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According to Time Magazine, in 2011, 84 year old Sister Irene Morisette, a Catholic nun, admitted herself to Chateau Vestavia, an assisted-living facility outside Birmingham, Alabama. After over 60 years of service to the Catholic Church, Sister Morisette wanted to live in a facility that could help her with daily tasks, as her knees were sore after countless hours of prayer. In the three year period from her admittance in 2011 until the night of June 23, 2014, Sister Morisette had begun showing signs of dementia and had her sister named as her legal guardian. It has not been revealed if Sister Morisette had dementia at the time she admitted herself into Chateau Vestavia, a finding that, in the eyes of the law, would be extremely significant given the horrifying incident that happened.

Upon admittance to the senior living facility, Irene Morisette signed a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, also known as a binding arbitration agreement, that was embedded in a lengthy admissions contract. The arbitration agreement prevented Sister Morisette, a woman who dedicated her life to God and the church, from suing when she was raped, presumably by a Chateau Vestavia staff member, on the night of June 23, 2014 at 87 years old. Irene Morisette believes her perpetrator was a staff member, as she had locked the door to her bedroom that night, just as she had every night of her adult life. Only someone with a key could have entered her room in the middle of the night without any forcible signs of entry.

Evidence Proves Ms. Morisette was Raped

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As part of an ongoing lawsuit against Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation, a video has recently been released that shows 89 year old James Dempsey taking his final breaths while nursing staff at the facility stand around and laugh. Dempsey, a World War II veteran, had paged for help 6 times before a member of the nursing staff came to his aid. The video was not discovered until after the facility’s nursing supervisor, Wanda Nuckles, gave a 6 hour deposition detailing the care she gave Mr. Dempsey as he lay dying.  In her deposition, Ms. Nuckles described starting CPR as soon as a fellow nurse informed her that Mr. Dempsey was in distress. She says she started chest compressions and continued until paramedics arrived. Records showed that 911 was not called until 58 minutes after Mr. Dempsey had already died.

Video Shows Careless Staff Members

The video camera was installed by Mr. Dempsey’s family members and based on the cruel behavior of staff members, the presence of the camera was unknown.

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Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the first phase of basic requirements for participation that must be met by nursing homes in order to receive funding. On November 28th, the second phase of guidelines will go into effect, hopefully improving care for the more than 1.5 million Americans who reside in a nursing home.

Biggest Change: Baseline Care Plan Required For Each Resident 

The most major addition to the requirements for participation is the implementation of something called a baseline care plan. The baseline care plan is an overview of each resident’s plan of care, which includes dietary and mobility restrictions, as well as therapy and social services, required medications, and physician orders. This plan must be created within 48 hours of admission and a summary of the baseline care plan should be shared with the resident and/or resident’s representative.

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Two New York nurses who worked for Home & Community Based Care, the nursing home subsidiary of Catholic Health in Buffalo, have received large settlements for informing the government that their employer was billing Medicaid and Medicaid for unnecessary speech, occupational, and physical therapy provided to residents at three of its nursing homes between 2007-2014. The health group owes $6 million to the federal government, with $990,000 to be split among the two nurses who tipped off authorities to their employer’s scheme. The False Claim Act entices whistleblowers by guaranteeing a portion of the settlement to those who bravely come forward to report illegal billing.

Catholic Health, a non-profit health system that serves western New York, was founded 19 years ago and includes hospitals, primary care, ob/gyn, and specialist health centers, 4 nursing homes (3 of which were involved in the billing scandal), drug and alcohol addiction services, physical, occupational and speech therapy and rehabilitation services.

Changing Nursing Home Name Can Hide Prior Violations

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The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care is urging concerned citizens to help counteract efforts to undermine recently revamped federal nursing home regulations that would preserve the rights of and offer further protection to nursing home residents.

According to National Consumer Voice, “these updated, stronger regulations include a greater focus on person-centered care, improved protections against abuse, neglect and exploitation; improved staff training; notice to ombudsman of proposed transfers/discharges; required infection prevention, and much more.”

