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The attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan provide effective, aggressive representation to individuals injured in the New York area. Our priority is to maximize the recovery of our clients injured due to the neglect of others.

A rarity only a few decades ago, nursing homes operating for profit have exploded across the country. According to NPQ, for-profit nursing homes account for over 70 percent of all facilities across the country. According to elder care advocates, the rapid takeover of the nursing home system has harmed America’s vulnerable senior citizens. Instead of focusing on providing the best quality care for a reasonable price, for-profit nursing homes choose to maximize their income while limiting their costs and the resulting legal liability from their cost-cutting measures.

In general, the rise of for-profit nursing homes has coincided with the consolidation of the nursing home industry which means a senior citizen is more likely to choose a corporate nursing home chain than the once-ubiquitous retirement communities that operated solely for the best interest of their residents. Considering the deep pockets of a corporate chain, it would be reasonable to assume the potential for large settlements in the cases of mistreatment or elder abuse would incentivize these corporations to treat their residents with the utmost respect.

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After a spate of negative press coverage last year, Medicare has only issued limited guidance for the upcoming natural disaster season. After widespread lack of preparation in the wake of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Hurricane Harvey in Texas harmed America’s nursing homes, many patient advocates are worried about the nation’s nursing home residents. According to these advocates, the same systems and policies that led to widespread power outages and death last year have not been fixed yet.

Last September when Hurricane Irma struck Florida, residents of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills found themselves stuck at a nursing home without any air conditioning, power, or a backup generator – all violations of Medicare policies. Sadly, fourteen of the residents at this now-closed nursing home passed away during the 90-degree heat which overtook the nursing home for a week. In response to these flagrant violations, Medicare passed emergency planning regulations last November which required each facility to:

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In response to insufficient medical and nursing staff, Medicare has lowered ratings for 1 out of every 11 nursing homes across the country. The lowered ratings come after the government agency retooled the way it calculates the nursing staff at each nursing home. Under the new method, which requires nursing homes to submit payroll information every quarter, nursing staff numbers appeared grossly deficient at facilities across the country. After Medicare warned nursing homes in April about a possible reduction in their rating without an increase in nursing staff, the government agency followed through last week and reduced the star-rating for nearly 1,400 nursing homes across the country.

For the most part, the nursing homes with recently reduced ratings lacked a sufficient number of registered nurses, which are the “highest-trained caregivers” and responsible for managing other nurses. Under Medicare guidelines, a nursing home only needs to have a single registered nurse working eight hours per day. However, most nursing homes are not meeting these simple guidelines or could not provide payroll information proving the requirement was satisfied. According to Medicare officials, payroll information is not usually “taken seriously” by nursing homes and forcing the facilities to provide proof through their payroll system will hopefully force nursing homes to take their record keeping more seriously.

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The Attorney General for the State of New York charged 57-year-old Jerry Clarke, a Rochester Nurse, with abusing a nursing home resident. Clarke, who worked at Creekview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, has been charged with a felony count of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person and a misdemeanor count of willful violation of health laws. Creekview says it released Clarke, whom it had employed for six years, upon learning of the pending investigation.

According to the indictment, Clarke wrestled and punched a 64-year-old patient at the nursing home multiple times. While violently assaulting the senior citizen, Clarke allegedly yelled, “I told you not to try me” along with several racial slurs. The attack occurred against a resident, whose name was withheld from all news accounts, was unable to take care of himself because of known mental and physical handicaps. According to the indictment, Clarke “smelled of alcohol and appeared to be high during the incident.”

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After increased regulation under the Obama administration, President Trump has whittled away at federal regulations targeting nursing homes and meant to prevent nursing home abuse across the country. At the same time, the country’s aging population is putting more senior citizens in nursing homes. According to research by Morningstar, by 2020, a full 40 percent of all deaths will occur in a nursing home. Elder care advocates worry about an increasing number of Americans being allowed into a decreasingly regulated nursing home system.

According to elder care advocates, their worry is not misplaced. Between 2013 and 2018, almost four out of every 10 nursing homes in the country received a citation for a “serious violation” that could endanger nursing home residents. Under previous administrations, these violations would typically come levied with a serious fine – hopefully high enough to deter future behavior. Under the Trump administration, however, the amount of these fines has been significantly reduced through new guidelines issued in December 2017. In an example cited by the Kaiser Foundation, a nursing home was fined $300,000 in 2013 after a nursing home resident died because the staff failed to effectively monitor and treat a wound. Under the new guidelines, the maximum fine the nursing home could receive is $21,000.

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The government recently adopted a more accurate measurement for determining when a nursing home has sufficient staffing levels and the results show a glaring problem across the nursing home industry. According to Kaiser Health News, the new method of recording hospital staffing shows a 12 percent decrease in hospital staffs. Further, there seems to be a severe fluctuation at many nursing homes which have sufficient nurses during the week but insufficient staff on the weekends. The new evidence shows that despite the minimal Medicaid requirements on the nursing staff levels at nursing homes, many nursing homes are still failing.

