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.

 

I’ve noticed in my practice a dangerous and burgeoning phenomenon. That is, the emergence of non-disparagement clauses for people who know the dangerous secrets of the worst of the worst long-term care facilities. I am finding that the vast majority of these clauses are found in assisted living facilities. These organizations appear to have very organized corporate structures and, upon the termination, retirement or resignation of high-level personnel, they sign legal separation agreements, which also include aggressively enforced non-disparagement language within them.

I first began to notice this phenomenon when I would take depositions and find that people who were fired under very questionable circumstances absolutely afraid to say anything negative about their former employer. It became apparent to me that they feared corporate retribution if they still worked in the healthcare facility and even worse with regard to whatever amounts of money they were paid upon their termination.

Finally, as I began to look more deeply into this, I got witnesses to agree that upon leaving either assisted living facilities, or at times, nursing homes, they would sign legal separation agreements which would not permit them to say anything at all negative about their former employer. With the exposure of these stifling contracts, the truth became self-evident.

Still, these are people are the guardians of our most frail and vulnerable citizens. These are people who know the secrets of poor facilities that could be remedied. These are people who can help folks like me who advocate for nursing home residents to hold wrong-doers accountable. It is a corporate philosophy that through the use of payoffs, chills the speech of the most important people who can shed light on the growing problem of corporate greed being placed over the welfare of nursing home residents.

As we have said in prior blogs, we have uncovered false employees in nursing homes being paid by taxpayer dollars. We have found exorbitant rent being paid by  nursing home owners to themselves for the property they own, while complaining that Medicare and Medicaid dollars are not enough to take care of residents. They do this while paying off in full their investment properties multiple times over.  Now, with this new corporate philosophy, the only people who can truly tell the truth are being silenced.

Former employees should know that there are laws in place to protect them from retribution for being honest.  Also, there are powerful whistleblower laws empower people to get the truth out about fraud and abuse of our most vulnerable citizens.  If in doubt about such agreements, people should obtain representation before signing and think long and hard before allowing their silence to be bought. Contact the Nursing Home Attorneys at Stark & Stark with any questions.

 

Helen Keller famously stated, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”  Maybe she knew then what scientists are proving now.  The BBC reported a new study in the UK that found social isolation increases risk of death in older people, even when those elderly do not consider themselves lonely.  

You can read the full article here.

The risk is substantial – there is a 26% higher death rate for isolated seniors over seven years.

When you have someone in an assisted living facility or nursing home, be sure that the facility is taking care to help residents participate in meaningful group activities when possible.  Those social interactions may be more than pleasant, but also healthy.

Picking a nursing home or assisted living facility can be a very difficult process.  Most people know very little about these facilities, how they are regulated, and how they operate.  Some people find themselves turning to free referral or placement agencies for their expertise.  These agencies are businesses that allege to help people find the right facility for their loved one.

This recent New York Times article points out the problem with some of these agencies. While some of these agencies are free to the users, they may get paid by the facilities they refer to – in some cases sub-standard facilities. 

Another enlightening article in the Seattle Times reports that some “[p]lacement companies, which rely on commission-only sales people, funnel the aged only to facilities that have agreed to pay thousands of dollars in finders’ fees.

In addition, most placement companies do not screen homes for past violations. As a result, many have referred seniors to facilities with documented histories of substandard care, including fatal neglect.”

The decision of where to place a mom or dad is a very important one.  It’s laudable to seek assistance with this important decision.  However, be careful of whom you are getting your information from, and how they are getting paid.  

Picking a nursing home to care for a loved one can be difficult and overwhelming.  You want the best care, but where to start?  What nursing homes are in the area?  Have they had any problems?  What services do they provide?  What are the right questions to ask?  Here is a great place to start.

Medicare keeps detailed records of all nursing homes, and rates them on a one-star to five-star scale. Its free, easy to access, objective, simple to read, and you can compare multiple nursing homes at the same time.  If your family member or loved one is currently in a nursing home, this website is also a great tool to see how your current nursing home compares to others.

 

The decision to trust a nursing home to care for a loved one can be a difficult one, even when a family does not have the time or resources to properly care for a elderly family member at home.  Conflict between family members and nursing home staff is very common, especially when a family feels their loved one is not being taken care of properly.  In this article, there is some great advice on what you can do when you feel your loved one is not being properly cared for. 

As I have previously noted on this site, notably absent from the public debate on tort reform are three major issues:

 

  1. The very significant money that malpractice claims recoup annually for US taxpayers for Medicare and Medicaid subrogation liens.
  2. That profit-driven decisions by the nursing home industry effectively transfer extraordinary costs attendant to the harm they cause to US taxpayers and non-profit hospitals…and
  3. The significant cost of Medicare and Medicaid fraud borne by US taxpayers.

Here is a fascinating study by commissioned by The George Washington University, my alma mater, which estimates fraud as costing US taxpayers at least $68 Billion dollars ANNUALLY. The site points to the collection of only $3.6 billion in recoveries for fraud claims.  The nonsensical barbs aimed at consumers should be pointed toward the large corporations which are draining our system and harming patients.

The centers for Medicaid and Medicare have put together a wonderful step-by-step guide to choosing a nursing home. It is highly recommended reading for anyone contemplating entering or putting a loved one in a nursing home.  It addresses everything from individual nursing home comparisons to costs associated with care, resident rights, and who to call in the event neglect or abuse occurs. If you are trying to decide on a nursing home, do yourself a favor and review this material. Being well informed is the best way to prevent neglect and abuse. Good luck!

Click here for the Step-by-Step Guide.

I recently returned from Austin, after attending a national nursing home conference for the American Association for Justice. While my talk involved the topic of more focused deposition taking, I must say that I was truly impressed by the effort and dedication of all of the other speakers. I am continually impressed by the level of dedication all of the attorneys I meet at these national conferences have toward protecting the elderly and infirm from abuse and neglect. One of the themes echoed through all of the talks was that of our common mission in improving the quality of care for nursing home residents all across the country.