May 6, 2013

For Families of Nursing Home Abuse Victims, It is not about the Money

Nursing home abuse and neglect is an unfortunate reality in many facilities in Kentucky and across the country. Whether it is a result of understaffing, miscommunication, lack of background checks, or simply uncaring employees, some of our most vulnerable relatives may find themselves at risk where they are supposed to be cared for and safe.

Many nursing home abuse cases that go to trial result in large damages being awarded to the victim or his or her estate. One of the more recent cases that has been in the news ended with a jury award of over $90 million in West Virginia. The victim had stayed at the nursing home for just 19 days, and she died 18 days after being moved from the home into hospice. Her family filed a lawsuit that accused the nursing home of neglect, saying she had fallen several times and was dehydrated and malnourished. This case highlighted not only how large jury awards could be, but also the fact that nursing homes were not specifically covered under the state’s medical malpractice cap. Since this judgment was rendered, West Virginia legislators have been working to fix this omission.

However, if you would ask the family of the victim who won this enormous amount, they would not say the money makes up for the loss of their relative. They aren’t glad it happened because now they will have lots of money. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t bring her back. So why bother filing a lawsuit?

Some families want answers. Oftentimes it is very difficult to find out what happened to a relative at a nursing home. Such is the case for a man in South Carolina whose mother passed away at a nursing home in October, 2012. Before she died she told him she had been attacked by two women, and she was covered in bruises and had a broken hip. Local police were investigating, and the nursing home did an internal investigation, but the victim’s son is still not clear on what happened to his 90-year-old mother. In cases like this, relatives of the victim may file a lawsuit just to get access to the documents that tell what happened. The son in this case also wants to know who was responsible and that they were appropriately punished.

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February 15, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse among Worst in Nation

Nursing home neglect and abuse is a nationwide problem. Some of our most vulnerable citizens are at risk of being injured or even killed simply because of where they live because they can no longer care for themselves. Unfortunately, Kentucky ranks very low in the quality of nursing home care provided to its residents, and a bill that was recently passed by a state Senate committee will most likely not help matters.

According to the national nursing home database provided by Medicaid, 40% of Kentucky nursing homes rank below Medicaid’s average standard of care. Kentucky also has the dubious honor of being the state with the most federal fines for nursing home violations in 2012. We also have the highest number of serious nursing home deficiencies in the U.S. One would think that these facts would impact the profitability of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but it does not. Nursing home profits continue to increase exponentially even while the economy suffers and profits in other industries have fallen. Why is this the case? Because nursing homes have guaranteed customers. No matter how bad the economy is, there will always be a need for long-term care for our elderly or incapacitated residents.

A proposed bill that was recently passed by a state Senate committee is definitely not a step in the right direction for those who have suffered from nursing home neglect or abuse in Kentucky. The proposed bill would add an extra step for victims of nursing home abuse and their families. Before a nursing home personal injury or wrongful death case could be heard in court, it would have to be reviewed by a medical panel selected by both sides. This added step would force the victim to wait even longer for any compensation owed, and could potentially increase legal fees. There is also a concern that these medical review boards would be biased against the victim because the doctors on the boards would not want to say anything against a nursing home or assisted living facility that might retaliate by severing business ties.

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January 29, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Takes Many Forms, Some Lesser Known than Others

Selecting a nursing home for your loved one who can no longer live by themselves is a very hard task. Having already dealt with the emotionally draining part of making the decision, trying to find the right place can seem downright impossible. As Kentucky nursing home attorneys, we have witnessed the results of nursing home neglect and abuse. In previous articles, we have covered signs of abuse to look for when visiting residents and questions to ask before placing someone in a home or assisted living facility, but they bear repeating. We have also added a couple new issues to consider.

One of the most common signs of nursing home neglect is bedsores. Patients who are less mobile and do not receive the proper care can get bedsores, especially where their bodies are in almost constant contact with their beds. Bedsores can be avoided if the nursing home staff helps the resident move periodically to relieve these pressure points. Another obvious sign of neglect is malnourishment or dehydration. If you visit your loved one fairly frequently, you will be able to see a physical change if they are not getting enough to eat or drink.

Cuts or bruises may show neglect or abuse in nursing home residents as well. If residents aren’t checked often enough, they may try to get up to reach something or use the restroom unassisted, and they will fall and injure themselves. Sometimes proper precautions aren’t used when trying to move a resident, resulting in a fall from a bed or wheelchair. As awful as it sounds, sometimes residents are physically abused by the nursing home staff. If your loved one makes any type of accusation against one of the staff members, do not take it lightly. Make sure to have the complaint thoroughly investigated.

Incorrect medication dosing can also occur in a nursing home. The incorrect amount, or even the wrong drug altogether, could be given, causing complications or perhaps even death. As a recent case illustrates, these medication errors do not always involve pills. The estate of a deceased resident has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against an Illinois nursing home because a narcotic patch was put on her without a previous patch administered at the hospital being removed. The suit alleges that the extra dosage led to her death. When considering a nursing home, ask about their medication policies and what steps are put in place to make sure the residents are receiving the correct medication in the proper dosage.

