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What you dear readers write offers some of the most compelling reasons to not trust the nursing home industry. I thought my late mother had it bad, but your loved ones (and you as a family member of a nursing home resident) have also truly suffered! What follows is the heart-wrenching account involving a lady who passed away while a nursing home resident in Texas. A grieving daughter shares…

R.I.P. Dear Texas Lady

R.I.P. Dear Texas Lady

“I went to visit my mother on Sunday February 16, 2014. I was stopped by a nursing home employee who worked on the hallway where my lived. She told me that my mother was no longer there. At first I thought she meant they moved her to a different room. Then I was getting upset because I thought she had been sent to the hospital without myself or any of my siblings being notified. The employee informed me that my mother had passed away!

I am so hurt and angry! My brother (who had arrived by this time) asked a supervisor why we hadn’t been notified of our mother being sent to the hospital or even of her passing? His excuse was they did not have the correct contact information. This was not true at all since just one month before (in mid-January) my family had a meeting with the nursing home administrator and my mother’s doctor. During this meeting my phone number and the phone numbers of all of my brothers had been shared and verified. If nursing home staff would have looked through my mother’s chart they would have found my number (and the numbers of all of her other children)!

When we asked nursing home staff where our mother’s body had been taken and where we could find her belongings, we were told they could not tell us. They said her chart and belongings were locked up and we would have to wait until the next morning to even find out what hospital they sent my mother to!

What we found on our own, without the help of the nursing home staff, was that instead of sending out my mother to a hospital just a 15 minutes drive from the nursing home, they sent her to a hospital that was nearly a 40 minute drive. It turned out that our mother had been admitted to a hospital two weeks prior to discovering she had passed away! Two weeks and NO word from the nursing home about her need to be hospitalized! She passed away five hours after she was transferred from the nursing home to the hospital.

I will never get closure from this. I will never get to tell my mother goodbye. My mother died alone. My mother had family and children that loved and adored her. We need answers and justice.”

I’m sitting at my desk sobbing while I read what I just posted. If this doesn’t make you angry at the outrageous injustice that nursing homes in this country get away with regularly I don’t know what will! Texas, where this lady passed away, has a state law making it almost impossible to sue nursing homes. Several state legislatures are currently considering such heinous laws. Nursing homes mush be held accountable for their evil and laws to protect them from accountability should never see the light of day.

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At least government officials in Texas, Illinois and Iowa haven’t totally sold old to the big bucks of the nursing home industry (like some have in Kentucky and Indiana)!  Kudos go to three states that have recently made progress in terms of advancing the nursing home reform agenda.

TEXAS
The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), that state’s agency charged with oversight of the nursing home industry, recognized the urgent need for more investigators to address a backlog of complaints facilities.

DADS has a record of responding to 99 percent of the most serious complaints about nursing homes within 24 hours. But the agency has only been able to respond to one-third of the less serious complaints within the 14 days required by state guidelines. Still, a DADS spokesman acknowledged to the media recently that even “less serious” complaints included the potentially dangerous issue of inappropriate care of bed sores.

To speed response to nursing home complaints, 35 new investigators (a 10% increase) are being hired this month. The agency also plans to complete 1,550 investigations during a two-week statewide blitz to help catch up on the backlog of complaints until the new inspectors can be hired and trained.

ILLINOIS
Governor Pat Quinn recently received a final report that contains many recommendations to ensure improved safety of nursing home residents in Illinois. Among the Nursing Home Safety Task Force recommendations:

  • Reform the admissions and assessment of people in need of care to ensure they are referred to the residential setting most appropriate to their individual needs.
  • Raise and enforce higher standards of treatment in all residential settings.
  • Expand residential options and services in home and community-based settings to allow each individual to achieve his or her highest level of independent functioning and ensure that only those people who require 24-hour care are placed in nursing homes.

It’s now up to state legislators to translate report findings into new regulations for nursing homes located in Illinois.  So if you live in Illinois, please contact your state senator and state representative to make sure report findings are followed.

One of the big changes coming to Illinois nursing homes, thanks in part to the study report and pressure from the public and Chicago news media, is that thousands of mentally ill individuals who have been housed alongside elderly nursing home residents will now be given the opportunity to be placed in facilities more appropriate to meeting their unique needs. Tragically it took several incidents of elderly nursing home residents being beaten by mentally ill individuals before this problem (and other concerns) were addressed by the Governor’s study commission.

IOWA
State nursing home regulators are finally getting serious about imposing stiff fines against Iowa facilities that have been found guilty of retaliating against caregivers who have the courage to report problems.

Two Iowa nursing homes have each been fined $5,000 by the Department of Inspections and Appeals. An assisted living center was also recently fined $1,000. The three facilities were accused of threatening, demoting or firing employees who reported concerns about resident care to the inspections department.

Iowa’s mandatory reporter law, which is designed to protect the state’s 40,000 care facility residents, makes it a crime for caregivers to keep silent about suspected abuse or neglect. Retaliation against whistle-blowers is barred by law, but advocates for seniors have complained that care facilities are rarely if ever penalized for the offense.

If I were living in Iowa I would contact the Department of Inspections and Appeals and demand that they be consistent in enforcing the laws already in place.  Sure, they are to be commended for finally taking appropriate action, but we have to wonder what took them so long?

Nursing Home News Watch

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