Last year, the BBC released a scandalous film that highlighted the poor care to which brain injury victims are routinely subjected. Audiences were aghast to see health care workers in their own national healthcare system treating rehabilitation center patients with carelessness — at best — and often with actions bordering on abusive. Safety procedures were ignored, hygiene was neglected and, in at least one case, doctors’ orders were directly violated.
The film was made by the spouse of one
brain injury patient whose concerns over her partner’s well-being were repeatedly ignored. Rather than give up, she installed a secret camera in his room. Among other things, the footage showed a health care assistant cleaning the patient’s stomach tube with the tip of a pen, and giving him drinks of water even though he was supposed to receive nothing through the mouth.
The film brought much-needed attention to the plight of brain injury patients in Britain’s National Healthcare System. But it also shows the awful effects that ignorance and lack of care have on the well-being of a victim of brain trauma. Even those who are surrounded by a loving support system can suffer due to a family’s lack of information or assumptions about their condition.
In addition to helping brain injury victims get justice and legal resources to improve their lives, we at the Brain Injury Law Center want to help our community with resources for learning what to expect in this new chapter of their lives and how to offer the best possible support to a loved one suffering from brain injury or trauma.
Here are a few of the things we’ve learned. Continue reading
We intend for skilled nursing facilities to be safe places of rest for the elderly when their needs become too great to be met in the home. There, elderly relatives can receive the medical care and companionship that busy working families cannot provide. The trust families put in nursing homes can be violated in shocking and painful ways. For this reason, families must be vigilant about signs of potential abuse. Any suspicions must be investigated carefully.
Who are Elder Abusers?
More often than not, elder abusers are the people who take care of them. They may be nursing homes employees or family members who care for the elderly at home. In nursing homes, inexperienced part-time workers may think nothing of cutting corners at work. What seems like a small oversight to a worker can be a major upset for the elderly patient. Fresh sheets, baths and just a friendly visit for those who are bedridden are vital to the physical emotional health of elderly patients.
In addition, families cannot assume their loved ones are safe simply because another family member looks after their needs. Continue reading
Everyone becomes physically weaker with age and some people lose the mental abilities they once had.
In addition, medical and behavioral issues leave aging loved ones vulnerable. Often a family has no choice but to place their loved one in a nursing home, where he or she can receive much-needed professional care. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is on the rise.
A lesser known form of nursing home abuse takes place when poorly trained or negligent staff members give patients the wrong type or wrong dose of medication. In some cases, doctors accidentally or purposefully prescribe medication developed to treat symptoms or conditions other than those that they are trying to control. In extreme cases, doctors use medication to control difficult or violent patients that suffer from dementia by using a “chemical straitjacket,” thereby using unneeded medicine to keep patients obedient and easier to control.
How common is the misuse of medication in nursing homes?
A report from the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services published in May 2011, Medicare Atypical Antipsychotic Drug Claims for Elderly Nursing Home Residents, found that: Continue reading
When elderly loved ones lose the ability to care for themselves, it can be stressful for the entire family. Knowing that a facility will be responsible for the physical and mental health of your loved one makes choosing a long-term care facility one of the most difficult decisions you may face. A recent article in The Columbian highlighted some of the factors to take into consideration when choosing a long-term care plan for your loved one.
Consider using a Placement Agency to assist with your research. Agents will assess the patient’s physical needs and sift through the services of various facilities to find the ones that best meet your criteria. Agents will also tour facilities with you. Placement Agency services are free to the client.
Know Your Options
- In-home Care is available for older people who still have some level of independence. Home health aids can visit daily to assist with bathing, dressing, mobility, medication management and housekeeping. Home health aids are not licensed to perform sterile procedures.
- Assisted Living Centers offer on-staff registered nurses, private rooms, organized activities, custodial care, escorts to meals, and limited medical services.
- Nursing Homes (also called skilled nursing facilities) offer a full medical staff and the highest level of round-the-clock care.
Examine the social needs of your loved one. Continue reading
This month, a record-breaking verdict was issued in a case of nursing home abuse.
In 2004, the incident was featured in an article in the St. Petersburg Times Online, which detailed the appalling demise of 92-year-old Elvira Nunziata. After being absent for nearly an hour without being noticed by any of the nursing home staff, Ms. Nunziata was found dead at the bottom of the fire escape. She had tumbled down a full flight of stairs while still strapped her in wheelchair. Once she was discovered, the paramedics were called, but Elvira Nunziata was pronounced dead upon their arrival.