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January 7, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Homes Need to Be Prepared for Natural Disasters

Kentucky may not seem like an area that would be prone to natural disasters. We are not along a large body of water where hurricanes and tsunamis hit; we are not in an extremely hot dry climate that can be decimated by wildfires; and we do not seem to be on the verge of falling into the ocean from an earthquake like parts of the West Coast. However, natural disasters do occur in Kentucky. Anyone who has lived in Louisville, KY for the last six or seven years has witnessed the effects of a hurricane, a devastating ice storm, numerous thunderstorms with high winds, and even tornadoes, all within the city limits.

Most Kentuckians were able to weather these situations with a little patience, a stay in a hotel room or at a friend’s house for a couple nights, and maybe a call to our insurance company for property damage. But for those who reside in Kentucky nursing homes or assisted living facilities, these natural disasters can be much more dangerous. Nursing homes are required to have a plan in place for how to handle emergencies caused by natural disasters, but investigations conducted by the federal government have found that the majority of these facilities do not have complete, written plans, their staffs have not been trained to handle emergencies, and emergency plans that are in place have never been practiced.

What can you do to help ensure your loved one is kept safe during a natural disaster? The chief executive of LeadingAge, a group comprised of 6,000 organizations that assist the elderly, suggests asking these questions when you visit the nursing home or assisted living facility:

1. What is your disaster plan? Please show me a copy.
2. How often is the staff drilled on your emergency procedures?
3. Are there any chains on the facility's exit doors? (Facilities housing patients with dementia need to ensure that residents do not wander off. But chains are extremely dangerous during a panicked evacuation and should never be used. Exit doors should have a punch code so staff and administrators can open doors in an emergency. )
4. What is the facility’s supply of medications, food and water? (federal guidelines mandate a seven-day emergency water supply.)
5. Does the facility have back-up generators in case of a power outage? (This is critical for residents on life-maintaining machines.)
6. Where would my loved one most likely be taken in an evacuation situation? Can I have the phone number of that facility?

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September 13, 2012

Nursing Home with Kentucky Ties Back in Business Three Months after Rape Allegations

On June 15, 2012, a family went to visit their 89-year-old relative residing at Kindred Nursing Home and Rehabilitation-Fairpark in Maryville, Tennessee. The home is run by Kindred, a Kentucky nursing home company based in Louisville. The nursing home resident, who suffers from dementia, told her visitors that she had been raped. A rape test confirmed she was correct, although it did not show who the rapist was. A complaint was filed with the state against the nursing home and on August 29, 2012 the nursing home was fined $3,000 by the state and $6,000 per day by the federal government until the situation was resolved. The facility was also prohibited from admitting any new patients or filing Medicare or Medicaid claims. As it was being run, the nursing home was not safe or healthy for its residents, according to the Tennessee Health Commissioner.

While the rapist still has not been identified, several changes have been made at the facility, which has allowed them to start accepting new residents again as of September 11, 2012. The Kentucky nursing home company that runs the facility has requested new background checks on all male employees at the facility. Nurses and other employees have been trained on how to recognize and report the abuse of patients. The sheriff’s office is providing on-site security while the home works to hire a private security company, and the locks on windows and doors and security cameras have been upgraded or added. To provide some necessary division between the administration and the nursing staff, a new licensed administrator has been hired who does not also oversee the nurses.

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August 28, 2012

Ohio Nursing Homes to be Paid for Providing Better Care to Residents

Nursing home abuse and neglect occurs much more frequently than it should. Victims and their families frequently file civil lawsuits requesting monetary compensation for their additional medical bills and pain and suffering caused by the nursing homes. They may also ask the court to require the nursing home or parent company to pay punitive damages. These are designed to punish the offenders so that they will not act in the same manner in the future. Because many nursing homes are run by multi-million dollar companies, and many states have placed caps on the amount of damages that can be awarded, this punishment is often not enough to make them change their ways. Abuse and neglect continue to occur.

As a result, Ohio has become the most recent state to try a different approach to remedy the situation. The majority of the payments made to nursing homes and assisted living facilities comes from Medicaid, a government program that provides health care to those who cannot afford it. Losing a portion of this funding could have a serious effect on the bottom line of nursing home providers. Officials in Ohio have decided to withhold up to 10% of Medicaid payments from nursing homes that do not meet their criteria. Twenty standards have been set by the state, such as resident satisfaction, the number of nurses on staff, and the amount of medical issues that occur in a nursing home. Nursing homes that do not meet at least five of those standards can lose up to $16.44 per day per resident. Critics of the plan are already saying that meeting just five of the standards to get the money seems too easy. But, over time, the plan is to increase the number of standards that must be met to earn the extra funding.

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June 8, 2012

Company that Ran Kentucky Nursing Homes Leaving the State

Extendicare Health Services Inc., which currently operates 21 Kentucky nursing homes, announced that it would no longer maintain any of the facilities in Kentucky. The company will be leasing all of their Kentucky long-term care facilities to an undisclosed Texas company. The agreement and transfer is scheduled to be complete by July 1, 2012.

