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The Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC), an organization dedicated to the protection and well being of the elderly, has released its first monthly issue alert. The first issue is dedicated to understanding, preventing, recognizing, and treating pressure ulcers. It also deals with how to find out if the facility that cares for your loved one has a history of allowing these painful, yet often preventable, sores to develop in their residents.

The alert is a useful tool in understanding what a pressure ulcer is and how to know for yourself how advanced the bed sore is and if its occurrence was preventable based on your or your loved ones health and risk factors. LTCCC’s monthly alert on pressure ulcers can be found here.

Pressure Ulcers: Why You Need an Experienced Attorney Advocating for You

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The Robert Matava Elder Abuse Prosecution Act of 2017, introduced by Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, has recently passed the House after passing the Senate in August. It awaits signature by President Trump before officially becoming law.

Also named the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, the act seeks “To prevent elder abuse and exploitation and improve the justice system’s response to victims in elder abuse and exploitation cases.” The act contains several major components, including assigning at least one federal United States Assistant Attorney, called an elder justice coordinator, in every federal jurisdiction. This attorney would help pursue and prosecute cases of elder abuse, increase community awareness of elder abuse, and train FBI agents in recognizing, pursuing, and prosecuting those guilty of elder abuse.

The act requires the Federal Trade Commission to also elect someone to serve as an Elder Justice Coordinator that would be responsible for “coordinating and supporting the enforcement and consumer education efforts and policy activities of the Federal Trade Commission on elder justice issues.” The Federal Trade Commission is also expected to submit an annual report to both the House of Representatives and the Senate that outlines all cases of elder fraud that were pursued that year. This includes financial schemes that target the elderly. The act notes that nearly $3 billion is swindled from the elderly each year due to fraud or exploitation.

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It was confirmed on October 9th that a 14th victim, 95 year old Francesca Andrade, has died after spending days without air conditioning at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. During Hurricane Irma, the facility blew a transformer that powered their air conditioning. Three days went by before authorities were finally alerted that many residents were in respiratory distress, a side effect of elevated body temperatures. The 13th victim was the wife of a man who was also a resident of the facility and lost his life immediately following the evacuation. The victims, Cecilia and Miguel Antonio Franco, were parents and grandparents and had been married for 62 years.

The nursing home is currently under criminal investigation for failing to transfer patients after losing power and has been shut down by the state of Florida. The media immediately noted that an unaffiliated hospital was located directly across the street from the nursing home and until the first patients began being transferred in the early hours of September 13th, the hospital was unaware of the tragedy occurring only a stone’s throw away.

Unbelievably, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is fighting back against the closure, citing their multiple calls to state officials to intervene to have their power restored. Governor Rick Scott has fired back saying that a voicemail on an elected official’s phone is no excuse for not taking action to move patients from unbearable conditions to a safe location. The nursing home has also claimed they had firm safety plans in place for Hurricane Irma, although it remains unclear what the plan was for dealing with extreme heat and no power. The facility used several portable air conditioners and fans, but news reports revealed that many patients, especially those on the second floor, had temperatures as high as 109 degrees.

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A former Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) and employee of an Ohio nursing home owned by Olympia Therapy has been awarded nearly $3 million dollars for notifying the government of his employer’s Medicare fraud scheme.

The PTA, Vladimir Trakhter, alerted authorities that Olympia, in conjunction with its management group, Provider Services, were ordering medically unnecessary physical therapy services between 2008-2012 that resulted in millions in false billings under Medicare. Trakhter’s lawsuit also said that in many cases, the therapy was so excessive that it caused extreme injury and suffering to the patient. Trakhter was awarded $2.9 million, while his former employer must pay $19.5 million in restitution to the government.

Nursing Home Whistleblower Protection

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An Orland Park widow is suing Spring Creek Nursing and Rehab Center in Joliet over their alleged negligence that led to the death of her husband in April of this year. Dianne Casper, the widow of Edward Casper, said he was just 75 when he entered the facility after having hip surgery. According to the lawsuit, Edward Casper’s record at Spring Creek documented that he was suffering from dementia, ‘increased cognitive impairment,’ as well as at risk for falls.

Excessive Number of Falls Within Two Months

The lawsuit alleges that from his admission date on January 31, 2017 to his death in April, he fell 28 times at the facility. His final fall in early March caused him to fracture his other hip, which resulted in an immediate hospital transfer and surgery. He died one month after that fall.

