With the recent revelations of the owners of a local nursing home stealing millions of dollars in public funds and its employees’ neglect of its residents — that resulted in one death — and their attempts to cover it up, attorney Brian Andrew Tully, Esq. of the firm Tully Law, P.C. is urging those who have a loved one in a nursing home to take action if they suspect abuse or neglect.
On February 11, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Medford Multicare Center for Living after it was found the owners used approximately $60 million in public monies over a 10-year period for personal use and to pay for their own salaries. The money was supposed to be used for improvements to the facility and to provide care for its residents.
The attorney general’s office also arrested seven employees for allegedly allowing or covering up the death of a 72-year-old woman and two more for patient neglect. The woman had died because she was not properly attached to a ventilator. In all, 17 licensed and certified workers are being charged with neglect and falsification of records. An investigation also found that, over a six-year period, there have been over 5,000 reported incidents involving residents being seriously injured.
Suzanne Paolucci, LCSW, the Elder Care Coordinator at Tully Law, P.C., says that if you suspect your loved one may be suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of an employee, you should follow these tips:
- Know Your Loved One’s Rights — Every nursing facility resident has rights that should be made available to him or her. Let your loved one know that all residents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect; to be free from all forms of abuse, punishment and involuntary seclusion; to seek damages or other relief for deprivation or infringement of their right to adequate and proper treatment and care; to voice your grievances without discrimination and reprisal and to have your grievance resolved quickly and satisfactorily.
- Visit Frequently and Know the Signs of Abuse and Neglect — Visit your loved one as often as possible, but do it at different times of the day. If a family member looks clean in the morning but unkempt in the afternoon, that could mean there is not enough staff present to attend to their needs. Be sure to look out for signs of possible abuse and neglect, such as unexplained bruises and injuries; deprivation of food and water; lack of or too much medication; lack of proper hygiene; bedsores; and any verbal or emotional abuse, such as humiliating, insulting or threatening behavior.
- Discuss Your Concerns — Report your concerns to the nurse in charge and/or the social worker. Keep a log of who you spoke to, the date and time they reported the incident and any feedback from the staff. If the problem persists, request a formal Care Planning Meeting with the staff. If you are still not satisfied, alert the administrator in writing of your concerns.
- Find an Advocate — Request the assistance of an advocate. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program will assist in advocating for the rights of the residents. Every facility has an assigned Ombudsman. Their name and phone number is to be posted in an easily identifiable place for all of the residents to see. Finally, if you are still unsatisfied or if you witness an incident of neglect and abuse, call The New York State Department of Quality and Surveillance of Nursing Homes; the call can be anonymous. If it is determined the facility violated certain regulations, then the nursing home receives a citation. From there, the facility must submit a plan of action that is acceptable to the agency and rectify the situation.
“Providing the necessary care for our loved ones can be very difficult and most nursing homes and assisted living facilities do a good job taking care of them,” Mr. Tully said. “However, sometimes bad things can occur. When that happens, it is important to be empowered with the appropriate information and the steps to take so that you can best advocate for your loved one. If you believe a family member is experiencing abuse and neglect, be sure to report it and seek out proper legal representation.”