Nursing assistant sentenced to jail in Florida nursing home abuse case

Nursing home abuse and neglect was at the forefront of a recent case in which a former certified nursing assistant in Florida received a five-month jail sentence and five years of probation for the abuse of a nursing home resident, which was caught on a hidden camera.

The Florida woman was charged with battery on the elderly after video from the hidden camera showed her and another nursing assistant abusing a 76-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. The incident occurred at a nursing home in Winter Haven, Florida.

The nursing assistants are shown in the video footage hitting, kicking and taunting the nursing home resident on three occasions in 2014. The other nursing assistant previously received an 18-month prison sentence and five years of probation.

The family of the nursing home resident noticed bruising on the man’s body, which led them to place a hidden camera in his room, inside a clock. The man has since passed away.

The nursing assistant’s sentence also includes forfeiting her nursing license, writing a letter of apology to the man’s family, and undergoing a 26-week batterer intervention program.

The case was influential in a movement by the legislatures of several states to allow hidden cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents.

If you suspect that your loved one may have been a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation.

Administration proposes new rules to help prevent nursing home abuse

The Obama administration has proposed modernizing federal safety rules that nursing homes must abide by in order to receive Medicaid and Medicare payments.

Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the proposed changes set high standards for safety and quality in nursing homes. The proposals were announced as part of the White House Conference on Aging.

Some of the proposals address nursing home abuse. Nurses would be required to be trained in dementia care and preventing elder abuse. There will also be a requirement that nursing homes report staffing levels, which Medicare officials will review to determine whether they are adequate. This stops short of requiring a federal nurse-to-resident ratio, which many advocates had pushed for. Dr. Shari Ling, the deputy chief medical officer for Medicare, said the administration’s approach focused on competency rather than “a numbers game.”

The proposed changes include measures to ensure that families are more involved in the care of their loved ones, as well as rules to promote more individualized care. For instance, residents would be able to choose their own roommates, and requests for meals and snacks at non-traditional times would be accommodated. The proposed rules also address reducing hospital readmissions, minimizing the use of antipsychotic drugs and antibiotics, and strengthening infection control.

If you suspect that a loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation to learn more about your rights.

Families Turn to Hidden Cameras to Uncover Nursing Home Abuse

A recent article in the New York Times covers the growing use of some high technology in curtailing nursing home abuse: hidden cameras.

Reporter Jan Hoffman tells the story of 96-year-old Eryetha Mayberry, an Oklahoma City nursing home resident with dementia. Mayberry’s daughter, Doris Racher, noticed that a few of her mother’s belongings had gone missing from her room at the nursing home. She thought it might be another resident with dementia who often wandered into Mayberry’s room.

Racher bought a tiny hidden camera disguised as an alarm clock and placed it on her mother’s nightstand. No further thefts occurred for some weeks, and Racher nearly forgot about the camera. But she eventually decided to go through the recordings anyway. What she saw shocked her.

A nursing home aide was seen stuffing latex gloves into Mayberry’s mouth while another teased her, tapping on her head and laughing at her. They hoisted her from her wheelchair and flung her on the bed, whereupon one gave her rough chest compressions, Hoffman reports. Mayberry died soon after.

In the wake of that incident, on November 1, 2012, Oklahoma became the third state – following Texas and New Mexico – to explicitly allow residents in long-term care facilities to place surveillance cameras in their rooms. In the past two years, lawmakers in at least five states have proposed similar laws.

Most such efforts have been stymied by concerns of privacy rights raised by employee unions and facility owners, but families of residents nevertheless are using the so-called “granny cams” in increasing numbers.

Even government agencies are using them. The New York state attorney general’s office has used the cameras for years in patient neglect and abuse cases. The office recently demonstrated its methods to investigators from other states at a national conference.

In June, 2012, Ohio state attorney general Mike DeWine announced that cameras had been placed in residents’ rooms – with permission from their families – at unspecified facilities throughout the state. DeWine has since moved to shutter a facility in Zanesville, where he says cameras caught an aide repeatedly leaving food beside a resident who was completely unable to feed himself.

But surveillance raises legal and ethical questions. For instance, residents often have roommates, who have the right not to be monitored. Maryland law says cameras must be fixed and pointed directly at the intended resident. Facilities that permit cameras often require families who use them to post a notice to that effect on the resident’s door.

A family’s decision to place a camera in their loved one’s room must be weighed carefully, but in all cases, families should watch carefully for signs of abuse.

Categories and Signs of Elder Abuse

If one of your relatives resides in a nursing home, you may be concerned about his or her vulnerability to abuse or neglect. You may be particularly concerned if your loved one lacks awareness due to dementia or another ailment, and might therefore be unable to communicate the existence of abuse or even to comprehend it.

Abuse comes in many forms. Following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of abuse to which a nursing home resident may be subjected:

  • Physical: force causing injury or pain.
  • Emotional: infliction of emotional distress.
  • Sexual: any non-consensual sexual activity imposed on a patient.
  • Neglect: failure to adequately supervise a patient or to provide for his or her needs.
  • Financial/Material: use of a patient’s money or possessions for personal gain.

Watch out for warning signs that may indicate abuse:

  • Physical marks. Injuries and bruises are, of course, cause for alarm. Even if a plausible explanation is given, they may indicate a lack of supervision. Poor hygiene or an unkempt appearance could indicate neglect.
  • Changes in behavior. Some gradual changes in behavior are expected as people age, but if a loved one suddenly becomes fearful, withdrawn or upset, that could indicate serious abuse.
  • Changes in finances. Missing money or transfers of savings to another person are suspect, as is the use or taking of a patient’s personal property by a caregiver. Also, watch out for unexplained additions of unneeded services to your loved one’s care.