How to Show Your Support for Nursing Home Residents

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If you have a parent or loved one in a nursing home, it’s always smart to stay on top of the medications being prescribed and inquire about their safety and intended benefit for your loved one. For those afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s in a nursing home, it may be especially wise to be vigilant about the pills being given to them. For years, we’ve heard reports of nursing home staff using unnecessary tranquilizing drugs to make shifts more tolerable for staff. Now, reports have surfaced that Nuedexta, a drug intended to control a rare disorder called pseudobulbar affect (PBA), is being frequently misused to ‘treat’ patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. PBA is a condition that causes the sufferer to laugh or cry uncontrollably and is most often seen in those diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). According to Nuedexta’s maker, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, PBA only affects 1% of the population, a number which has remained steady since the drug first went on the market, despite sales of the pills increasing 400% since 2012. Not so ironically, over half of the drug’s sales are to nursing homes and the payments and kickbacks to physicians treating these patients are soaring.

Off-Label Use Associated with Higher Fall Risk

The problem with using Nuedexta on a patient who is not suffering from PBA is that the drug can have unknown side effects. During the FDA approval process for the drug, several doctors said that there was weak evidence to show that the drug had any benefit to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and strongly urged the association to label the drug only for use in MS or ALS patients with PBA. The FDA declined, only to be flooded with over 1,000 adverse incident reports that cite Nuedexta as a suspicious drug related to various side effects, comas, and deaths in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Geriatric experts have told CNN that the drug’s own labeling says that the drug was not rigorously tested for use in elderly patients.

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Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa, Illinois, has been served with a lawsuit by the family of a deceased resident who was the victim of online photo shaming by an employee from the nursing home. The employee, believed to be Samantha Brown, was terminated when the facility was made aware that she, along with her then boyfriend, Michael Scurlock, had posted pictures of multiple residents in various states of undress while doing routine activities such as bathing, using the toilet, and sleeping. McLean County prosecutors are currently filing charges against the couple, after local police reviewed over 50,000 documents and records, including those from internet providers and Facebook. The graphic images were posted to Facebook earlier this year.

In March, the employee (identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe but believed to be Samantha Brown, a former CNA) notified Meadows that the photos were posted online, including to the the nursing home’s own Facebook page. She told Meadows, IDPH, and police that she believed photos she and other Meadows employees had taken were stolen by her ex-boyfriend and shared online.

Nursing Home Failed to Report Illicit Photos to Authorities

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This past Tuesday night in Chicago, blogger and author Glennon Doyle (formerly Glennon Doyle Melton) joined forces with a panel of other equally insightful and inspiring women to talk about finding your own self worth and harnessing that power to live your best life. We were lucky enough to be in the audience and hear the many roles these women have taken on in their lives: daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, career women, and caregivers. In her New York Times bestselling book Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle wrote “My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Women ARE warriors. For many women, our role as a nurturer and caregiver spans the full cycle of life, from the births of our children all the way to caring for our aging parents. Caring for another person is unlike any other job in the world. The weight of responsibility, the emotional highs and lows, the physical stress and exhaustion, and the strain on other relationships that being a caregiver imposes on a woman is demanding and isolating. Adding in maintaining a marriage or partnership, looking after our own health, and holding down a job while attempting to care for another human life, whether infant or elder, is more than just a feat. It’s superhuman.

Women as Caregivers for Aging Parents

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An update was just announced about the outcome of a lawsuit between Quality Care Properties (QCP) and HCR ManorCare over $300 million in unpaid rent. ManorCare nursing homes with unpaid rent account for 30,000 elderly residents whom would be turned out on the street should ManorCare fail to agree to the terms of the lawsuit.

QCP gave the nursing home chain until yesterday, October 18, to respond to the lawsuit. Specifically, QCP has asked that ManorCare allow a court-appointed person to handle day-to-day operations for the chain, a relationship referred to as a receivership.

Late this afternoon, Quality Care Properties announced that they have agreed to allow ManorCare to extend the deadline to respond to the lawsuit to November 1.

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Hollywood, Florida police have released tapes from six 911 calls made by the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on September 13th, the nursing home in Florida that allowed 14 residents to die after being left to suffer for several days in sweltering heat following Hurricane Irma.

The background of the calls reveal rushed, distressed attempts to stabilize patients while nurses, nursing assistants, and medical assistants relay information to 911 operators. In each of the calls, a staff member from the Rehab Center at Hollywood Hills tells the operator that the patient is in some form of cardiac or respiratory distress. In a chilling portion of the tape, the operator asks the final caller if she had already called about the current patient or if she was calling on behalf of a new patient. A nursing assistant responds, “this is a new patient.” She also tells the operator that they have several other paramedics there already.

All 6 calls came between 3-6:30 a.m. That day, 8 patients died, and 6 others died in the days following.