Nursing Home Neglect
When records were checked with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) immediately following the incident, it was revealed that Pinellas Park Care and Rehabilitation Center was ranked in the bottom twenty percent of nursing homes in the St. Petersburg, Florida area. Some of the concerns cited were problems with sanitary preparation of food and lack of proper labeling of drugs and other biological supplies.
An Unnecessary Loss
Ms. Nunziata had been living at the center for a mere 14 months before her tragic accident. Continue reading
Nurse Marty Himebaugh is accused of overmedicating patients in her care while she worked at the nursing home. Information published by the Chicago Sun-Times indicates former Woodstock Residence nursing director Penny Whitlock acknowledged that she nicknamed Himebaugh the “Angel of Death.” The chilling facts of this case emphasize the need for loved ones to check on elderly relatives regularly, lest they become within of nursing home abuse.
Partners in Crime
According to statements Ms. Whitlock made to the Sun-Times, Ms. Himebaugh overmedicated patients who were unruly or difficult. Director Ms. Whitlock was charged with obstruction of justice and criminal neglect. Staff members of the nursing home testified that Ms. Whitlock knew Ms. Himebaugh was over-medicating patients with medications such as morphine. The court stripped Himebaugh of her license and accepted a guilty plea from her in exchange for dropping five other felony counts against her.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
Sadly, patients at Woodstock Residence suffered from neglect and abuse. In addition, patients appear to have received doses of morphine not prescribed by a physician. It was Ms. Whitlock’s duty to address suspected abuse and neglect. However, testimony by other staff members indicates she chose to look the other way. Morphine is a powerful pain medication that requires a prescription by a physician. Unfortunately, one patient who died at the nursing home in 2006 died of a morphine overdose.
The Dangers of Morphine
Morphine is commonly prescribed to cancer patients to help ease the severe pain associated with cancer. Continue reading
Burnout is usually something we associate with our regular jobs. Working long hours under stressful conditions can wear a person down. Burnout can affect caregivers too, people who sometimes must work full time jobs and then go home to care for a disabled loved one.
If someone in your family has experienced a traumatic brain injury, the demands placed on you can be overwhelming. Although you may feel like you have little or no control over the situation, there are steps you can take to avoid burnout and still provide proper care.
Warning Signs of Burnout
Many caregivers fail to recognize burnout. Symptoms include
- Reduced energy
- Frequent illness
- Sense of being overwhelmed
Some caregivers report that when they tend to a loved one’s needs every day, the work has lost its meaning. It becomes a chore, rather than an expression of love for an ailing family member.
The Mayo Clinic has several recommendations for avoiding caregiver burnout. Continue reading
While the attorneys of the Brain Injury Law Center are known for our expertise in brain-related cases, some of our most poignant trials have involved nursing homes and the elderly. Nursing home abuse is often purely malicious behavior taken against some of the most defenseless members of society.
Abuse At The Potomac Center Nursing Home
Just last year, in our home state of Virginia, one of history’s largest cases of nursing home abuse resulted in a dozen indictments and several convictions of employees at The Potomac Center nursing home, part of the Genesis Healthcare network. In addition to criminal charges against employees of The Potomac Center, civil suits have also been filed.
Aside from unsanitary living conditions, which included rotten food and cockroaches in the living areas, caretakers neglected the residents’ medical and personal care.
One of the residents complained to his wife, who gave the FBI permission to put a surveillance camera in his bedroom. Unbelievably, one of the nurses was accused of holding a pillow over a partially paralyzed patient’s face. Other video footage showed a different employee laughing as she threw popcorn at the same resident while he struggles vainly to swat it away.
Researching A Potential Home
Certainly not all nursing homes are as horrific as this one, but a Congressional report in 2009 said nearly one-third of U.S. nursing homes have been cited for abuse. Spotting the good from the bad is not always easy and a building’s appearance can be deceiving. Continue reading
What you can do to protect your elderly loved ones from Traumatic Brain Injury caused by nursing home neglect.
Nursing home neglect is one of the primary causes of traumatic brain injury(TBI) in the elderly. One of the most difficult parts of handling TBI cases is seeing the way in which some nursing facilities treat elderly individuals. At a time when they are owed the most respect, senior citizens are sometimes neglected by thoughtless and underpaid caregivers.
By the time families discover the abuse, it is often too late. Elderly relatives come away with damaged self-esteem and serious physical ailments. The elderly are prone to head injuries from falls and other hazards. Some families only find out about abuse after a loved one dies at the hands of a negligent caregiver. Continue reading