Employees of Medford Multicare Found Guilty on Charges in Connection with Rehab Patient’s Death

Recently, five former health care workers at a nursing home facility were convicted of several crimes in connection with the death of a 72 year old rehabilitation patient.  A respiratory therapist and three nurses were sentenced to various jail terms and probation for the attempted cover–up of the circumstances surrounding the patient’s death.  In addition, another respiratory therapist entrusted with the patient’s care was convicted of criminally negligent homicide.

Aurelia Rios had gone to the Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc. for rehabilitation purposes.  While there, she required the use of a ventilator to aid in respiration.  However, the respiratory therapist had not read the doctor’s instructions and neglected to connect the ventilator when Rios had gone to sleep.  Evidence shown at jury trial demonstrated that Rios’s respiratory and cardiac alarms had gone off when she stopped breathing, but that the therapist and the nurses ignored the activated alarms and the messages sent to their pagers.  Staff waited two hours before responding to Rios who had been dead for a considerable amount of time.  Additionally, surveillance footage showed two occasions when the respiratory therapist walked by Rios’s room, ignoring the alarms signifying respiratory distress.

The employees proceeded to both falsify nursing notes and conceal computer records in connection to the incident.  Further, none of the staff reported to the New York State Department of Health as required by law.

Among the charges the nursing staff were found guilty of include:

  • Falsifying Business Records
  • Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person
  • Willful Violation of Health Laws

Three former aides pled guilty to charges arising from the same occurrence.  The Medford facility corporation’s owner will also be sentenced to seven days in jail on two counts of Falsifying Business Records and Willful Violation of Health Laws.

In addition to the criminal charges, the New York State Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit, charging the corporation with corporate looting and fraud related to a history of criminal activity conducted by the corporation’s employees.

If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home neglect or abuse, contact an attorney immediately who can protect and advise you of your legal rights.  The Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams is dedicated to fighting for the rights of the elderly and vulnerable and has successfully handled numerous cases concerning nursing home abuse and neglect.  For more information, call the Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.

New Federal Nursing Home Rating System Causes Lower Scores

Choosing a nursing home for yourself or your loved one can be challenging and emotionally taxing.  With so many stories about nursing home abuse and neglect, it can take a lot of research to find a location you feel comfortable with.  However, even the pricey nursing homes may not have the nicest accommodations or provide the best health care.  A few weeks ago, the federal government put a new nursing home rating system into effect.  The goal is to provide a more accurate rating system for nursing homes that reflects the quality of accommodation and care the residents receive.   Approximately 80% of the nursing homes originally received 4 or 5 star ratings based on the old criteria.  However, the ratings were mostly inaccurate due to the lack of specificity and different criteria of the previous rating system.

On the new rating system, 1/3 of nursing homes received a lower score than they had received originally, due to the more stringent requirements implemented in determining quality of care.  Now, only half of the nursing homes received a 4 or 5 star rating.  Use of anti-psychotic drugs was a factor that was analyzed under the new system that caused many ratings to drop due to the risks to health they pose in residents who do not require them for specific conditions.  This factor was analyzed more closely due to the growing concern of nursing homes overmedicating their patients.  In addition, staffing levels were looked at more closely due to the correlation between quality care and adequate staffing.

Additional new measures are expected to be implemented in 2016.

Choosing a nursing home and planning for long term care are very difficult and important decisions you and your family will have to make.  Contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can help.  For more information, contact Tanya Hobson-Williams P.C. at (718) 210-4744 for the quality representation that you deserve.

Nursing Homes Using Guardianship Rights to Collect Debts

Nursing Homes Using Guardianship Rights to Collect Debts

The New York Times recently exposed several startling scenarios in which nursing homes have attempted to gain guardianship rights over residents in an effort to collect payment.  According to research done by Hunter College, the practice of nursing homes filing for guardianship of residents is becoming increasingly common.  In the last ten years, out of 700 guardianship cases brought to court in Manhattan alone, 12% were filed by nursing homes.

If a Guardian is appointed due to the efforts of the nursing home, they are often awarded not only reimbursement of their legal fees out of the incapacitated persons funds but they could also be granted payment of their nursing home bills and obtain other rights over the incapacitated persons finances. It is legal for nursing homes to hire counsel to petition for the appointment of a Guardian and in some cases it may be necessary.  However, the intent of Article 81 of the New York State Mental Hygiene Law has been increasingly abused.  The intent was that guardianship was to be a last resort and only granted for the benefit of the person for whom it is appointed.   Families whose loved ones reside in nursing facilities may be thrust into the vortex of an expensive and lengthy legal battle as a result of the exploitation of the statute.

In a recent heartbreaking case mentioned by the Times last month, an 82 year old man was forced to undergo the anguish of watching his wife of 47 years lapse into dementia while being terrorized by the looming threat of litigation.  Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home had petitioned for guardianship of the woman after her nursing home bills co-payment had doubled to $4,558.54 per month, making it impossible for the couple to keep up with payments.  The woman had appointed her husband as health proxy and power of attorney in the event of incapacity.  However, the nursing home had left a stack of legal papers near her bedside for her husband to find.  It was a petition brought by the nursing home to have a guardian appoited over his wife despite the validly executed power of attorney.

