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The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC 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.

After addressing the shortage of nursing staff in hospitals, healthcare advocates have set their sights on implementing “Safe Staffing” policies in New York’s nursing homes. Safe Staffing policies would legislate minimum levels of nursing staff across the state’s nursing homes. Currently, New York State law only requires “sufficient staffing” which grants nursing homes wide discretion to determine whether its facility has sufficient levels of staffing. Elder care advocates lobbied state legislators to include safe staffing requirements in the budget this year. Lawmakers in Albany declined their request.

Instead, lawmakers opted to study the staffing levels at nursing homes. According to The Buffalo News, the budget passed earlier this year in Albany included a directive to the New York State Health Department to begin a study on May 1 analyzing “the range of potential fiscal impacts of staffing levels, other staffing enhancement strategies, and other potential quality improvement initiatives,” according to WHEC. The health department will then issue a final report to lawmakers at the end of the year. Given the timing of the report, it appears unlikely that any legislation will pass this year establishing mandatory staffing levels at nursing homes. Studies in Albany can frequently go in two directions. In some situations, studies are meant to endlessly shelve an unpopular idea. In other circumstances, studies can empower government agencies to develop their own policy proposals that will then be quickly passed into law.

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Employees at an Illinois nursing home stole more than $750,000 from a 96-year-old woman, according to The Chicago Sun Times. After the appalling theft, the thieves are now trying to delay the nursing home patient’s lawsuit trying to recover the stolen funds. According to attorneys for the elderly woman, the former nursing home employees are deliberately stalling in hopes that the woman passes away before the lawsuit’s conclusion. “I think they’re hoping they’ll get off the hook if she dies,” Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert told the Chicago newspaper. Because the nursing home resident, whose name is Grace Watanabe, does not have a spouse or any children, the money was willed to two non-profits in the local area. If Watanabe were to pass away before the conclusion of the lawsuit then those organizations would have the legal right to “step in” to her shoes and finish litigating her civil lawsuit.

The judge overseeing the case is to frustrate the nursing home’s attempts at delaying the case. Last week, the judge imposed a $400 fine as part of a contempt order aimed at executives of Symphony Residents of Lincoln Park. These executives are refusing to sit down for a deposition and answer questions about the treatment of Grace Watanabe. The employees who are accused of stealing money from Watanabe, who is diagnosed with advanced stage dementia, have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about the alleged crimes over the past few months. Criminal charges are expected to be filed against the fraudster in the next few weeks, according to Cook County District Attorneys.
 
The illegal scheme to defraud Watanabe was discovered by federal authorities after the bank alerted them of suspicious withdrawals coming from the nursing home resident’s bank account. Unfortunately, this type of financial fraud is a common form of elder abuse, which has been on the rise across the country and remains sadly under-reported. Employees of a nursing home or caretakers discover the financial information of an elderly person, typically with limited cognitive abilities, and then take advantage of their position of trust by swindling the person out of their money. In this instance, it appears the lowlife criminals will not be able to get away with it, though. In addition to the $400 daily fine, which the nursing home says it will appeal, an entire community of Japanese-Americans have rallied support for Watanabe and promise to keep her case in the spotlight and hold the thieves responsible, whether Watanabe lives to see that result or not.

Elder abuse is a growing problem in America that often goes unreported. According to a recent article in NPR, healthcare workers and government regulators are failing to report cases of suspected elder abuse to local authorities. The article analyzes a recent report by the Office of Inspector General which found that despite evidence of abuse or neglect severe enough to warrant medical attention, healthcare providers rarely alerted authorities. Under both federal and state law, healthcare professionals are legally required to report cases of suspected abuse.

Elder care advocates are unsurprised by the federal agency’s report, saying that elder abuse is widespread and unreported in the United States. The report only further confirms the severity of the elder abuse and the indifference to tackle the problem. One study relied upon by the federal agency that authored the report analyzed nursing home residents who end up in an emergency room. The researchers looked for potential signs of neglect or elder abuse, such as head injuries, body bruises, bedsores, or any diagnosis that may indicate sexual or physical abuse.

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Webcams are becoming popular in nursing rooms across the country as families see it as an easy way to check on their loved ones and prevent neglect and elder abuse. Driven by the increased use of security cameras across the country and their reduced prices, webcams are popping up across the country and, when used discreetly, can sometimes catch cases of horrific elder abuse. The legality of webcams inside of nursing homes is sometimes questionable. A Minnesota court ruled in 2017 that a family had a right to set up a webcam in their loved one’s room after nursing home staffers kept unplugged and moving the camera – apparently not wanting to be recorded. Since 2017, seven states have passed legislation allowing families to place webcams in nursing home rooms.

While states move to legalize the use of webcams, privacy advocates have some concerns about the widespread use of webcams in elder living facilities. First, since nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable and prone to cognitive impairments then the decision to set up a webcam usually falls on their guardian or family. Given the serious privacy implications of being constantly filmed, family members would hopefully consult their loved one. Unfortunately, studies reported by Medical Xpress show that families tend to value “keeping the peace” over discussing these important matters.

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced arbitration agreements would be allowed in nursing home agreements which receive federal funding. Under President Obama’s administration, CMS barred nursing homes from inserting mandatory arbitration clauses into their agreements. Mandatory arbitration agreements bar nursing home residents from bringing any legal grievance against their nursing home in a courtroom. Since nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable and nursing homes have a poor record of abuse and neglect, President Obama’s administration reasoned that mandatory arbitration clauses should be banned in all nursing home contracts.