What prompted the decision to leave the state altogether? The president of Extendicare said, “the combination of a worsening litigation environment and the lack of any likelihood of tort reform in the state of Kentucky has made this the prudent decision for our company and unit-holders.” His quote means the company thinks there are too many nursing home abuse and negligence lawsuits being filed in the state and that there are no limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in a lawsuit. This may seem costly to a nursing home company that is trying to make as much money as possible, but it is the best way to protect residents from the abuse and negligence that can and does occur in Kentucky nursing homes.

Rather than making it harder for victims of abuse and neglect to seek compensation or refusing to operate any facilities in the state, Maresa Fawns of the Kentucky Justice Association says nursing home companies should increase the quality of their care if they want to avoid lawsuits. If residents are being treated properly, they don’t have any reason to take legal action. Bernie Vonderheide of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform agrees, saying “We need nursing homes that abide by the regulations and provide good care. Then they don’t have to worry about being sued.”

A few Kentucky legislators tried to introduce a bill that would require nursing home residents to take their complaints to a medical review board before they could take legal action. The board would have been made up of three doctors – one selected by the nursing home, one selected by the resident, and one selected by the other two selected doctors. If the review panel decided the resident had a case, a lawsuit could then be filed. The bill has not passed. Opponents of the bill said it would delay the victim’s receipt of compensation and that doctors may favor the nursing homes in their decisions in order to gain more business.

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April 26, 2012

Nursing Home Settles Wrongful Death Suit, Daughter Still Wants Answers

Wrongful death lawsuits are not always about the money. When her mother passed away in 2009, Ms. Garrett was left with her grief and a host of unanswered questions. A resident at a nursing home, her mother had some health issues and would easily choke when eating. One time when she was eating, she began to choke and a maintenance person saved her life with the Heimlich maneuver. After that, Ms. Garrett was promised by the nursing home staff that her mother’s food would be cut up small enough that she would not choke.

Then in 2009, the nursing home contacted Ms. Garrett to tell her that her mother had died. After receiving conflicting stories about how it happened, she looked at the death certificate. It listed the cause of death as several things including heart disease and kidney disease. But when the nursing home administrator was questioned by her, he stated that her mother had choked once again, but this time she did not survive. A disagreement ensued regarding whether or not anyone at the home attempted to help or resuscitate the victim since there was not a signed “do not resuscitate” form on file.

Ms. Garrett ultimately filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. The home settled the suit for $35,000, some of which was paid back to the home for her mother’s stay. The settlement amount may seem to be a small amount to receive for the death of one’s parent. But Ms. Garrett says she was not looking for financial compensation and didn’t even want to file a lawsuit in the first place; “I don't want people to lose their jobs because we need the home.” So why did she do it?

“I just want answers” she said, and she did not see any other way to get the information she was looking for. Understandably, when a wrongful death occurs, those who were close to or involved in the situation may not want to share any of their knowledge about what happened for fear of being held responsible or getting someone else in trouble. You can ask as many questions as you like, and they may still refuse to answer. Ms. Garrett had asked for answers and even contacted the state Department of Health, which started an investigation. She still did not know exactly what caused her mother’s death.

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March 19, 2012

Kentucky House Passes Bill to Require Fingerprint Background Checks on Nursing Home Employees

Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are some of our most vulnerable friends and family members. Even if they are suffering abuse or neglect, they may be physically unable to say anything, or they may be afraid of retaliation if they report this type of treatment. Even family members that visit their relatives frequently may miss the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.

In an effort to protect this segment of society, the Kentucky House of Representatives has introduced and passed HB 250. This bill, if it becomes law, would require a more thorough background check on potential and current nursing home employees. Currently, name-based background checks are run only on prospective employees that would have direct contact with the residents. Under the new bill, fingerprint checks would be done on applicants to determine if they have been convicted of a serious felony and a database search would show any record of previous abuse. Even after being hired, employees would continue to be checked to make sure they had not been convicted of a serious felony after being hired.

The bill includes $4 million worth of state or federal funding that would cover the cost of the equipment and training and the background checks until 2014. After that, the long-term care facilities would be required to either cover the cost or pass the cost on to the applicant or employee. The background checks would be done at a Cabinet for Health and Family services field office, of which there are about 36 throughout Kentucky.

Some representatives objected, stating the cost would be significantly more than the checks being done now, and that the currt checks are sufficient. Others noted that the federal funding is part of the Affordable Care Act, which may be overturned by the Supreme Court, so the funding would disappear.

The bill has passed in the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate.

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January 26, 2012

Kentucky Nursing Home Staffers Arrested for Stealing Patients’ Medication

Recently, two nurses at Kentucky nursing homes have been in the news for stealing medication from patients. The first case involves Jinger Butler. For six months in 2010, Ms. Butler allegedly took medication from 10 patients at Cumberland Valley Manor Nursing Home in Burkesville, Kentucky, and replaced them with different pills. She has been charged with 11 counts of theft of a controlled substance, which can result in a sentence of one to five years of jail time. She has also been charged with 11 counts of neglect because patients were denied proper care by her when she failed to administer their prescribed medications. The neglect charges carry a sentence between five and ten years.

In Paducah, Kentucky a similar situation occurred in December 2011. Lisa Helton was a nurse at Superior Care Home on Clay Street in Paducah. She was in charge of the medication cart on the night of December 20th when she took 12 tablets of Norco, a pain killer medication, which was supposed to be given to a patient. Ms. Helton was fired from the nursing home and arrested.

