Documentation & Reporting

When a family member moves into an assisted care facility, their new home is evaluated from many angles. What is the living space like? What are the staff qualifications? Have there been concerns raised in the past? Most likely, you aren’t considering the potential need for litigation.

Yet among the many pages of admissions paperwork, nursing home residents and their families are being asked to sign a forced arbitration agreement before being admitted. This agreement bars a court hearing in the case of disputes, including those that address abuse, injury, or wrongful death while at the facility.


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Michael Vecchio, a 29 year-old patient at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany, died after 3 months of hospitalization. The patient did not have a terminal illness or life-threatening condition–he was admitted because he suffered from schizophrenia. After weeks of not eating, he passed away.

The facility pointed to privacy laws when preventing Michael’s family from knowing he stopped eating until he was rushed in an ambulance to Morristown Medical Center on Jan. 24, 2017. His mother, Beth Vecchio, said a nurse told her that Michael suffered severe stomach pain “for a few days” before Greystone finally called the ambulance. Michael died twenty hours later.


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On June 12, 2019, a report released by the Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General revealed that Nursing Home Abuse remains largely unreported. The study examined claims sent to Medicare in 2016 by beneficiaries residing in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The report states that approximately one in five of those emergency room visits were the result of potential abuse or neglect.

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Late last December, a nurse at Hacienda HealthCare in Arizona panicked and called 911 as a patient unexpectedly gave birth. The 29 year old patient, who has been in a vegetative state since age 3, delivered a healthy baby boy. A police investigation concluded that one of her caregivers, a 32 year-old male nurse, raped the patient several times and fathered the child. The victim’s attorneys filed a $45 million notice of claim against the state of Arizona in late May.

After giving birth in the nursing home, the victim and baby were transferred to a nearby hospital. According to the hospital, the baby’s birth was “a repeat parous event,” meaning the victim had likely been pregnant before.


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How does the role of an MDS Coordinator relate to patient care and Medicare or Medicaid fraud?

A nursing home MDS Coordinator assesses the capabilities of a patient and creates individual care plans—including the level of treatment that must be delivered. A person in this position may be doing their job right but then fall under the pressure from the nursing home to up the ante for more billings or risk losing a well-paying job. It starts out with a fudged physical therapy session here or there. Then the message flows downhill to CNAs and other healthcare staff resulting in more falsified records. This escalates with more and more demands from above to get additional services—and higher value services—added to the bills. In the end, the Government is defrauded.


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A new law will soon take effect requiring nursing home employees to notify police within hours of suspected abuse – or to call 911 if the situation is an emergency. “Peggy’s Law” will provide additional protections to nursing home residents by ensuring that law enforcement is promptly notified of possible criminal abuse cases.

Peggy’s Law was named for 93-year-old Peggy Marzolla, who died following injuries suffered while in the care of a nursing home in 2010. When Peggy Marzolla was taken to the hospital, it was found that she had sustained a broken eye socket, cheekbone, jaw, and wrist, as well as a badly bruised elbow, a gash on her leg, and welts on her back.

Staff members at the nursing home stated that she had slipped on some powder in a bathroom and fallen. Her daughter did not believe the explanation and spent the next several years lobbying lawmakers to better protect institutionalized seniors.

Governor Chris Christie signed Peggy’s Law on August 7, 2017 and it will go into effect 60 days later.


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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.

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In recent news in Pennsylvania, the Office of the Attorney General is suing the nursing home chain, Golden Living Center, for allegations that they repeatedly refuse to meet its residents most basic needs. Further allegations reported by WPXI include falsifying records and lying to state inspectors.

It looks like Pennsylvania is beginning to catch on

When deciding whether to place a loved-one into a nursing home, families attempt to determine whether the nursing home is capable of providing the necessary quality care. Most families visit the nursing home, as well as check the U.S. government’s Nursing Home Compare tool at Medicare.gov.

Despite their efforts, some nursing homes have purposefully misrepresented

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