Stories of Neglect

Family of elderly man who died of neglect speaks out about forced arbitration

Evan’s father died with an oozing bedsore, about the size of a fist. He hadn’t had any food or liquid for 4 or 5 days.
Coluccio_Law_Nursing_Home_Neglect_Forced_Arbitration

Evan wanted to file suit against the nursing home for the neglect that caused his father’s death. He concluded that a jury trial couldn’t change what happened to his family: but it would send a message to nursing homes that abuse and neglect will not be tolerated.

The nursing home company informed Evan Press that he had no right to file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of his father.

The contract that they had used to admit his father to the facility had an arbitration clause.

Arbitration clause: you agree to give up your Constitutional right to trial, and instead submit any claims against the company to an arbitrator, who is chosen by the company, and paid by the company.

Now the nursing home is suing Evan Press, for attempting to break the arbitration clause.

Just another way to limit consequences

Nursing home companies that use contracts with arbitration clauses usually require a patient or representative to sign this contract before admittance.

Companies claim that patients aren’t giving up any rights or privileges when they sign these contracts— this is their explanation, as they ask the elderly resident to waive his Constitutional rights.

As arbitration has increasingly replaced court as the forum for dispute resolution, the amount of money recovered by abuse victims and their families has decreased—even as complaints about poor treatment have risen.

– Based on study done by nursing home industry itself

Forced arbitration doesn’t benefit consumers. It’s really expensive: attorney’s fees aren’t covered, and the company can force you to travel to wherever they choose to hold the arbitration, which is often an incredible inconvenience.

Plus, you can’t appeal a decision from a binding arbitration. If you don’t agree with an arbitrator’s decision, there is no next step.

And there is no public record of the arbitration meeting, as there is with a jury trial.

For families like Evan’s, there is limited and unjust recourse for the unnecessary death of a loved one.

 

Increasing Acceptance of "Granny Cams"

Most of us have heard of nanny cams. Now, the tiny hidden cameras, used for parents who are suspicious of their nannies, are gaining greater acceptance as a way to stop elder abuse or nursing home abuse.

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

A video still shows a nursing home aide stuffing latex gloves into Eryetha Mayberry’s mouth

According to the NY Times’ Well blog, Doris Racher decided to use a granny cam to catch a petty thief who was stealing from her mother, a 96-year-old dementia nursing home patient.

Instead of catching the thief, Doris found an aide stuffing latex gloves into her mother’s mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing.

Despite concerns about privacy, some state attorney generals have used hidden cameras to go after some suspected of nursing home patient abuse and neglect.

In June, Mike DeWine, the Ohio state attorney general, announced that his office, with permission from families, had placed cameras in residents’ rooms in an unspecified number of state facilities. Mr. DeWine has moved to shut down at least one facility, in Zanesville, where, he said, cameras caught actions like an aide’s repeatedly leaving a stroke patient’s food by his incapacitated side.

As for the Mayberry story, there is now a new Oklahoma law that allows cameras in residents’ rooms if consent forms are filed to notify the facility, according to prior coverage by News9. The law gives the family exclusive rights to the recording and allows it to be used in court.

 

Frontline’s/ProPublica’s Life and Death in Assisted Living

Toward the end of July, Frontline in partnership with ProPublica began airing a series, Life & Death in Assisted Living; its full transcript is now available via ebook. With the increasing numbers of seniors who reside in assisted living facilities, an alarming number of stories of neglect and abuse have surfaced. Frontline investigators delved into case studies, offering insights about problems with this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

Frontline's series "Life & Death in Assisted Facilities" is running on PBS and also available as an ebook.

Frontline’s series “Life & Death in Assisted Living” is running on PBS and a full transcript is also available as an ebook. assisted living facilities, Frontline/ProPublica (PP) investigated this loosely regulated multi-billion dollar industry.

The series began with a focus on the tragic story of Joan Boice, which I blogged about earlier this spring. Frontline compared and contrasted the Seattle based assisted living facility’s marketing pitch with reality.

For example, “specially trained” staffers weren’t really trained to  care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, a violation of California law. At its best, there was only one nurse to track all of the residents’ health. The turnover of medical professionals was high. In fact, one of them who left wrote Emeritus’ senior executives about the facility’s “ huge shortage of staff” and that the facility was mired in “total dysfunction.”

emerald hills brochure

EMERALD HILLS BROCHURE

Apparently, there were months when a full-time nurse was not even on the facility’s payroll. Residents with incontinence issues were allowed to urinate repeatedly in the same spot in a hallway repeatedly.

But Ms. Boice’s husband and two sons saw only the facility as it was presented, as a respite for their aging mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. They agreed to pay over $4,625 a month for Joan to receive care as a resident at the Emerald Hills facility and another $2,500/month for her husband.

Less than two weeks after Joan moved in, an ambulance crew found her face-down on the carpet. She had struck her head on the floor with such force that she had bruises on her forehead and cheeks. No one at Emerald Hills, however, knew how Joan had fallen or how long she had been laying on the floor. She had defecated and urinated on herself.