While the above two cases hit close to home for Kentuckians, this problem is occurring across the nation. In Danvers Massachusetts, a 29-year-old nurse was arraigned on January 20 in Salem District Court. She has been charged with taking patients’ prescribed pain medications and replacing them with over-the-counter medications in the fall of 2011. Before she proceeds to court, she will be allowed to receive treatment for drug addiction. She will most likely be admitted to a program offered by the state specifically for nurses with drug or alcohol abuse issues. Kentucky offers a similar program called “KARE,” or the Kentucky Alternative Recovery Effort for Nurses. The program offers nurses a chance to be treated for their dependency without losing their job or license.

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January 5, 2012

Woman Dies after Being Left on Nursing Home Bus, Kentucky Company Involved

On September 9, 2008, an 87-year-old woman got on a nursing home bus for a trip to the grocery store. When she failed to appear back at the nursing home, nursing staff, family members and police searched for her. She was found 14 hours later, still on the bus. She had become hungry and thirsty and consumed hydrogen peroxide and Tylenol from a first aid kit. She passed away two months later, and family members and friends allege it was a result of the nursing home’s neglecting to return her safely to her room.

The victim’s niece filed a lawsuit against Hearthstone Assisted Living in 2010, but never received any information from the company. The facility was taken over by Kentucky nursing home company Elmcroft in August of that year, but it denied any liability in the incident since it only purchased the assets from Hearthstone. Hearthstone subsequently dissolved and its attorneys stopped representing the company. Because the company never responded to the lawsuit and it failed to appoint new representation when the attorneys quit, a default judgment was granted in the victim’s favor in the amount of $1.65 million.

In many situations this would be a positive outcome for the victim’s family, but this case is different. An award in a case like this is normally paid by a company’s liability insurance, much like the damages caused by someone in an auto accident are covered by his or her auto insurance. Where this situation differs is that nursing homes in Michigan, where the nursing home was located, are not required to carry liability insurance like car owners are. Unfortunately, Hearthstone was self-insured, so when the company was dissolved, the insurance disappeared as well.

Ironically, in the same year the incident happened, a Michigan state representative supported legislation that would have required nursing homes to carry at least $500,000 in liability insurance. The bill did not pass. Michigan is not alone; the majority of states, including Indiana and Kentucky do not require these facilities to have liability insurance, leaving victims and their families without a way to receive payment in this type of situation.

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November 19, 2011

Tennessee Nursing Homes May be Getting Worse Instead of Better

Earlier this year, Tennessee passed a law placing a cap on damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in nursing home claims. Victims of nursing home negligence can only receive up to $750,000 for non-economic damages. The cap does not apply if intentional misconduct is found. Intentional misconduct means an individual did something knowing it would cause harm. Economic damages, including lost wages and medical bills, do not have a cap. This new law negatively affects nursing home residents in three ways. First, the damages cap obviously limits the amount an individual and his family can receive for an incident that may have caused injury or even death. Second, the cap may cause some attorneys to decide not to pursue the cases because the potential award for the victims is not enough to warrant litigating. Third, because the amount a nursing home may have to pay for a negligence claim has been drastically reduced, nursing homes may become even more lax in the care of their residents because they have less to lose.

According to recent data regarding nursing home care in Tennessee, nursing homes are already not providing the quality care residents deserve. Currently Tennessee nursing homes provide an average of 0.62 hours of nursing care to each patient every day. While state law requires only 0.4 hours per day, the current rate is still slightly below Kentucky’s 0.8 hours per day and much lower than Delaware’s 1.22 per day. Studies show that an increase in nursing hours for patients directly increases the quality of care. Unfortunately, increasing care hours also means increasing staffing, which nursing homes are hesitant to do for financial reasons.

When a problem in a nursing home needs to be investigated, Tennessee again fails to deliver. In 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that serious deficiencies that could be harmful to patients were missed more than 25 percent of the time during state nursing home inspections. In April 2011, the GAO reported that the state was unable to prioritize complaints and did not investigate in a timely manner the complaints in which patients were in danger or actually harmed. Some of these recent issues may have arisen from a state bill that was passed in 2009 that no longer required nursing homes to provide reports regarding negative patient events. The bill also eliminated state investigations into such situations. Proponents of the bill said these changes were necessary to allow more serious complaints to be investigated.

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November 10, 2011

Negligence and Abuse in Kentucky Personal Care Homes

Personal care homes are intended to be places where people who cannot live on their own can safely reside. These homes do not provide full-time nursing care, just assistance as needed by the patient. Kentucky currently has 83 personal care homes. Many of the 3,000 residents of these homes are mentally disabled or mentally ill. Unfortunately, as in nursing homes, many of these homes are improperly run, resulting in resident negligence and abuse.

In August, 2011, Larry Joe Lee disappeared from Falmoth Nursing Home, a personal care home near Frankfort, Kentucky. Mr. Lee had suffered a brain injury in a farming accident when he was 11 and was schizophrenic and bipolar. His remains were found four weeks later near the Licking River. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Office of Inspector General investigated the incident. Documents released in October show that Mr. Lee had not been checked on for three hours when he disappeared, and that the home did not have a policy regarding continual supervision for the residents. Since Mr. Lee’s disappearance and subsequent death, the home has instituted new policies and training regarding patient monitoring.

