Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that four nursing home employees were arrested on Feb. 11, 2013, for allegations of resident battery and neglect. The nursing home staffers were employed at Southern Indiana’s Providence Home Health Care Center in Jasper.
All four employees are charged with felony battery and neglect, along with misdemeanor intimidation. Two other Providence Home employees are also charged with misdemeanors for failing to report the resident abuse.
Because the arrests are so recent, no details on the allegations have been released. In this case, the abuse was revealed only after suspicions of fraud were investigated. Fraud in nursing homes often results from unlawful billing practices. For example, Providence may have been submitting bills to Medicaid that were unusually or disproportionately high. This type of fraud occurs when a resident is billed for or receives specialty rehab or medical services that they are either never given, or do not need.
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Sadly, a nursing home employee that commits fraud often commits other criminal acts that put residents’ lives in danger. Reports indicate that the residents of Providence Home – one in particular – were routinely neglected. Nursing home employees that do not administer adequate medical and personal care to residents commit fraud, because they are not providing the services they are paid to give. Pushing for unnecessary care not only costs taxpayers immensely, it can also harm patients.
The two employees arrested in connection with this abuse are also at fault because they failed to report the criminal acts. Employees who have viable evidence that abuse, neglect, or fraud is occurring at a facility are legally obligated to report the acts to proper authorities. Lawsuits that stem from these reports are called whistleblower, or qui tam lawsuits. These types of cases allow ordinary citizens – such as employees or former employees – to collect money when they catch someone defrauding the government. Whistleblowers have the right to receive a percentageof the amount recovered.
The employees at Providence were charged with neglect, battery, and intimidation. Elder abuse often takes form in intimidating actions and threats. Residents of nursing home are often inflicted with chronic illnesses, cognitive disorders, or otherwise rendered dependant on nurses and caregivers, which places them in an extraordinarily powerful position. It is widely known that criminals prey on the vulnerable, and nursing home residents are among our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
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Using threats and intimidation to keep an elderly resident quiet about unlawful acts or fraud is, unfortunately, not uncommon in American nursing homes. Residents may fear acts of retaliation, such as not being fed or given proper medications, if they report these acts. Troubled or predatory workers may use intimidation to exploit residents financially, emotionally, or physically, which contributes to the significant underreporting of nursing home abuse and neglect. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that abused residents often become withdrawn, fearful, and confused, which in turn causes them to stay silent about the abuse.
Abusive, neglectful, or criminal employees are hired in nursing homes far too often. In Indiana, an operator was recently ordered to pay more than $350,000 in penalties from complaints that it hired seven people who were federally ineligible to work in nursing homes. The workers previously lost their nursing licenses or were criminally convicted prior to being hired. The company, American Senior Communities, operates as a for-profit.
Hiring inadequate personnel at nursing homes is done in the name of profits, as is overcharging Medicare, and understaffing facilities. These problems are self-evident, yet incidences of nursing home abuse continue to go largely unreported. Elder abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins urge anyone with information of suspicious persons or acts in nursing homes to report known information immediately.