Under the previous method for calculating nursing staff, nursing homes would be required to provide all payroll information for the previous two weeks and government regulators would tally and report on the number of nurses employed during that time period. Because nursing homes sometimes knew when an inspection would occur ahead of time, this method was not generally considered accurate. Under the new method for calculating nursing staff, which Medicare began in April of this year, nursing homes must provide a report to Medicaid on staffing throughout the entire year.

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A Canadian man is telling the story of a short-term hospital stay that turned into a year-long nightmare after he developed a pressure ulcer, also known as a decubitus ulcer or bedsore. The senior citizen, Vinal Michaud, was admitted to the hospital for kidney stones – a fairly routine medical procedure. After spending ten days at the hospital in June 2007, Michaud was released back to his home. It was only when he returned home that he discovered the pressure ulcer.

Michaud, who is a paraplegic and does not feel sensation below his waist, only discovered bedsore when his at-home nurse saw the wound and alerted him. According to Michaud, the nurse told him “We’re going to have to look at that right away.” A doctor visit diagnosed the pressure ulcer as a Stage IV bedsore – the most serious categorization. Michaud, who said he could not feel the pressure ulcer developing because he has been unable to walk since his spinal cord was crushed in a tractor accident when he was ten-years-old, began medication and ointments immediately.

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A Canadian woman developed a stage-four pressure ulcer after spending several weeks at a hospital recovering from hip surgery. The woman, Lola Chiasson Hawkins, had a bed sore so deep it reached to her bone by the time the hospital staff recognized the severity of the problem and took corrective measures. Perhaps even worse, her stage-four bed sore, the most severe kind, was only discovered because of her family’s diligence.

According to her children, Hawkins developed the bed sore after spending fifteen days in the hospital recovering from hip surgery and a bout of pneumonia that followed her surgery. When told by the hospital doctors that their mother had a pressure ulcer from being unable to move during her recovery, the children assumed the doctors would begin treating and caring for the ulcer. Unfortunately, this was not the case. A full 21 days after being originally diagnosed with the pressure ulcer, the children said the room had a smell so foul that it was difficult to even stay inside of the hospital room with their mother. Because the nurses and hospital staff seemed unconcerned, the children began to investigate on their own and learned the pressure ulcer had become much worse – apparently ignored and untreated by the hospital nurses and doctors. One of the children, speaking to CBC.ca, said the sight of the bedsore made him “shocked and sickened.”

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According to Consumer Reports, approximately 500,000 senior citizens lose over $36 billion each year to scammers who target them for financial abuse. Despite the widespread problem and illegality, only 5,000 confirmed cases were reported last year to states. With the population of America aging, authorities expect the problem to grow even worse and hope to bring more awareness to the problem.

Generally, senior citizens are victims of financial abuse by someone who they trust, or someone who pretends to be in a position of trust. In one of the several examples cited by The Daily Item, a convicted felon posed as a licensed building contractor and convinced an elderly woman that she could take a home equity line of credit to finance an expansion. Then, after performing some of the necessary work, claimed he located asbestos and would need more money to continue with the project. As the made-up excuses kept piling up, the felon continued to demand more money from the woman. In a victim statement to a court last year, the elderly woman said she lost over $100,000 and her home was in significantly worse shape. In another example cited by the online newspaper, a man wired money to an unknown bank account after receiving a call from someone pretending to be a federal agent from the Internal Revenue Service.

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Over the past four years, the Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing received 26 citations from the New York State Department of Health. All of these citations related to violations concerning the treatment and health of the senior citizens at the Queens nursing home. Compared to the state average, this facility received approximately the average number of citations. However, residents of this facility were more likely to be physically restrained (4.6 percent of all residents) and more likely to have a catheter inserted (1.4 percent of all residents), according to the New York Department of Health. In addition to these issues, the government agency cited the elder care facility for the following violations:

1. The nursing home failed to adequately prevent pressure sores.

Franklin Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing did not adequately protect its residents from pressure sores, or bed sores in violation of Section 415.12(c)(2) of the New York Code. Under this New York regulation, each nursing home in New York must ensure that their residents do not develop pressure sores while at their facility, unless unavoidable.

For residents who enter the nursing home or elder care facility with pressure ulcers, or bed sores, the nursing home must provide “necessary treatment and services to promote healing, prevent infection, and prevent new sores from developing.”

Franklin Center violated this regulation when one of the residents, with a stage-four pressure ulcer, the most severe type, did not receive necessary treatment. Specifically, the health examiner noted that the nurse applied a “dressing appliance that was too small, and she dried the wound using improper technique.” When asked by the health examiner to explain her actions, the nurse admitted she should have “patted the wound dry instead of wiping in order to prevent tissue damage.”

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