The Legal Way Episode 3 | Hidden Horrors: Exposing The Truth Of Nursing Home Negligence

In this eye-opening episode, Friedman Schuman medical malpractice attorneys Derek R. Layser and Brett J. Kaminsky delve into the grim realities of nursing home negligence that often go unnoticed. Join us as we shed light on the steps individuals and families can take to recognize and address signs of neglect as well as discuss a recent case of a victim of nursing home neglect. From understanding resident rights to exploring avenues for seeking justice, this episode aims to empower listeners with crucial information to protect their loved ones and advocate for safer elder care.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Alyson: Hi everyone, welcome back to The Legal Way podcast by Friedman Schuman. My name is Alyson Layser and I’m your host. I’m also the director of marketing here at Friedman Schuman. And today we are going to be joined by two guests who are also attorneys in our medical malpractice department, Brett Kaminsky and Derek Layser. I am going to have them introduce themselves and then we are going to be chatting all about the topic of nursing home neglect and abuse. So, Derek and Brett, feel free, introduce yourselves, and then we’ll take it away.

Derek: Good afternoon. I’m Derek Layser. I’ve been an attorney for 30-some years, and I’ve been doing almost medical malpractice and nursing home neglect exclusively for that time period.

Brett: Good afternoon. I’m Brett Kaminsky. I’ve been practicing for about nine years, and I’ve been doing medical malpractice, personal injury and nursing home neglect for that period of time as well.

Alyson: That’s awesome. All right, question for you guys that is not on the sheet that I gave you. What got you guys interested or into medical malpractice and the law associated with that?

Derek: For me, it just sort of happened. The first person that I worked for did medical malpractice defense. I started working with him closely and sort of transitioned from working for him to working with him. Became a partner with him. It’s very interesting work and I just sort of fell into it, but now I can’t imagine me doing anything else.

Alyson: Yeah. What about you, Brett?

Brett: Yeah, same with me. I mean, I guess growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of doctors and people in the medical field and I always found that to be very interesting. And when I got to law school, I took some classes that were about litigation and medical malpractice and personal injury. And that’s really what was most interesting to me.

Alyson: That’s awesome. I mean, talking to you guys and hearing about all of your cases, you guys work with some very, very interesting and sometimes really sad cases, but I feel like it’s very rewarding work.

For sure.

Alyson: Yes, that’s awesome. So, like I said earlier, we’re gonna be talking about nursing home neglect. And before we dive in deep into this topic, I just wanted to see from you, Derek and Brett, do you guys have any statistics about nursing home neglect and what that looks like in present day and just how it affects people?

Brett: Yeah, sure. So, I actually looked up some of these. And in the last few years, the statistics show that there’s about 800-some thousand people spread across 700-plus nursing homes, specifically in Pennsylvania. And that number is continuing to increase as people continue to live longer and longer and as the elderly population grows. I found some statistics online. Let me see here. And this is from the Pennsylvania judicial system website. So, in 2022, there were 345 elder abuse and related nursing home abuse cases that were filed in Pennsylvania, which is an 86% increase from the prior year. Now, most of those numbers focus on elder abuse, which doesn’t necessarily encompass all nursing home abuse and certainly the numbers for nursing home abuse would probably be even larger. Now as far as percentages, what they found is that there are multiple types of abuse, which I guess we’ll get into a little bit more. The biggest percentage of abuse is neglect and that accounts for about 35%. The second biggest is endangering the welfare of individuals, which again goes more towards elderly abuse. There’s also financial abuse, physical violence, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and what they found is of those defendants, meaning the targets, the people that are committing the abuse, about 57% are male and the average age range for the offender is between 30 and 39 years old.

Alyson: That’s really crazy. I didn’t look up any statistics before this because I was so interested to hear what you guys would bring today and those numbers are wild.

Brett: They are, and again, and Derek and I will get into this a little bit more. Those are the numbers of reported cases that have been filed. Those numbers are probably grossly under reported because you have to account for the ones that are under reported, the people who don’t have patient advocates or families that are advocating on their behalf, the abuse that goes unrecognized. We hear these horror stories in the news or Derek and I hear it on a day-to-day basis about abuse that has gone on for years and it only becomes a problem when we get involved or when the family gets involved. So even those numbers, which is a dramatic increase from year to year, it’s probably much worse than that in reality.

Derek: Yeah, I bet it would be the tip of the iceberg because the last big study that was done in the late 90s on the amount of medical malpractice cases, that study showed that only one out of 10 people who were a victim of malpractice actually sought out a lawyer. So, I suspect the same holds true for nursing and elder abuse. Maybe it might even be worse.

