Senior neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that an employee at a nursing home in New York State, Pleasant Valley, was recently arrested on felony neglect charges. The charges were brought against her after a particularly troubling inspection by the Department of Health.
The licensed practical nurse worked in the field of senior care for more than ten years before the arrest. She claims that her negligent actions were nothing more than the result of understaffing, low wages, unreasonable hours, and administrative disorder.
In June 2012, at the time of the incident, Pleasant Valley Nursing Home in Washington County was on the brink of bankruptcy. The state of New York does not regulate the number of patients each nurse can be assigned to at a time, so, more often than not, nurses had entire wings of patients to themselves, responsible for their feeding, cleaning, medications, and overall wellbeing. Double shifts were constant, and many nurses were making as little as $10 an hour for their strenuous work.
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The state inspectors charged the nurse with 15 felony charges (which have since been reduced to several misdemeanors) for neglecting to give five residents their drugs and then falsifying documents to say she had. Inspectors also found bloody rags in the kitchen and records of drugs going to the wrong patients completely.
Pleasant Valley is owned and operated by Fort Hudson Health System, which is a for-profit company. The 2012 inspection found that five of 29 patients, who were randomly selected as a sample, did not regularly receive their drugs as prescribed by their doctor.
In reviewing public information from ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect database, Pleasant Valley had the highest number of reported deficiencies and errors of any other nursing home in New York. That means that, out of the more than 630 nursing homes in the state, Pleasant Valley tops the list of negligent claims between 2009 and 2012. During that three year period, 20 series deficiencies were reported from Pleasant Valley, which totaled over $100,000 in fines.
In 2010, federal officials testified to Congress that an estimated 7% of complaints to state and county authorities were associated with provable cases of abuse and neglect. This should be taken with a grain of salt, however. A 2011 study examining New York’s elderly living population, which was conducted by the Ivy League Cornell University and sponsored by the Office for the Aging, found that the actual rates of abuse are 24 times higher than what is reported to authorities.
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This is true for a variety of reasons, such as the dependency elders are forced to have on their caregivers and the fear of retaliation if any incidents are reported. Seniors in nursing homes are also often afflicted by cognitive disabilities, which make it difficult for them to not only remember the exact abuse and neglect happening to them, but also more difficult to determine that something is wrong in the first place. These residents are silent too often, and it is up to families and legal advocates to be their voice.
Companies like Fort Hudson Health System often depend on outside agency nurses for staffing purposes to cut down on costs. Unfortunately, these outside nurses are unfamiliar with the residents in that particular nursing home and their care plans, which can lead to significant incidents of neglect.
For example, one resident suffering from advanced dementia may require assistance eating and drinking, which may (or may not) be indicated on his care plan. If a nurse who is completely unfamiliar with that resident is responsible for his care, along with the care of the rest of the residents in that wing, he or she may not realize he needs assistance while eating, and he may suffer a fatal choking or asphyxiation because of it.
Nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight these types of stories to heighten public awareness of this issue, which will only continue to worsen if action is not taken. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by negligence or abuse at a nursing home, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.