Larry Joe Lee is not the first person to disappear from a Kentucky personal care home. Larry Bruce Huff disappeared from the Golden Years personal care home in eastern Kentucky in January 2007. Staff at the home waited 17 hours before they notified police, and Mr. Huff froze to death. Mr. Huff had schizophrenia and mild dementia and was prone to wandering away. He had left the home six times in the two weeks before his death. Golden Years was given a type A citation, which indicates that the facility put an individual in danger, after the incident.

The Golden Years personal care home received another type A citation in 2007 when the operator of the home, James “Chum” Tackett, struck and injured a resident. Mr. Tackett was forced to resign and not have any contact with the facility or its residents. Mr. Tackett disobeyed the court order by returning to Golden Years, and the facility was cited again in 2009. Mr. Tackett was also accused of stealing $300,000 from the home and its residents and spending it on himself. Earlier this month, he admitted he stole the money and pled guilty to exploitation of a vulnerable adult, theft, and income tax fraud. While residents were left without clean towels, clothing, and fresh food, Mr. Tackett was spending the money on vehicles and other items for himself. The home was closed by the state of Kentucky in October 2011.

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November 2, 2011

Nursing Home Resident Awarded over $1 Million for Personal Injuries

On October 28, 2011, a jury awarded Irene Hendrix over $1 million after she suffered multiple head injuries at Cambridge Place Nursing Home in Lexington, Kentucky. Ms. Hendrix, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, was using a seated walker, called a Merry Walker. She disappeared from the hall and was found later in an empty room, lying on her face.

As a result of her fall, Ms. Hendrix suffered facial bruising and a contusion on her forehead, multiple fractures in the bones of her face, and bleeding on the brain. She was hospitalized for three weeks before being able to return to a nursing home. Her family claims she came close to dying during her hospital stay.

The victim’s family filed a lawsuit against Cambridge Place Nursing Home and the management company for alleged negligence. Because of Ms. Hendrix’s age and medical condition, a written care plan stated she needed to be checked on when using the walker. The management company of the nursing home argued that the care plan was in place and was being followed at the time of the accident. However, several nurses that were interviewed during the course of the investigation stated they did not even know a written care plan existed for Ms. Hendrix.

The award Ms. Hendrix will receive includes just over $24,000 for her medical bills and $1 million for her physical and mental pain and suffering. A couple of factors could have affected the larger part of the award if the situation had been slightly different. Many states have instituted a medical malpractice cap on non-economic awards. This means there is a limit on the amount that can be given to a plaintiff for pain and suffering, emotional distress and other compensatory damages that are not related to lost wages or medical bills. Usually the cap ranges from $250,000 to $500,000 per case. Kentucky does not have a medical malpractice cap, so the entire $1 million in compensatory damages could be awarded. Also, because the negligent party was a nursing home rather than a physician or medical establishment, the medical malpractice cap would not have applied to the entire amount even in a state that has a limit. Oftentimes in these types of cases, it is up to the jury to determine how much of the negligence was medical and the award is adjusted based on that determination.

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May 16, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: Madison Manor is Sued and Placed on Federal "Special Focus Facilities" List

The estate of a Richmond nursing home resident who was abused and neglected while staying at the Richmond Health and Rehabilitation Center, also called Madison Manor, is suing the nursing home and three of its former nursing home workers for Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect.

Armeda Thomas lived at the long-term care facility from February 2007 through September 2008. She died in November 2008. While Thomas was staying at the Richmond nursing home, family members installed a hidden video camera to monitor the care that she was receiving because they were worried she was being mistreated.

The video footage recorded in August and September 2008 shows nursing home workers physically and verbally abusing her, as well as neglecting to feed and clean her. Three former Madison Manor nursing home employees, Amanda G. Sallee, Jaclyn Dawn VanWinkle, and Valerie Lamb, were charged criminally for abusing and neglecting Thomas, who at the time of the alleged incidents was in her 80’s and suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Among the abuse incidents recorded was that of Thomas being handled roughly, including footage of a worker recklessly lifting the elderly resident's legs higher than required to make incontinent changes and picking her up by her neck. Not only did workers fail to feed Thomas on more than one occasion, but a nursing assistant ate the patient's food twice. Over two weeks, Thomas lost 19 pounds.

The Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for Thomas' personal injuries, legal fees, and court costs for chronic neglect, abuse, and substandard care.

Last month, the federal Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services added Madison Manor to its “Special Focus Facilities” list. The list names nursing homes that have exhibited more issues than other US nursing homes—especially over a long period of time.

Madison Manor sued for negligence in care, Richmond Register, May 7, 2009

Nursing home now on federal troubled list,, May 9, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Special Focus Facilities, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Evidence Shot Using Family’s Hidden Camera,, December 1, 2008

May 4, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse: Lexington Nursing Workers Acted Inappropriately When They Took Cell Phone Photos of Residents, Says State

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says that employees at a Lexington nursing home acted inappropriately when they used their cell phones to take pictures and make audio recordings of residents without their consent and then sent the images, with sexual song lyrics attached, to other nursing home workers. Bluegrass Care and Rehabilitation Center received a Type A Citation for the incidents, which noted that the Kentucky nursing home does not appear to have ever trained or told staff that taking sexually exploitive photos or recordings of residents is a form of nursing home abuse.