Brett: Right. And also, just piggybacking off that, a lot of times if the patient dies or something worse happens to the patient, that doesn’t get reported or the medical records might get legs and walk and things like that. So again, I think that number is a grossly under-reported or under-represented number. But those are the numbers that you see online or in the papers or those are the statistics. But yeah, to Derek’s point, each year it goes up and continuously up worse and worse.

Alyson: Those numbers are just, they’re really, really shocking and it’s really sad. So, I’m really glad that we’re talking about this because hopefully it’ll bring more awareness to people and if they have family members that are in nursing homes, they can know what to be aware of. Now as we dive a little bit deeper, you touched on this a little bit, what exactly does nursing home abuse and neglect look like? If we can go a little bit more into detail about that.

Derek: Well oftentimes we get called on certain injuries that may or may not be to abuse, but they’re also malpractice. What we see typically are pressure sores, which occur because the patient’s not being moved. A lot of people are unable to move themselves, so they need to be repositioned and they typically get those pressure injuries on their backside or sacrum, the heels, the back of the head, even sometimes the elbows. We also see sometimes just a total lack of care, dehydration. We looked at records the other day where the patient had sustained blood sugar levels of over 1,000 and when they finally got around to transporting to the hospital, the hospital records, the first thing it says in the ER record is patients suspected for abuse at nursing home. So, a lot of things there. And also, we see a lot of falls. People are left alone or they’re supposed to be transported to the bathroom. They get up out of bed. There should have been bed alarms. There should have been mats on the floor. And there are falls that can be a broken hip, but also if they hit their head could be a brain injury. Some of them are on blood thinners, a fall to the…and hitting your head results in a subdural hematoma or a brain bleed. So, there’s all sorts of issues, but I would say primarily we see falls and pressure injuries.

Alyson: Wow. Anything that you want to throw in there, or add, Brett?

Brett: Yeah, I would agree. To Derek’s point, what we’ve seen a lot is due to chronic understaffing, we see issues where patients get left alone. A lot of times they’re incontinent, so they’re having accidents, and that turns into wounds and infections. A woman had a history of falls and they were supposed to put mats in her bed and they forgot one night. Unfortunately, she rolled out of the bed and cracked her head open and somebody didn’t find her for a long period of time. Within 24 hours, unfortunately, or possibly thankfully, depending on who you’re asking, she passed away. A lot of this is related to understaffing issues, but what we’re seeing a lot is these falls and these pressure wounds.

Alyson: Wow. Really, really sad. My gosh. So, while I didn’t research statistics coming into this episode, I have researched a decent amount about, you know, nursing home neglect and abuse just for different blog posts and things. And one common theme, I guess you could say, that I’ve come across is that a lot of this understaffing, and there has been like a significant uptick in nursing home neglect and abuse cases has been due to COVID, or people suspect that due to the pandemic really increased a lot of these cases. Have you guys seen an increase due to that or do you think that they correlate?

Derek: We’ve definitely seen an increase in the last six to nine months and I think it’s primarily due to understaffing. There’s less and less people there. The people that are there have less training today and you know the nurses or the aides can’t be two places at once but they’re now caring for many patients and they can’t do it. Patients are left alone or not turned.

Brett: Yeah, I think a lot of it, especially with COVID, was a lot of these nursing homes weren’t letting people in. So, whereas you have a resident of a nursing home having visitors every day or every other day, when they go for a prolonged period of time, then the family is not there to check up on everything or to look at everything or to look at whether they’re being turned every four hours or eight hours, whether they’re getting adequate nutrition. So, we’ve seen, especially in this post-COVID, uh… era so to speak this family said well I wasn’t allowed in for the last sixty eight months and now all the sudden mom or dad have this horrible pressure wound or they’re a shell of themselves where they’ve lost a bunch of weight or where they’ve been complaining for days, if not weeks, and nobody’s listening to them and because I wasn’t allowed and there was nothing I could do, so I think that you know in addition to understaffing which is for my money, you know the biggest issue here are understaffing lack of training, there’s also this gap where families weren’t allowed to visit and be there every day. And I think that sometimes when families aren’t coming in every day, there’s less pressure to turn every four hours or to check in on the resident or when the resident is complaining or asking for help, maybe you don’t get to them as quickly as you would if their family was sitting right there. So, I think that it’s a combination of things that have led to all these calls. Also, blogs like some of the ones that you’ve posted and more and more recognition also brings light to these issues. A lot of times people think, well, you know, stuff happens. Maybe it wasn’t an issue. Now that there’s been more and more conversation about it and more articles posted and more research done, people are saying, hey, what happened to my spouse or my loved one really wasn’t right. Let me speak with somebody.