Predictably, the nursing home chain did not support the federal government’s ban on arbitration clauses. The elder care industry said that arbitration provides a faster, more efficient resolution of claims for everyone involved. When President Trump came into office, his administration took a more industry-friendly approach to regulating nursing homes. In addition to sharp drops in fines on nursing homes, CMS also began deregulating the nursing home industry and appears to have reached a compromise on the mandatory arbitration agreement. Under the rule finalized this month, nursing homes will be allowed to include arbitration agreements in their default contracts with nursing home residents. However, nursing homes cannot deny admission to any resident because of their refusal to include a mandatory arbitration clause in their contract.

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Top ranking nursing homes in New York are less likely to admit poor residents despite a state and a federal ban on discriminating against the ability to pay during admissions. According to a recent analysis by The Buffalo News, New York nursing homes routinely deny admission to poor New Yorkers on Medicaid. A reason for denying admission is typically never provided but elder care advocates say it is not difficult to do the math. Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for the elderly, pays significantly more to nursing homes than Medicaid, the government-run health program for low-income New Yorkers. While the payouts differ depend on the region, an upstate New York nursing home can expect approximately $148,555 annually for each Medicare patient. For Medicaid patients, the reimbursement is almost half – just $86,505, according to The Buffalo News.

The price disparity has incentivized nursing homes to seek out wealthier patients, despite a statewide ban against the practice. Some nursing homes are particularly brazen in their efforts. For example, the five-star rated North Westchester Restorative Therapy and Nursing Center admitted zero Medicaid patients out of its 665 total admissions last year. Unable to gain admission to the state’s five-star nursing homes, Medicaid recipients are now taking a larger share of beds at the state’s worst facilities. At Riverdale Nursing Home in the Bronx, nearly two-thirds of new admissions to the one-star nursing home are Medicaid recipients.

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A Westchester doctor was convicted of stealing over half-a-million dollars from an elderly woman. According to LoHud.com, physician Peter Corines of Eastchester stole the massive sums from a 97-year-old woman over just a two-week period in November 2017. The jury convicted the disgraced doctor of three felonies stemming from the stolen money and stolen identity that Dr. Corines used to swindle the elderly woman. After being convicted on all counts, the judge sentenced Dr. Corines to three years in prison and told him he “was a disgrace to a noble profession.”

In the criminal complaint, prosecutors said Dr. Corines befriended the 97-year-old and then quickly moved to rob and defraud her of her wealth. The doctor obtained power of attorney from her and quickly emptied her accounts. The shameless doctor also impersonated the woman and opened mutual funds and requested checks in her name. With just a couple weeks, the woman’s entire wealth had been siphoned away by Dr. Corines. Prosecutors say the doctor swindled the senior citizen to pay off personal debts incurred from a failed yacht repair business. When police officers arrested the doctor on April 2018, the doctor only had $11,000 left of the woman’s money.

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Over one-third of nursing homes in the country saw their star rating drop last year after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid retooled their star-based rating system, which judges nursing homes based on the quality of care provided to their patients. A nursing home receives a rating between one and five stars, with five stars representing the highest quality of care. While the majority of nursing home ratings changed for the worse, the retooled metrics used by the nursing home regulator did increase the ratings of approximately 15 percent of nursing homes in the country, according to Skilled Nursing News.

According to the industry watchdog, the new rating metric emphasizes whether a sufficient number of nurses are staffed at the nursing home. According to multiple studies and elder care advocates, the number of nurses is the strongest predictor of the quality of care provided to nursing home residents. The federal agency’s revision came after a report last summer by The New York Times showed that many nursing homes suffered from a nursing shortage and often inaccurately reported their staffing to government regulators. In addition to changing its rating system, CMS also said it would conduct more unannounced inspections on weekends when staffing shortages were reportedly more common.

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The national nursing home chain Skyline Health finally collapsed last year after years of aggressive growth fueled by debt and shady business practices. The aftermath of the chain’s collapse is far-reaching – the chain once ran nursing homes in almost every state in the country, according to NBC News. Further, the disastrous financial situation that plagued the company has now fueled lawsuits against the company by employees seeking unpaid wages and residents who say they were neglected because the company could not afford basic medicine or utilities at their nursing home. This does not even touch upon the upheaval that the chain’s closure caused to countless senior citizens across the country.

As more horror stories come out about Skyline Health’s treatment of its residents, families of displaced residents are searching for answers about how the doomed nursing home chain continued its nationwide expansion while its problems piled up. Skyline started with less than 20 nursing homes in 2015 and expanded to more than 200 in just a couple years, all while state regulators levied substantial fines against the negligent and cash-starved corporate chain.  During the debt-fueled acquisition period, Skyline Health’s owners pillaged the company with lavish payouts and told nursing homes to enact draconian cuts. According to NBC News, the staff at a Skyline Health nursing home in Massachusetts started bringing their own toilet paper for the residents. A corporate memorandum instructed another Skyline Health nursing home to only provide two disposable briefs to each resident per day, cruelly leaving residents to sit in their filth.

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A recent study of veterans with traumatic brain injuries (or TBI) are twice as likely to develop dementia later in life. The expansive study by the United States Military showed that traumatic brain injuries can be more harmful than previously thought. According to the CDC, a traumatic brain injury is “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” Previous studies on the link between dementia and TBI showed a connection, however military researchers say this study provides conclusive evidence that traumatic brain injuries sharply increase a veteran’s risk for dementia later in life.

Further, researchers say the evidence shows that even a mild TBI – defined as one that does not cause the injured person to become unconscious – increases the risk of dementia. According to military statistics, between 15 and 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered at least a mild TBI and almost half of all TBIs are characterized as either moderate or severe. The military said that the majority of minor TBI are caused by “exposure to a shock wave that follows an explosion.”

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