork for someone they care deeply about. These documents are technical, long, and complicated. Hidden in many of these agreements is language that significantly curtails a family’s ability to hold a facility accountable if something terrible happens – including rape, assault, neglect, and death. This language is called “pre-dispute” or “forced” arbitration language.
Pre-dispute forced arbitration is where a person agrees to give up their right to sue in court if an injury or death happens. To be clear, your loved one’s admission to the facility cannot be denied if you don’t agree to arbitration and you get absolutely, 100%, nothing in exchange for agreeing to pre-dispute arbitration.