Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ex-nursing home employee gets jail

LAS CRUCES - A 35-year-old former nursing home employee convicted of resident abuse received the maximum jail sentence in Las Cruces District Court on Wednesday, according to District Attorney Susana Martinez.

Judge Lisa Schultz sentenced Joseph Anthony Garcia to the maximum 18 months in jail, plus four years' enhancement for two prior convictions on felony charges of breaking and entering and cocaine trafficking.

Garcia, with a P.O. Box in Las Cruces and street addresses in Truth or Consequences and Albuquerque, was indicted on a charge of abuse of a nursing home resident on Sept. 7, 2007.

Garcia's background was never checked before becoming employed at Las Cruces Nursing Home, Martinez said. While working there, Garcia beat a 76-year-old man about the head, chest, stomach and back while preparing him for bed, Martinez said. She said the man has since recovered.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Psychotropic drugs given to nursing home patients without cause

Frail and vulnerable residents of nursing homes throughout Illinois are being dosed with powerful psychotropic drugs, leading to tremors, dangerous lethargy and a higher risk of harmful falls or even death, a Tribune investigation has found.

Thousands of elderly and disabled people have been affected, many of them drugged without their consent or without a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis that would justify treatment, state and federal inspection reports show.

Lloyd Berkley, 74, was in a nursing home near Peoria for less than a day before staff members held him down and injected him with a large amount of an antipsychotic drug, according to a state citation. A few hours later he fell, suffering a fatal head injury.

One woman was given a psychotropic drug partly because she refused to wear a bra. Nursing home staff administered an antipsychotic medication to an 87-year-old man because he was "easily annoyed."

In all, the Tribune identified 1,200 violations at Illinois nursing homes involving psychotropic medications since 2001. Those infractions affected 2,900 patients.

The actual numbers are likely far higher because regulators inspect some facilities just once every 15 months, and even then they usually check only a small sample of residents for harm.

The Tribune's unprecedented review of more than 40,000 state and federal inspection reports found that nursing homes ranging from "five-star" establishments on the North Shore to run-down facilities in urban neighborhoods have been cited for improperly administering psychotropic drugs.

The paper's review took into account violations for "chemical restraint" and "unnecessary drugs" as well as cases involving dosages that exceeded safety standards or falls in which psychotropics possibly played a role.

While some nursing home residents suffer from major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, the inspection reports show that many patients harmed by antipsychotic drugs had not been diagnosed with psychosis. They were disabled by Alzheimer's disease, cancer or Parkinson's disease. Some were blind or so frail that they could not breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.

The findings come at a difficult time for Illinois nursing homes, which are already under fire for housing violent felons alongside geriatric patients and for failing to accurately assess the risk posed by the most serious offenders.

The misuse of psychotropics, which some experts say is a nationwide problem in nursing homes, suggests a troubling future for many seniors. The Tribune found 12 patients, including Berkley, whose deaths led to nursing home citations involving misuse of psychotropics.

In testimony before Congress two years ago, Food and Drug Administration estimated that thousands of nursing home residents die each year because antipsychotic drugs are administered to patients who are not mentally ill. Graham is known for blowing the whistle on Vioxx, the painkiller tied to heart attacks, but his warning on the psychotropics issue has drawn little attention.

New York researcher Christie Teigland, who is analyzing medical data on 275,000 nursing home residents with dementia, said she is finding that those on psychotropic drugs were more likely to fall or experience general decline than others.

SunBridge Nursing home cited after man's genitals disintegrate

An Everett nursing home is facing a lawsuit after an elderly resident's genitals disintegrated while staff allegedly failed to act.

Charles Bradley, then 93, arrived at Everett Care & Rehabilitation in the winter of 2004, suffering from the usual maladies of old age, according to court documents. He continued to live at the nursing home until two weeks before his death, which came on March 31, 2008, when he was rushed to the emergency room with a life-threatening -- but previously undetected -- malady.

In court documents, attorneys for Bradley's family claim staff at the nursing home left a wound on the elderly man untreated for months. That injury, apparently the result of an undiagnosed penile cancer, purportedly contributed to his death.

By allowing Bradley's injury to fester and worsen for months, plaintiffs' attorney claimed, the nursing home and parent company SunBridge Healthcare Corp. violated a promise to care for him

According to the complaint, staff at Everett Care & Rehabilitation noticed that Bradley's skin was breaking down while changing his diaper in November 2007.

Though staff notified a care manager, that manager allegedly failed to notify Bradley's doctor. Instead, according to the allegations, the manager "left to go on vacation and 'forgot' to tell the doctor."

During the four months that followed the initial notice of the wound, Bradley's genitals essentially broke apart bit by bit, the complaint contends, while the elderly man steadily lost weight. The injury was not treated until Bradley was taken to the Providence Medical Center on March 13, 2008.

Initially diagnosing Bradley with pneumonia, doctors there found only an infected, open wound on the man's groin, according to the complaint. Doctors later determined that Bradley was afflicted with penile cancer; Bradley died two weeks later.

"There was no evidence the facility had contacted the resident's physician … to allow for timely medical intervention," the state investigators said in an investigatory report provided by DSHS. "There was no evidence the facility had contracted their social services department or the resident's family." The center was cited and forced to take corrective action.