Although Myron, Joan’s husband, was also a resident at the facility, no one informed him about this startling event as Joan was transported to the hospital without any facility employee to accompany her. Joan’s son, Eric, got the call from the hospital later that night.

California law requires assisted living companies to conduct a “pre-admission appraisal” of prospective residents, to ensure they are appropriate candidates for assisted living. However, the assisted living facility never conducted the appraisal of Joan. They failed to consider Joan’s family’s warnings before her move in: They had warned Emerald Hills that Joan shouldn’t sit in a chair without supervision, given her history of losing her balance whenever she would get up. But despite this warning, Joan’s daughter-in-law would visit Joan to find her sitting by herself in a chair without anybody else in the room.

The Frontline investigation exposes the gaps in the law that have allowed assisted living and nursing home facilities like Emeritus’ Emerald Hills to endanger and kill senior citizens like Mrs Boice.

 

Seattle-Based Emeritus Walloped With $23 Million Verdict

The Sacramento Bee reported that just last week, a Sacramento jury found Emeritus Corp. guilty of wrongful death and elder abuse on Tuesday in relation to its care of a former resident who died shortly after leaving an Emeritus-run senior living community in California.

Emeritus, based in Seattle, Washington is the largest assisted living facility in the U.S.

Emeritus, largest US assisted living facility corp.

Emeritus, largest US provider of assisted living facilities

The Boice family brought a lawsuit against Emeritus for the abuse and death of Joan Boice, 82.  Ms. Boice, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had passed away three months after moving into a nursing home in 2008. She had resided at Emeritus at Emerald Hills in Auburn, CA.

Within months, she was found with at least four major pressure ulcers, which were believed to have been a significant factor in causing her death. By day 10 of her stay at the Emeritus facility, Joan had fallen down and was never able to get out of her wheelchair after her fall.

Late last year, Emeritus offered a $3.5 million settlement to the son and daughter of Ms. Boice. But Eric Boice wanted others to know his mother’s story of the elder abuse and neglect: so, the Boices went to trial.

The jury on the case voted unanimously against the company on 12 out of 15 questions on the two jury forms, including voting 12-0 that Emeritus employees failed to use reasonable care in providing for Boice’s hygienic, mental health, and safety needs.

The jurors also unanimously voted that this failure resulted in substantial harm to Boice, and that Emeritus’ officers and directors knew “about the unfitness of their employees and [acted] with conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others.”

Finally, the jurors voted 12-0 that Boices proved “that an employee, officer, director, or a managing agent acted with recklessness, malice, oppression, and fraud.”

Counsel for Emeritus vowed to appeal. This story tells us that no matter the size of the facility, if you have a loved one in assisted care, please remain vigilant.

See more:  Life and Death in Assisted Living

Concerned Granddaughter Uses Nanny Cam at Nursing Home

Diana Valetin put a new twist on the idea of a nanny cam, when she decided to plant a hidden camera in the room where her grandmother,  Ana Luisa Medina, 89, stayed at Gold Crest Care Center in New York.

I read about this sad story of elder abuse in the NY Daily News. Diana kept finding strange bruises on her grandmother’s forehead and arms.

 “They were telling me she had gotten the bruising on her hands by banging on the bed railing.”

Each time Diana went to the Care Center’s management with her concerns, the response was that they were aware of her concerns and that they would investigate it.

Ms. Valetin used a hidden camera to learn why her grandmother was getting bruises.

Ms. Valetin used a hidden camera to learn why her grandmother was getting bruises.

Frustrated with inaction despite the constant bruises, Ms. Valetin decided to investigate the issue herself. She hid a small video camera in a potted plant, capturing over 600 hours of video. “The first video that I saw, [the aide] grabbed my grandmother’s arm, twisted it back, lifted her off the bed and slammed her into the bed,” Valentin said.

Sandra Kerr, the 55-year old nurse, was apparently twisting Ana Luisa Medina’s frail arms and slamming her into the bed. Kerr has since been arrested, and she has been charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person.

Attorney General Schneiderman stated, “My office has zero tolerance for nursing home aides who abuse, neglect or harm the people in their care. Medical professionals have a responsibility to properly care for their patients and must be held accountable when they fail to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

At this time, Gold Crest Care Center had not commented on Ms. Valetin’s claim. Unfortunately, this story is the tip of the iceberg regarding the epidemic of elder abuse in this country.

!assisted-suicideAttorneys such as Margaret Dore in Seattle assert that Washington and Oregon laws that allow assisted suicide is a factor for increasing elder abuse. Ms. Dore explains that the Oregon and Washington assisted suicide acts have a formal application process. The acts allow an heir, who will benefit from the patient’s death, to play a large role in this process.

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, no mechanism for oversight exists. That means that no one needs to witness the death. Without disinterested witnesses, Ms. Dore asserts, “[T]he opportunity is created for an heir, or for another person who will benefit from the patient’s death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. One method would be by injection when the patient is sleeping. The drugs used in Oregon and Washington are water soluble and therefore injectable. If the patient woke up and struggled, who would know?”

In Washington and Oregon, the state health departments are required to collect some basic information for its annual reports. According to these reports, users of assisted-suicide are for the vast majority white and well-educated. Many have private insurance. Most are age 65 and older. People that fall into this demographic are seniors with money, which we have seen are commonly targeted and at a higher risk of financial abuse.