The citation says that licensed staff, nursing aides, and housekeepers were interviewed about the incidents and they said that this type of activity was typical at the nursing home and was not considered abuse, which is why no one ever reported the photos or audio recordings to supervisors. Last week, the administrator for the nursing home said that the facility had conducted a complete investigation and a number of employees had been let go.

Bluegrass Care and Rehabilitation Center actually bans its workers from having cell phones in the resident-care sections of the facility—a policy that the citation says the nursing home clearly failed to enforce. The citation says that the cell phone photos and recordings led to the abuse of seven nursing home residents and that the Lexington nursing home failed to implement a system that protected residents from nursing home abuse. As a result, the citation says that residents at the long-term care facility were in imminent danger.

Under the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights 400.022, Kentucky nursing home residents are entitled to a number or rights while staying at a long-term care facility, including the including the rights to:

• Religious and civil liberties.
• Privacy.
• Communication free from censorship.

Kentucky nursing home residents are also entitled to a stay at a long-term care facility where they are protected from nursing home abuse or neglect. If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of Kentucky nursing home abuse or neglect, there are legal remedies available to hold the nursing home facility and its workers financially and civilly liable.

Nursing home staff took inappropriate photos of residents,, April 29, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Read the Kentucky Nursing Home Citation (PDF)

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Resident Rights, Medicare

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March 18, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: Winchester Nursing Home Sued for Wrongful Death

The son of a Winchester nursing home patient is suing the Winchester Centre for Health and Rehabilitation for Kentucky wrongful death. William Baker died on January 31, 2008 after he developed breathing problems while staying at the long-term care facility.

The 54-year-old nursing home resident had been admitted to the home on January 5, 2008 after suffering a brain aneurysm. According to the Kentucky wrongful death lawsuit, the nursing home neglected to monitor his respiratory condition and failed to suction him, which resulted in his breathing problems. He died at Lexington hospital.

The Kentucky nursing home neglect complaint accuses the long-term care facility of not giving Baker enough medical care and attention while maintaining staffing levels that resulted in incredibly high nurse/resident ratios that could be considered reckless. Among the other allegations against the Winchester Centre for Health and Rehabilitation:

• Failure to properly train and supervise nursing home workers and residents.
• Failure to care for Baker with dignity and respect.
• Failure to properly evaluate his medical needs.
• Failure to provide the patient with the necessary services he required.

Baker’s son says that the nursing home’s negligence lead to his father experiencing serious trauma and ultimately caused his death.

The Winchester nursing home has received a lot of negative publicity lately. It nearly lost its Medicare and Medicaid funding until it achieved compliance last month. It has been sanctioned by both federal and state officials for alleged Kentucky nursing home neglect and abuse citations. It even received a Type A citation, which is the most serious one that the state of Kentucky can issue to a long-term care facility for abuse or neglect.

Winchester nursing home sued in man's death,, March 5, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: Winchester Care Facility to Lose Medicare and Medicaid Funding After Receiving Type A Citation for Alleged Abuse and Neglect, Kentucky Injury Lawyer Blog, January 19, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Read the Complaint (PDF)

Winchester Center for Health and Rehabilitation

February 11, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: New Bill Calls for Long-Term Care Facilities to Display Medicare and Medicaid Ratings

In Kentucky, Rep Carl Rollins has introduced a bill that calls on Kentucky nursing homes to display the rating they were issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The new five-star federal rating system ranks Medicaid-approved nursing homes in the state according to the quality of care that they provide residents.

Rollins, who has been unsuccessful in his efforts to push through a bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to have no less than a certain minimum number of employees at each home, says this new bill could hold nursing homes responsible and compel them to work harder to improve their rating.

He wants each Kentucky nursing home to display its rating in a prominent place on the premise, such a the main entrance of the facility, and include a brief explanation of what the rating means. For example, a one star rating signifies the long-term facility care is ranked as “much below average," a three star rating means “about average,” and a five star rating means “much above average.”

287 Kentucky nursing homes were rated under the new Medicare and Medicaid rating system. 10% of these homes received 5 stars, while 23% of the facilities received just one star.

The AARP offers a number of recommendations of what to look for when choosing a nursing home for a loved one, including:

• Ask for a list of the nursing homes in the area that you are considering.
• Try to choose a home that is conveniently located so you or others can visit your loved one.
• Visit the home and take a good look at the facilities.
• Check the nursing home for cleanliness and sanitation.
• Find out how many nursing home workers there are at the facility compared to the number of patients
• Inquire about how many employees work each shift.
• Look at the way residents and nursing home workers interact with one another.

Choosing a Kentucky nursing home where your loved one will be safe and well cared for is one of the most important decisions you can make for him or her at this time. In the event that you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, an experienced Kentucky nursing home abuse attorney can help you deal with the situation and file a personal injury lawsuit for compensation on your loved one's behalf.