If your relative is in a nursing home that has petitioned for guardianship, or you are just in the process of planning for their long term care, find out how to protect your loved one and contact experienced elder law attorney, Tanya Hobson-Williams. The attorneys at Tanya Hobson-Williams are available to set up a consultation at 866-825-1529.

 

Elderly Misuse of Antipsychotics: A Disturbing National Trend

A recent National Public Radio (NPR) investigation revealed that nearly 20 percent of senior nursing home residents receive some form of antipsychotic medications.

Similar reports, drawing from the NPR investigation, found significantly higher rates of antipsychotic drug usage concentrated in the Western New York area.  In the Rochester region, data revealed that antipsychotic drug usage rates reached up to 30 percent.*

These statistics are concerning as recent news has suggested that many seniors in nursing care facilities are often given antipsychotics meant to treat conditions that they do not actually have. For example, a 2011 government study found that 88 percent of Medicare claims for antipsychotics prescribed in nursing homes were for treating symptoms of dementia, even though the drugs were not approved for that. The consequences of such overmedication can lead to unfortunate complications, including an increase in the risk of accident, injury, and even heart failure.

In response to this trend, the federally-operated Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services instituted a national campaign to reduce the misuse of antipsychotics. Despite its efforts, however, investigations reveal that the government has been slow to penalize caregivers that run afoul of the program’s mission.

Federal law prohibits the use of antipsychotics drugs for the convenience of the caregiving staff.  Thus, it is important that loved ones be cognizant of the signs of over-medication. If you suspect that you or your elderly loved one is being subjected to over-medication in his or her Senior Care facility, contact an experienced New York Elder Law attorney at the Law Office of Tanya Hobson-Williams at (718) 210-4744.

*While the numbers are alarming, Medical professionals in the Rochester region maintain that the comparatively higher usage rates reflect the elderly patient’s higher need for the medications. Statistics suggest that the Rochester region leads the nation in care for elderly patients with substantial and complex needs, providing support for the medical professionals’ contentions that such medications are necessary to treat their elderly patients.

Nursing Homes Attempt to Lure in More Medicare Patients to Increase Profit

A recent exposé by the New York Times revealed that as nursing homes revamp their facilities to include luxury living quarters, the disparity between the lavish amenities of short term accommodations, and the quality of care can be drastic.  Although nursing homes are attempting to lure in patients whose short stays will be funded by Medicare dollars, in lieu of Medicaid, many patients are being discharged from the facilities before they have been rehabilitated.  Or worse yet- they leave with more medical issues than they had upon admittance.

Nursing homes are reaping 84% more in profits from short-term patients on the Social Security age based Medicare program than they do from lower income patients whose long-term stays are funded by need based Medicaid program.  Medicare does not provide for long term care funding, so many facilities are creating “luxurious” accommodations that may even include putting greens, restaurants, and private rooms with the hopes of luring in patients and increasing revenue.  Some nursing homes have decided to sustain themselves on Medicare funding alone because it is so profitable, thus excluding Medicaid patients.

Due to the time limits for nursing home stays for Medicare patients, many patients will be forced to leave the nursing home before they are fully rehabilitated or before they have adjusted to their medications.  More facilities are catering to short term care in order to receive the substantially higher Medicare payments.  The quality of care is being compromised by ushering patients out the door with quick (and often ineffective or negligent) treatment with less staff.

One family has decided to sue the nursing facility where their mother was rehabilitating after a fall.  While at the facility, she lost twenty pounds and developed a bed sore that exposed her bone.  As a result of the nursing home’s negligence, the patient’s health had deteriorated so badly that she was brought to a hospital where such succumbed to her condition a month later.

In another case, an 87 year old retired neonatologist who checked herself into a top rated facility to recover from an injured foot also developed bedsores so severe that she had to be brought to the emergency room.  She also claims that the staff did not take precautions to prevent bedsores by turning her over periodically; nor did the staff respond to her diaper change requests promptly or give her a full bath.  The patient is suing the facility for negligent care.

Those in the industry are optimistic that the playing field will even out and the quality of care will stand on equal footing with the quality of accommodations in the not too distant future.  While hospitals are required to pay penalties if too many patients are readmitted, they will likely cease sending patients to nursing homes that perform poorly.  In addition, new payment models are being implemented that reward low costs without sacrificing quality.

To read the full article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/business/as-nursing-homes-chase-lucrative-patients-quality-of-care-is-said-to-lag.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

Proposed Rules to Retirement Savings Investments Require More Transparency from Brokers

After four years of planning, federal regulators of the U.S. Labor Department proposed rules that would strengthen the protection of those investing their retirement money.  The new rules would require that brokers owe a stronger fiduciary duty to their clients.  Currently, the rules are vague and use ambiguous language, allowing brokers to skirt around the guidelines and in many instances, put their own investment interests first.

Brokers have to recommend investments that are “suitable” for their clients.  While they need to take into account the client’s age, and both the risk factors and the financial goals of the investment, many times their recommendations are persuaded by their own potential to gain a profit at the client’s expense.  Under the new regulations, a broker would have to inform their client whether they had a conflict of interest and received a fee as a result of the investment.  The transparency required under the new rules would enhance the quality of the advice brokers give to the investors.

