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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 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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According to the Kaiser Health News, an average of 21 percent of nursing home residents are readmitted to the hospital within 100 days of returning to their nursing home. Now, Medicare plans to crack down on these nursing homes who either allow nursing home residents to return too quickly or fail to properly administer the resident’s post-hospitalization care. According to Medicare, most nursing home patients are readmitted for mostly preventable problems, such as dehydration, bedsores, infections, and medication errors. While patient advocates believe there can be significant room for improvement in these re-hospitalization rates, they also caution against punishing nursing homes who send their elderly residents to the hospital.

According to a government report, cited by NPR, a full 10.8 percent of re-hospitalizations are preventable. The causes for the high rate of unnecessary hospitalizations are numerous. First, the nursing home may not follow the hospital’s post-hospitalization care routine for their resident. In one example cited by the news organization, nurses at a nursing home in North Carolina injected a patient with a blood thinner twice a day – despite written instructions from a hospital doctor to cease all blood thinning medication. The second cause concerns overloaded hospitals, which would prefer to offload patients onto nursing homes in an effort to free-up space for more patients.

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A recent study estimates that financial abuse of elderly Americans defrauds these vulnerable citizens of almost $37 billion each. The report finds that almost 5 million senior citizens in America are victims of elder abuse each year. In New York alone, financial abuse of the elderly costs at least $1.5 billion a year. While the exact nature of financial abuse can be hard to notice for senior citizens with cognitive impairments, the legal definition perpetuated in the Older Americans Act of 2006 criminalizes “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual… that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving the older individual of their use or rightful access to benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”

The report in Bloomberg Businessweek provides a sad, but unfortunately typical, portrait of elder abuse in 82-year-old Marjorie Jones, who one day received an anonymous call stating she had won a sweepstakes. According to the caller, Jones, who was legally blind and lived alone, would need to pay the taxes and fees on the winnings before the winnings from the sweepstakes could be released to her. After wiring the money to the anonymous caller, more stipulations and conditions became attached and Jones continued to send the money until she had depleted her entire savings, taking out a reverse mortgage on her home, and cashing in on a life insurance policy. Instead of reaching out to her family for help, an ashamed and embarrassed Jones killed herself.

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State investigators in Raleigh, North Carolina have captured several nurses cruelly abuse an elderly man at a retirement home on a hidden camera. The hidden camera was set up after an elderly man told his daughter that the orderlies had been “tormenting and neglecting him,” according to WRAL. In response to the incident, state investigators are investigating the nursing home.

According to the news station, the video shows Richard Johnson, 68 years old and recovering from a stroke, fall out of his bed. After crying out for help, several orderlies pass by and ignore the elderly man for over an hour. When staff members finally arrive they immediately begin berating and cruelly taunting the senior citizen, asking “What are you doing there? Why are you on the floor?” Another nurse joined in on bashing the vulnerable man, stating “You had to do something very wrong with your life. What did you do? You’re suffering so bad, so you’ve done something wrong. Yes, you did.”

According to Richard Johnson’s daughter, Johnson even went to the bathroom while on the floor waiting for help. This unfortunate incident prompted a third member of the nursing staff to scold him, saying “How old are you? One? You’re supposed to be enjoying your retirement. Instead, look what you are doing, pooping on yourself. Shame on you.”

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Between 2014 and 2018 Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center in Queens, New York received 92 complaints by its residents and 19 citations by the New York Department of Health. The Department of Health inspects all nursing homes throughout the state every 9 to 15 months to ensure their compliance with all laws regulating nursing homes and the treatment of their residents. These are several of the citations the Queens nursing home received over the last few years:

1. The nursing home failed to prevent pressure ulcers or bed sores.
Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center received a citation in June 2017 for failing to prevent its residents from receiving pressure ulcers. Under Section 483.25(c) of the Federal Code, all nursing homes must “ensure that a resident who enters the facility without pressure sores does not develop pressure sores…” Further, if a resident does have pressure sores then the nursing home is obligated to provide “necessary treatment to promote healing, prevent infection and prevent new sores from developing.” In this instance, the New York Health inspector randomly sampled three residents at the facility that had not entered with pressure ulcers. According to the inspector, one of these residents later developed a pressure ulcer on their left heel after the nursing home failed to use preventative measures, despite documentation that the resident posed a moderate risk for pressure ulcers.

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A recent report by StatNews shows that many nursing homes across the country are refusing to admit elderly Americans with opioid addictions, and failing to effectively treat those with addiction already placed in their care. According to the newspaper, elderly Americans who have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction, face the “next to impossible” task of being admitted to a nursing home. According to experts cited by the newspaper, many facilities fail to admit these patients because “of stigma, gaps in staff training and a widespread misconception that abstinence is superior to medications for treating addiction.”

Nursing homes appear unaware that denying admission because of an opioid addiction violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a nurse at Boston Medical Center, only two nursing homes in Boston accept patients taking medication for an opioid addiction. According to the Department of Justice, the government is planning to increase enforcement of facilities that discriminate against individuals taking prescription medication for opioid addiction. Currently, the government agency is looking at detention centers and prisons to ensure compliance. However, the Department of Justice has promised to extend the enforcement push to nursing homes within the year.

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Monitoring and reporting of elder abuse is one of the most important responsibilities delegated to New York regulators. However, recent news reports have cast a light on the accuracy and effectiveness of these reports. Advocates for elder care say the data collected by regulators does not effectively represent the harm caused to nursing home patients when the facilities violate state or federal regulations. Based on the evidence provided, it appears these advocates may be correct.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), only 4 percent of all regulatory violations result in “actual harm” to a resident at its facility. While the data is collected at a federal level, state regulators are required to perform the inspections and relay the information to CMS. In New York, the legal entity responsible for inspecting nursing homes is the New York Department of Health.

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