Bill would require posting of nursing home's rating,, February 9, 2009

Choosing a Nursing Home, AARP, January 2007

Related Web Resources:

Five Star Quality Rating, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Nursing Homes in Kentucky

Continue reading "Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: New Bill Calls for Long-Term Care Facilities to Display Medicare and Medicaid Ratings" »

January 19, 2009

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: Winchester Care Facility to Lose Medicare and Medicaid Funding After Receiving Type A Citation for Alleged Abuse and Neglect

A Kentucky nursing home has been cited for alleged abuse and neglect. State officials gave Winchester Center for Health and Rehabilitation a Type A citation, which is the most serious citation the state can issue for nursing home abuse or neglect. Now, the federal government says that the home’s contract for Medicare and Medicaid funding will be terminated. This means that the Kentucky nursing home won’t be able to take care of people who receive Medicaid and Medicare.

Kathy Gannoe, Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass’s executive director, says that the problems that led to the Type A citation involved medical errors that have been taken care of. Gannoe also says that most of the 31 complaints the agency received in the last three months about the Kentucky long-term care facility have been resolved.

This is not the first time the Winchester Centre for Health and Rehabilitation has had to modify its patient care. In 2004, the Winchester facility was one of four Kindred Nursing Centers homes that reached a $3.7 million settlement with the state for untreated infections and their delayed treatment, improper restraint use resulting in injuries, failure to properly administer patient medications, failure to evaluate and treat wounds, and insufficient supplies for treating life-threatening illnesses. Also, at least two Kentucky nursing home lawsuits accusing Winchester Centre for Health and Rehabilitation of negligent care have been settled.

Current residents at the 183-bed facility who qualify for Medicare and Medicaid funding will have to be transferred to other facilities. To be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, Kentucky nursing homes must meet federal standards regarding food storage and preparation and patient care. Central Kentucky has already lost 400 nursing home beds for Medicaid patients for a number of reasons.

Nursing home owner spent $3.7 million in 2004 case,, January 16, 2009

Winchester nursing home to lose funding, Kentucky, January 14, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Winchester Centre for Health and Rehabilitation

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Continue reading "Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Attorney: Winchester Care Facility to Lose Medicare and Medicaid Funding After Receiving Type A Citation for Alleged Abuse and Neglect" »

January 5, 2009

23% of Kentucky Nursing Homes Rated “Much Below Average” by Medicare’s New Ranking System

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has unveiled a new online rating system that allows people to compare the quality of care they can get at nearly 16,000 US nursing homes throughout the United States. The 5-star ranking system, which rates the nursing care facilities using data about nurse staffing, quality measures, and health inspections, was developed to help prospective residents and their families choose the right long-term care facility. For example, among Lexington nursing homes (within 25 miles of the city):

1 Star:
• Cambridge Place
• Winchester Centre for Health & Rehabilitation
• Richmond Place Rehabilitation and Health Center

5 Stars:
• Homestead Nursing Center

According to the new rating system, 23% of Kentucky’s 287 nursing homes that qualify for Medicare and Medicaid Services received a 1-star ranking for “much below average,” while just 10% of Kentucky nursing homes received 5-stars.

While Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform President Bernie Vonderheid called the new system “historical” and a way to monitor nursing homes, Kentucky Association of Homes and Services for the Aged CEO and President Tim Veno cautioned that the system has its flaws and could sometimes prove misleading. For example, Veno says nursing homes that have more seriously ill patients might receive a lower ranking.

The new rating system is also providing a new nursing standard that calls for every resident to receive at least 4.08 hours of nursing care every day. Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass Inc. programs and services director Sherry Culp, however, says that it will take awhile to determine how well the system actually reflects what goes on in the nursing homes.

While the new rating system provides additional information for people deciding whether to admit a loved one to a particular Kentucky nursing home, there is still no substitute for actually visiting a long-term care facility, examining the nursing home, and talking to nursing home workers to make sure that a place is the right fit. Nursing home abuse and nursing neglect continue to be problems in a number of Kentucky nursing homes, and it is important for family members to do everything they can to make sure their sick or elderly loved one isn’t placed in a home where they will get hurt or be ignored.

Medicare rates nursing homes,, December 19, 2008

Find and Compare Nursing Homes,

Related Web Resources:
Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass Inc.

Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform

Continue reading "23% of Kentucky Nursing Homes Rated “Much Below Average” by Medicare’s New Ranking System" »

December 29, 2008

Kentucky Nursing Home Neglect: Former Madison Manor Aide Charged with Wanton Neglect in Resident Abuse Case Shot on Video

In Kentucky’s Madison District Court, a former nursing home aide pleaded not guilty to charges she neglected an elderly resident. Jaclyn Dawn VanWinkle was charged with wanton endangerment for the lack of care that Armeda Thomas received while staying at the Madison Manor Nursing Home in Richmond.

Thomas’s family members hid a camera in her room after they found 36 unexplained bruises on her body. The video footage showed nursing workers physically and verbally abusing the elderly resident, as well as neglecting to clean and feed her. Thomas has Alzheimer’s.