The forms used to collect the statistical information do not ask about abuse. Moreover, not even law enforcement is allowed to access information about a particular case. Alicia Parkman a mortality research analyst at the Center for Health Statistics, Oregon Health Authority, wrote to Ms. Dore: “We have been contacted by law enforcement and legal representatives in the past, but have not provided identifying information of any type.“

Consumer Reports warns about financial elder abuse

KOMO News reported on the growing trend of financial elder abuse with focus on Consumer Reports recent investigations.

The message to the elderly: Even those you might trust the most–your family and friends–are the ones who are in the best position to drain bank accounts and take over real estate of vulnerable senior citizens.

Sadly, these are the types of crimes most difficult to spot, as it seems from most distant observers that someone’s family or caregiver is working in the best interest of the vulnerable elder.

Financial elder abuse is on the rise per Consumer Reports’ investigation..

Nevertheless, senior citizens are the most vulnerable for scams. From forging to pleas for a loan to abuses of power of attorney.  When someone has power of attorney, they have unfettered access to your accounts. Someone who misuses those powers can decimate financial accounts, leaving them with virtually nothing.

To help prevent elder abuse:

  • Have bank and investment statements sent to a person you trust to monitor accounts.
  • Arrange for direct deposit and automatic bill pay.
  • Consult a reputable elder law attorney for advice on wills and limiting power of attorney.

Consumer Reports says there are good places to get help if you or an elderly relative is concerned about financial abuse, including the National Center on Elder Abuse, which has links to help and hotlines.

You can also get help for elders dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or other memory loss issues, from the local Alzheimer’s Association.

West Seattle brothers allow father to rot to death

Every once in a while, I come across a story that is almost impossible for me to read because of the horrific details. This is one of those stories. which I came across in the Seattle P-I.

Sadly, the story is about a pair of local men, both in their 50’s, who lived rent-free in their father’s Alki/West Seattle home. All the while, Keith and Kenneth Shaw allowed their 86 year old father, Kyle Shaw, Jr. to waste away malnourished, dehydrated, and caked in filth.

King County prosecutors allege that the Shaw brothers refused to provide proper care to their father, so that they could inherit all of their parents savings.

Back in November 2010, another relative had called the paramedics to the Shaw house. The paramedics found Kyle Shaw in only a T-shirt and socks. The sock had grown into his feet, according to charging documents, as the elderly Shaw had been wearing the bloodied, feces-covered socks for at least a year.  At Swedish Medical Center, a doctor found  Mr. Shaw’s feet were rotting, along with suffering an array of life-threatening ailments.

A social service worker visited the Shaws, responding to a troublesome report from the Nov. 2010 hospital visit. Despite the fact that Kyle Shaw and his wife had large savings, enough to pay for Kyle’s care, the Shaw brothers balked at the idea. One of them said that doing so would force the other brother (who didn’t have a job) to “… end up homeless, living under the viaduct.”

Both men have been charged with second-degree criminal mistreatment. Neither has entered a plea yet.

State Run Group Homes Skate On Thin Ice

Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has given notice to King County SOLA (State Operated Living Alternatives). At present, the SOLA homes are now operating under what is called a “provisional certification.” In other words, administrators must prove that they are able to keep 50 vulnerable adults in these SOLAs healthy and safe. Otherwise, the program may shutdown.

An investigation that Susannah Frame of KING5 conducted (see below clip. “Repeat violations threaten shutdown of 13 state-run group homes”) reveal some cringe worthy details about a number of state run group homes in the Puget Sound and beyond.
                          
According to KING5, 38 SOLA homes in Washington care for about 130 clients. These homes are in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, and Bremerton. The provisional certification was imposed in late July 2012, as the result of homes repeated violations and for citations of “serious deficiencies determined to jeopardize client’s health, safety and/or welfare.”  These serious deficiencies included instances of assault, neglect, and sexual assault.

There are 38 SOLA homes in the state which care for 130 clients. The homes are located in Tacoma, Bremerton, Yakima, Spokane and Seattle. They are unique in that they aren’t simply licensed by the state to operate as a group home; they are managed and run by state employees. The provisional certification only applies to the King County program.

Resident’s Death Shuts Down Northwest Nursing Home

Doris Dorsey, a resident of John Day Nursing Home (near Portland, OR) died in October 2011. Family of Ms. Dorsey believe that the death is the result of two caregiver’s abuse and neglect, claiming that Tom Houpt and Vanessa Holmstrom withheld food from Doris and tortured her.

Two Caregivers at Portland Nursing Home Charged with Manslaughter & Criminal Treatment

These two caregivers of Ms. Dorsey now face charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment. In the meantime, Oregon’s Department of Human Services is shutting down John Day, helping relocate its residents.

Apparently, the State had received other complaints about John Day.

According to the State, the facility failed to comply with state requirements that called for the facility registered nurse to attend training, to have at least two caregivers on duty for each shift and to meet other standards. Their failure to comply “placed residents at harm and risk for serious harm,” the Aug. 30 letter states.

 

About Kevin

Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.