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More Scary Stories About Nursing Home Care

Halloween is over, but for some nursing home residents, scary stories are a way a life. Here are some reports we’ve gathered from newspapers across the country, as well as Canada and Great Britain:

Patient Didn’t Die “Peacefully”

When 88-year-old Eldon Mooney died in his North Vancouver (Canada) nursing home bed, his daughter, Gail Nelson, was reassured that her father had been unconscious and died peacefully. That might have been enough if Ms. Nelson hadn’t secretly installed a video camera in her father’s room. The truth was that Mr. Mooney choked to death while being fed by an ill-trained caregiver to failed to respond in a “safe, efficient and effective manner.”

The nursing home, Sunrise of Lynn Valley, is a privately run facility owned by Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living, was not low-rent. The cost of Mr. Mooney’s care was about $10,000 per month. For that kind of money, you’d think that the facility could afford to hire the best-trained, most-experienced workers. And it would be nice to think that any facility, regardless of cost, would at least come clean about such an egregious error.

According to an article in The Province, its investigation of the story prompted Canadian health critic Mike Farnworth to suggest that the case of Mooney’s death should be reopened.

“I think clearly this has got to be thoroughly investigated,” Farnworth said. “It’s pretty disturbing that something like this would take place. Let’s put it this way: I’ve never viewed choking as being a natural cause of death.”

This was not the first issue faced by the facility. For years, Sunrise had been citied for not having adequate supervisory staff, did not ensure that staff had adequate training and skills, and did not respond well to previous emergencies. In response to interview requests from the newspaper, Sunrise Senior Living forwarded a statement:

“We cherish each and every one of our residents. This was a tragic incident that is not at all representative of the care we give at Sunrise. We confront any shortcomings vigorously and respond proactively to help ensure we are providing our residents with the very best home.”

And yet, Gail Nelson never received an apology from Sunrise. Worse, she never would have known about the fatal incident if it hadn’t been for the “Granny cam” she had placed in his room. Do we have to become secret spies to make sure our loved ones are being treated properly…and that we aren’t lied to in the event of an incident such as this? Should video monitoring become mandatory to ensure that caregivers actually provide competent care?

To read the full story in The Province, click here:  They told her he died peacefully

California Man Dies in Fall

The elderly are at a greater risk of falling, usually due to weakness and imbalance. However, when an elderly resident dies as the result of falling out of a mechanical chair being operated by a nursing assistant, it’s hard to blame the resident.

According to an article on Fox40.com, California nursing home Crystal Ridge Care Center is facing the most severe penalty allowed by law after the death of a resident. According to an investigation:

In February, a certified nursing assistant transferred a resident out of a bathtub using a mechanical lift chair by herself. Crystal Ridge’s policy states two people are required when using the lift. According to the investigation by the CDPH [California Department of Public Health], the male resident fell out of the chair and into the empty bathtub, where he broke three bones in his neck and hit his head. The unidentified man died four days later.

To read the full article on Fox40.com, click here:  Nursing Home Faces Most Severe Fine

“Please don’t hurt me!”

Every night, when her family tucks 78-year-old Lois McCallister into bed, the elderly woman begs: “Please don’t hurt me.” That’s the legacy of being abused by employees at the Quadrangle nursing home (another Sunrise Senior Living facility, like the one mentioned in the Canadian story above). Also as in the Canadian story, the nursing home officials initially dismissed the allegations, claiming that Ms. McCallister’s dementia was causing her to make up stories. But, once again, proof of the abuse was caught on a “Granny cam” placed in Ms. McCallister’s nursing home room.

Three employees are accused of taunting, humiliating, and assaulting the elderly woman as they made her stand naked from the waist up.

“Her tormentors changed her life permanently,” [Mary French, Ms. McCallister’s daughter] said, as she and her husband, Paul, spoke to reporters in their Havertown home. “Our mother has never been the same since the abuse. She entered the Quadrangle a happy, hopeful person, and now she is totally demoralized.”

To read the full article in the Delco Times, click here:  Haverford Couple Files Suit

Serious Safety Violations

Columbus Manor Residential Care Home in Illinois was found to be not in compliance with 11 federal nursing home requirements. According to the Austin Weekly News:

During a tour of the facility in July, a state inspector reported seeing a pool of standing water in the boiler room and in the laundry room corridor. An extension cord was plugged into an outlet in the boiler room and draped across the floor – through the standing water – to a plugged-in running electrical fan, according to a state report.

The same day, the inspector saw more than 10 pounds of chicken and ground beef, along with other food items, that were not dated – another violation of state law.

So, we’re talking about a clear risk of fire and a possible risk of life-threatening food poisoning. In addition, the facility didn’t properly supervise one resident, who happened to be a registered sex offender with a history of sexual aggression. When the resident left the facility (without permission), the resident was hit by a car.

Elce Redmond, an organizer for the South Austin Community Coalition, said there have been “massive problems” the past few years at Columbus Manor, and “it’s a shame residents live the way they do.” Redmond called it a “tragedy” that residents are not being taken care of properly.

Given the facts in the article, we have to agree. This facility sounds like an accident waiting to happen.

To read the full article in the Austin Weekly News, click here:  Nursing Home Cited

Elderly at Risk in the U.K.

Problems aren’t limited to the elderly in the United States. According to a report from the British newspaper The Daily Mail, a governing body known as the General Medical Council has had to take the extreme step of ordering that U.K. doctors treat elderly patients with respect. Excuse me? Apparently, U.K. physicians feel that their job ends with treating active illness, but if their elderly patients become malnourished or dehydrated…no problem.

According to the article, there is growing concern that the elderly are routinely neglected in hospitals. In fact, a recent study found that fully half of hospitals failed to ensure this kind of common care for patients:

Some patients were not given anything to drink for more than ten hours. On some wards inspectors saw patients banging their bed rails to try to attract attention of medical staff, and in many hospitals the elderly were routinely forced to undergo the indignity of using commodes next to their beds because staff were too busy to take them to the lavatory.

The guidelines tell doctors they have a duty to take ‘prompt action’ whenever there are ‘problems with basic care for patients who are unable to drink, feed or clean themselves’.

It is truly terrifying that caregivers need to be told that basic care is “below” them. Doctors were sanctioned here, but obviously there are broader institutional issues with orderlies, nurses, and hospital administrators in Great Britain.

“Doctors should see a patient as a human and whatever their need they should be able to provide it,” [Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association] said. “It should be as much a doctor’s responsibility as any other member of staff.”

Seeing patients as “human.” Yeah…that’s a good place to start.

To read the full story in The Daily Mail, click here:  Doctors Ordered to Treat Elderly with Respect

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