While VanWinkle is not accused of physically assaulting Thomas, the charges against the 25-year-old stem from an incident when a nursing danced in front of the 84-year-old resident while another nursing worker held her arms. The former nursing aide was also accused of failing to use a gait belt when moving Thomas from her bed to a wheelchair.

Nine nursing aides were fired after the alleged Kentucky nursing home abuse incidents were reported. VanWinkle, however, says that she took good care of Thomas and was shocked when she was let go from her job. She says that people misunderstood what they were seeing when they watched the footage of someone dancing and singing in front of the elderly resident. At the time the alleged abuse incident occurred, VanWinkle had not yet received her certified nursing assistant’s license.

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services has cited Madison Manor over the alleged nursing abuse incidents. The Kentucky nursing home says it has taken action to remedy the problems.

Former nursing home aide pleads not guilty, Richmond Register, December 23, 2008

Former Richmond nursing home aide is charged with neglect,, December 19, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Read Madison Manor's Statement About the Abuse Charge Filed Against VanWinkle, December 18, 2008 (PDF)

Madison Manor

Continue reading "Kentucky Nursing Home Neglect: Former Madison Manor Aide Charged with Wanton Neglect in Resident Abuse Case Shot on Video" »

December 1, 2008

Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Evidence Shot Using Family’s Hidden Camera

Video footage shot at a Richmond, Kentucky nursing home shows workers abusing and neglecting an 84-year-old resident. The video was recorded on a camera hidden in the bedroom of Armeda Thomas, an Alzheimer’s resident at Madison Manor.

Family members had placed the camera in the elderly woman’s room after they noticed that she had multiple “handprint” bruises all over her body and nursing home staffers couldn’t properly explain what happened. In fact, the workers claimed the bruises occurred because Thomas was “combative.”

The footage shows nursing home staffers taunting and physically abusing Thomas, as well as neglecting to clean and feed her. The nursing home abuse and neglect incidents were shot on videotape between August 17 and September 8, 2008.

On video, nursing home staffers are seen manhandling and harassing Thomas, including pulling her out of bed by her neck and wrists. X-rays taken of Thomas in September showed that she had fractures in her lumbar vertebrae.

Documents were also reportedly falsified to show that the 84-year-old had been fed. In two instances, it was the nursing home assistant who ate Thomas’s food. The elderly resident reportedly lost 19 pounds in two weeks.

Now, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is considering filing criminal charges against the Richmond home for nursing home abuse and neglect. Since the criminal probe began, evidence has surfaced indicating that at least 17 other nursing home residents with cognitive impairments had sustained “injuries of unknown origin” and that Madison Manor failed to properly investigate the causes of their injuries.

Madison Manor has been issued a Type-A citation, which is the most serious citation that the inspector general's office of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services can give a nursing home. Although the issues for which the citation was given were reportedly corrected last month, some deficiencies still exist.

Thomas, who was removed from the home immediately after the abuse was discovered, died from Alzheimer’s-related complications on November 7.

Videotape at nursing home records abuse,, November 30, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Madison Manor

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Continue reading "Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Evidence Shot Using Family’s Hidden Camera " »

July 21, 2008

Kentucky’s Former #2 Nursing Home Regulator May Have Lived Rent Free in Home that Belonged to Nursing Home Operator

In Kentucky, Moses Young, the Ex-Assistant Director of Nursing Home Regulation at the State Inspector General’s Office, was reportedly fired following allegations that he had an improper relationship with the owner of the Garrard Convalescent Home in Northern Kentucky.

Among the allegations, Young is accused of living—possibly rent-free—in a house owned by Ralph Stacey, Jr., the operator/owner of the nursing home. The State Attorney General and the FBI are currently conducting a criminal investigation to determine whether criminal charges need to be filed against Young.

The Garrard Convalescent Home has come under fire following 23 complaints in the last 4 years accusing the care residence of nursing home neglect, abuse, and problems with bedbugs. Records show that state investigators looked into the complaints and the home was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Now, however, there is concern that Young’s relationship with Stacey may have compromised the investigations, as well as the safety and care of the residents residing at the home.

Kentucky’s Inspector General fired Young in May for possible conflicts of interest and using his position with the state for financial profit. While an investigation confirmed that Young had been residing in a home that belonged to Stacey in Griffin Gate, a gated subdivision in Lexington, the former regulator reportedly could not provide evidence documenting that he has paid Stacey rent.

Documentation also showed that Young called Stacey 427 times over an 18-month period using a state government cellular phone—usually on days when investigators were about to conduct surprise inspections following the complaints.

Since the probe into Young’s relationship with Stacey, the nursing home has been given a Type A citation for jeopardizing the safety of residents. Kentucky is recommending that the Garrard Nursing Home be slapped with a $500,000 fine.

Last week, Young appealed the decision terminating him from the post. He has denied all allegations.

If you are the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect at a Kentucky nursing home, contact our Louisville nursing home abuse lawyers for your free consultation.

State nursing home inspector fired,, July 19, 2008

Ex-chief of nursing home inspections appeals firing,, July 19, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Garrard Convalescent Home

How to Protect Nursing Home Residents (PDF), Commonwealth of Kentucky

Continue reading "Kentucky’s Former #2 Nursing Home Regulator May Have Lived Rent Free in Home that Belonged to Nursing Home Operator" »