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The death toll at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has now reached 12. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the facility lost power and air conditioning, leaving residents to suffer in sweltering heat for days. Although the facility had notified Florida Power & Light that they needed their power restored and later contacted state authorities to ask them to escalate their request, at no point did the staff at the facility say that the health of their residents was in danger, nor did they make any attempts to transport visibly ill patients less than 50 feet across the street to Memorial Regional Hospital.

Once authorities were notified, a criminal investigation was launched and Governor Rick Scott stripped them of the ability to receive reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid, ensuring that they would not be able to operate. Soon after, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) revoked the nursing home’s operating license.  Just before the FAHCA revoked their license, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit asking that they be able to go back to business as usual, saying that “There is no longer any emergency condition at the nursing home specifically or in the state of Florida generally…all electrical power for central air conditioning to Hollywood Hills was fully restored.”

False Charting

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The latest version of a Republican-backed plan to replace the Affordable Care Act was introduced today, giving Senators only days to consider it before casting their vote. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Graham-Cassidy Bill, introduced by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Dean Heller (NV) and Ron Johnson (WI), would cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage and impose a federal per capita cap for Medicaid. Unlike under the Affordable Care Act, which has no set funding maximum per state for Medicaid, the federal cap would predetermine the amount of reimbursement each Medicaid enrollee in a state would receive, giving no consideration to likely increases in health care costs or the actual health needs of each recipient. This would leave states responsible for covering the difference, clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices to write off additional costs, or even worse, require already struggling Americans to pay more for their healthcare.

Block Grants Would Allow States More Control Over Healthcare Coverage

For all other Americans, block grants would determine how each state handles healthcare coverage for its citizens. At the federal level, subsidies, typically to help pay for coverage of lower and middle income Americans, would be up to the states. States can chose to eliminate subsidies altogether and reallocate those funds from the block grant towards other elements of their healthcare program.

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American Senior Communities (ASC), an Indianapolis-based nursing home ownership group with locations throughout Indiana and Kentucky, is suing its former CEO and several other executives for swindling millions from the company and spending it on personal luxury items including planes, vacations, and houses. ASC’s former CEO, James Burkhart, is specifically accused of setting up shell companies that appeared on the books to sell certain products and services to ASC. The price of these items was exaggerated in order to allow the accused executives to pocket large sums of money.

According to ABC News, the nursing home chain operates close to 100 facilities, 60 of which contract with the public health agency in Marion County, Indiana. Due to this relationship, the case is being prosecuted by the federal government, whose investigation revealed that nearly $16 million was stolen between 2009-2015.

In a statement made by his attorney, Mr. Burkhart said that he is not guilty and that ASC owes him millions under his employment agreement, which he intends to recover from the company.

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The story of the death of 8 residents at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the wake of Hurricane Irma has saddened our country. How could a nursing home lose power and leave residents to suffer in over 90 degree temperatures with just a few portable air conditioning units? Before news broke that the facility had a laundry list of violations and lawsuits, Levin & Perconti’s own Steven Levin was interviewed on national news channel HLN about the magnitude of the situation (watch his interview here). Steven Levin told HLN’s Carol Costello “Where was the staff? How could they not be on notice that they would have a power failure in this type of situation? And what, if any, precautions had they made in the event of a power failure. Forget the power failure. They knew there were going to be extremely high temperatures in this area at this time.”

Now, sadness is giving way to anger as news outlets have reported that the nursing home has a long history of violations, lawsuits accusing the facility of abuse and neglect, as well as prior citations for a faulty generator. The lack of a backup plan for a power outage at the nursing home speaks to the facility’s utter disregard for the health and safety of their residents.

Florida Senator Gary Farmer told ABC 10 that the state needs to strengthen the laws for nursing homes. According to Farmer, “We’ve insulated these nursing homes through deregulation in this state, and that’s how things like this can happen.” Stories of nursing home abuse and neglect and health and safety citations frequently go unknown by the public for many reasons. Nursing homes can be quick to settle lawsuits to keep them out of the public eye, and citations are only found by residents, their loved ones, and the public when they know exactly where to search. Citations can be cast aside by remedying the problem and paying a fine to the state Department of Health or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It was only after the 8 deaths that the state, under Governor Rick Scott’s order, shut down the nursing home.