More Nursing Home Tragedies

In January, we wrote about some disturbing stories of nursing home abuse from around the country. Here is the next installment (click the titles to read the full story):

1.  Seattle ‘caregiver’ raided 93-7ear-old’s life savings (from Seattle PI)

This could be the plot of a movie drama, or maybe a horror story: A caregiver took control of the life of a 93-year-old man, separating him from his children and stealing $300,000 from his life savings. The caregiver, 52-year-old Samantha Pierce insinuated herself into every aspect of the retiree’s life. She wrote checks for more than $125,000 to her children, got the title to his luxury car, and was in the process of purchasing a $2 million home.

Pierce entered his life as a caregiver for his dying wife—an unlicensed caregiver, mind you. She was given room and board, use of a car, and $1,000.00 per month.

Pierce came to manage the man’s finances and act as a companion to him, [Seattle Police Detective Elizabeth Litalien] told the court. The couple’s children expressed concerns that Pierce was ingratiating herself with their father while failing to care for their mother.

Pierce also appeared to over-medicate the elderly retiree (whose name was not released). Once he was no longer under Pierce’s controlling thumb—after she was arrested—his medication was reduced, and he became more alert, focused and social. According to police detective Litalien, quoted in the Seattle PI:

“He is understandably saddened by Pierce’s betrayal of trust.”

Pierce has been charged with first-degree theft and violation of a vulnerable adult protection order. She is not currently jailed.

2.  Dental neglect at nursing homes (from the Lexington Herald-Leader)

There are many, many ways an elderly person can suffer in a poorly run nursing home, but one that is not often discussed is neglect of dental needs. An article in the Lexington Herald-Leader revealed the scope of the problem.

Anyone who has ever had a toothache knows that there is no such thing as “minor” dental pain. For nursing home residents, mouth problems are compounded. Some diseases can be affected by mouth health:  For example, residents with Alzheimer’s disease are likely to neglect tooth care, those with diabetes are prone to blood infections, and poor nutrition due to difficulty chewing can lead to a weakened immune system. University of Kentucky associate professor Dr. Robert Henry found that nearly 80% of nursing home residents had oral health that could be classified only as “poor” or “fair.”

And then there are the more extreme cases. For example, a Kentucky nursing home resident went months without proper dental care because the facility claimed there was no record that he had dentures. He lived in the home six months before a dentist was called in.

But the patient’s face had been swollen for nine days before a dentist was summoned and discovered that the dentures had become “corroded.” As a result, the patient was at risk for a blood infection.

This neglect, which can only be described as inhuman, apparently was not an isolated incident at Arbor Place of Clinton. Following numerous other citations, the nursing home lost its federal funding and its patients are being moved.

3. Nursing home patient dies of overdose of unprescribed morphine  (Chicago Sun-Times)

Last year, reported the story of a nurse at Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home charged with giving unprescribed morphine to patients. Six of the patients were hospitalized, and one—an 84-year-old woman—died with high levels of morphine in her blood.

Now, it feels like a case of déjà vu. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that an 84-year-old nursing home resident died of a morphine overdose, even though the pain-killer had not been prescribed to him.

Two people have been charged with crimes related to the Chicago case: Nurse Marty Himebaugh was alleged to have given excessive doses of morphine to patients, and former nursing home director Penny Whitlock was accused of allowing Himebaugh to administer the morphine.

According to the article, several other nurses had warned the administrator of Himebaugh’s illegal dosing, but took no action. However, Whitlock did give Himebaugh a descriptive nickname: Angel of Death. Himebaugh was charged with criminal neglect and improperly dispensing morphine, and Whitlock was charged with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice.

4.  Nursing home didn’t tell family of mother’s death  (Chicago Sun-Times)

We’ve heard of cases of nursing home neglect, but it usually concerns residents who are alive. This is a sad case of neglect after death.

Lovera Staples died in the Ridgeview Nursing Home in May 2010. Her family didn’t learn of her death until mid-September, more than four months later. And it wasn’t because of any official notification—Lovera’s daughter called to wish her mom a happy birthday and was told that no one named Lovera Staples lived at the facility.

Lover’s body lay in the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office since May.

To make matters worse, while the family was making the overdue funeral arrangements, nursing home officials removed the body from the morgue and buried her without the family’s consent.

HensonFuerst Attorneys

At HensonFuerst, we hear stories of nursing home abuse and neglect everyday. We believe that nursing home residents should receive better care than they do–these are our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Every episode of human indignity diminishes us all. HensonFuerst fights to make sure nursing homes are held accountable for the care they give, and we fight for the basic human rights of residents.

If you believe someone you know is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please feel free to call the lawyers of HensonFuerst. We’re available 24/7. Just call 1-800-4LAWMED, or visit our website at We’ll work to get your loved one the care he or she deserves.

If you have a problem, HensonFuerst has a solution.

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