Although the financial industry claims that stricter rules will raise costs and limit advice, retirees will be offered greater latitude in making the determination with whom they should be investing their money, and deterring bad advice.  Additionally, there are exemptions to the proposed rules that would allow brokers to receive payments otherwise prohibited, provided that they offer their client the least expensive option.

The proposed rules are open for commentary for 75 days beginning on April 13.

Many people use their retirement funds investments as part of their estate planning.  For more information about estate planning, contact an experienced elder law attorney.  Call the Law Office of Tanya Hobson-Williams at 1 (866) 825-1529 or visit http://www.thobsonwilliamslaw.com.

Proposed Changes to VA Pension Eligibility Rules

The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed new rules affecting VA pension eligibility that would place restrictions on asset transfers with a penalty period that could last up to a decade; limit home lot sizes to two acres; and cap home health care expenses.  The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and veterans advocates believe the enactment of this proposed rule could cause severe harm to veterans in need of long term care, and their families.  The new rules are more restrictive than Medicaid by disallowing the use of trusts and annuities as long term care planning tools.

Under the new rules, a veteran could potentially be penalized if they gifted any money to their grandchildren or church in the last three years.  This means that with a penalty period of lasting up to ten years, they could be denied the care they need at the time they need it most.  Additionally, under the new rules, a veteran who owns more than two acres of land, regardless of the location, is not considered to be “in need.”  Therefore, veterans living in rural communities may be forced to sell their farms just to be able to get the assistance they need as they age.

While the VA states the intention of the new rules is to “maintain the integrity of VA’s needs-based benefit programs” by reducing the opportunities for those wishing to take advantage of the system, many veterans who are deserving of these benefits may be denied the care they require as a result of the proposed changes.  The veterans that stand to lose the most as a result of the new restrictions are those who served in WWII and Korea, as well as Vietnam Vets who may have early onset Alzheimer’s. The proposed rules contradict what veterans were encouraged to do under the Pension Protection Act of 2006.  Those who were once eligible before for benefits may not be under the new rules.

If you or a loved one is a veteran who is planning for long term health care needs, contact an experienced elder law attorney who will strive to make sure that your or your loved one’s rights are protected.  Call 1 (866) 825-1529 or visit http://www.thobsonwilliamslaw.com

Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyNew York City rental prices seem to continue to rise without any foreseeable decline.  As a result, reasonably priced housing has become a coveted treasure city-wide.

However, through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) renters who are 62 or older with yearly incomes below $50,000 may be eligible for exemption from all or some increases in rents, carrying charges, capital assessment or voluntary capital contributions.

Recent changes to the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) has expanded eligibility by increasing the maximum annual income to $50,000 from $29,000.

Lawmakers speculate that in the next ten years, New York City will see a 30% increase in the senior adult population. They further point out that New York City is home to the highest number of foreign-born senior citizens in the nation. As a result, more low-income seniors are seeking an affordable place to retire. Continue reading “Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program”

Expert Health Committee Recommends Major Changes to U.S. Health System

Tanya Hobson-Williams, NY AttorneyEnd of life care refers to the treatment of patients in the final hours or days of their lives, as well as the health care of all those with a terminal illness or a terminal condition that has become advanced, progressive and incurable.

A national panel recently appointed by the Institute of Medicine, the research branch of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report on September 17, 2014. The report stated that the United States’ system for handling end-of-life care is largely inept, thus necessitating a major makeover.

The report was authored by a 21-member nonpartisan committee comprised of doctors, nurses, insurers, religious leaders, lawyers and experts on aging. It called for major overhauls in the industry, and noted that many of its recommendations could be accomplished without the necessity of the often slow-moving legislative process.

The  507- page report called for a “major reorientation and restructuring of Medicare, Medicaid and other health care delivery programs,” as well as the elimination of financial incentives that are alleged to encourage expensive hospital procedures over low-tech services like home health care and pain management, particularly for sick and elderly patients. Continue reading “Expert Health Committee Recommends Major Changes to U.S. Health System”

Nursing Home Subject of State Investigation Amid Recent Death

Tanya Hobson-WilliamsThe Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Health have recently commenced an investigation into the July 20th death of a 71-year-old female resident of a Medford nursing home.

According to sources, the deceased, who was housed in ventilator unit, suffered from acute and chronic respiratory failure and had lived on the unit for six years.

The deceased’s family alleges that the victim passed away because she was not attached to her ventilator. Specifically, they claim that the elderly victim died after her ventilator mechanically malfunctioned causing her to be unable to breath.  The family further alleges that the nursing home’s employees disregarded alarms alerting them that victim was not receiving sufficient oxygen.

This is the second death at the nursing home’s 40-bed ventilator unit, which is under investigation. In June of 2014, several Medford employees were charged with various crimes ranging from patient abuse and neglect to falsifying business records in connection to the death of a different resident in 2012. Continue reading “Nursing Home Subject of State Investigation Amid Recent Death”