Knox News reported earlier this month on a follow-up to a tragic case of nursing home neglect and abuse on which we’ve previously posted. The underlying case involved the rape of an 89-year old woman with severe dementia. Late last month the senior resident told her family that earlier in the summer a man entered her room and raped her. She did not know the man. Eventually the police were called in and a rape test was performed. The test revealed DNA samples of the attacker–though the criminal has yet to be identified.
Of course this opened up a big question: how on earth did the man enter the room and have access to the vulnerable senior? Perhaps the most obvious answer is that the attacker may have been a male employee of the facility. Lawyers and other advocates working on these cases appreciate that sexual assault by caregivers is not unheard of.
The state Department of Health investigated the matter, issuing a suspension on new admissions into the facility after determining that the home’s current policies and procedures placed residents at risk of harm. This particular home is run by a large nursing home conglomerate which operates at least 225 facilities in 28 different states. In other words, if this company was cutting corners or not abiding by proper safety protocols, then tens of thousands of residents may be at risk.
The story explains that the suspended facility in this case allegedly sought to act quickly to correct the problem. Staff members received better training on identifying, reporting, investigating, and documenting abuse allegations. In addition, updated background checks were ordered on all male employees. Twenty-four security was hired, door locks were changed, windows were made more secure, and surveillance cameras were installed. In addition, another employee was hired–a state-licensed administrator–to ensure the home followed rules and regulations in the future.
After all of these changes were made the state lifted the suspension, allowing new admissions to the home.
Ensure Actual Improvement
Our team of lawyers is familiar with this course of conduct, as one of the most common demands by state and federal regulators involve changes in policies and procedures. In this case, the story suggests that a wide-range of actual physical changes and resource additions that will make residents at the facility safer. It is a clear testament to the importance of coming forward with misconduct allegations and ensuring full accountability. Fellow residents may be spared significant pain, injury, or even death.
However, it is important to keep a close eye on all facilities where misconduct has occurred into the foreseeable future. It is natural for a home to make concessions in the immediate aftermath of an incident, with regulators keeping a close eye. It is another thing for those changes to translate into cultural modifications that improve care indefinitely. For that reason, all those with friends or loved ones are encouraged to remain vigilant about quality of care issues at all long-term care homes–particularly if the home has had problems with these issues in the past.
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