Alyson: Yeah, definitely. I’ve read a couple of articles and things where, you know, people have had family members in nursing homes and they’re like, “oh my gosh, I can’t believe this happened, I put my family member in this place for them to be safe while they can’t care for themselves,” and so it’s really unfortunate that this happens because people should be safe if they’re being put in nursing homes.

Derek: And with the lack of staffing there are times that people are late listed as a two-person assist or two-person transfer and they are two people to do it so the one person tries, we just had a case with a gentleman, an amputee, had other serious physical conditions, needed to be bathed in a bed, but there’s a proper way to make sure that he’s placed so he doesn’t roll out of the bed. But it’s tends to take two people, and they didn’t do that. And he rolled out, hit his head, and died a couple days later. And our client was so frankly disgusted by the excuse that the nursing home gave her that she called the police and the police came out and did an investigation. And while there were no criminal charges, the police interview was, according to my expert, the exact blueprint for the lawsuit. And the police interview showed everything that they did wrong. But it all came back because she couldn’t find the second person to help and just decided to go ahead.

Alyson: That’s really, really a shame. So, we have talked a little bit about pressure sores being one of the main signs of nursing home neglect. I’m sure that there are a lot of other instances. What are some of those other signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse that maybe a family member could look for if they have a family member?

Derek: Well, sometimes the people with the pressure sores, as Brett said, are diapered, and if they’re complaining of pain underneath the diaper, they should try to take a look because wounds can very quickly spread and become worse. Sometimes there’s just bruising that’s new or you don’t think. We’ve seen where people have been rough housed or not cared for or a bruise could also indicate a fall that no one witnessed or recorded.

Brett: Sorry, I don’t want to go off. Interestingly enough, at least two or three of our nursing home abuse cases that we have right now were recognized by the funeral director because inevitably, to Derek’s point, a lot of times these wounds are on a patient’s back or on their sacrum, their buttocks or in areas that you’re not necessarily asking a loved one to show you on a day-to-day basis. And at least two of the ones that I’m thinking of off the top of my head, you know, the person unfortunately passed away and when the funeral director was dressing the body or doing whatever they were going to do with the body, they noticed these huge, huge wounds that had tunneled down to the bone or, you know, not to get too graphic, but and have actually called the family and said, “Hey, were you aware of this?” So, you know, when you’re talking about how a family might be able to recognize it or what can a family necessarily do, it’s not an easy answer because you can’t ask a loved one, especially if they’re the elderly side of things to stand up and turn over and let you examine their body. But you can ask the staff, “What is being done for wound care prevention?” “Have you noticed any issues with their skin?” Speak with people at the nursing home or at the facilities to see what is being done to prevent it because the reality is you can’t always see something until it’s a problem. To Derek’s point, when you talk about bruising, a lot of times elderly people bruise more easily. Well, if you have bruising around somebody’s neck or where it looks like somebody gripped their arms or legs or an area of the body that is not normal, that might be a sign of abuse.

Alyson: Yeah.

Brett: So again, to your question, how can somebody recognize it necessarily? I don’t know that they always can. All that they can do is try to be as on top of things as possible.

Alyson: Yeah, yeah. Are there any maybe even signs of emotional abuse that people should be aware of like maybe a lack of eating or something like that or even just seeming disoriented? Are there any other signs and symptoms like that people should you know be aware of?

Derek: Sometimes the patients become Especially if they’re not able to communicate but they get a look or they withdraw when a staff member comes in or they become afraid They become less communicative than they used to be.

Brett: Yeah, we see in medical notes, you know, a patient might wince in pain, you know, or be reactive to certain stimuli. I mean, there’s a case that we’re going to talk about a little bit later where they noticed the abuse when it smelled like necrotic tissue. All of part of her tissue had died because she was so ill cared for. You know, when it comes to nutrition, you might see a person having neurological deficits or not being as, you know, there as they normally would be because their nutritional status is declining. But yeah, things like that.

Alyson: Gotcha. Are there any tips or even pieces of advice that you would give to someone that has a family member in a nursing home besides maybe just trying to be as aware as possible to these signs and symptoms?

Derek: Well, I think you have to be vigilant and hopefully they’re visiting their loved one. If you see any changes, ask the nurse. If you don’t get the appropriate response, there’s a nursing home administrator. Most nursing homes also have an ombudsman or a social worker that you can go to with questions, but if something doesn’t look right, it’s probably not right. And you gotta act on it.

Brett: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I would agree with that from a reactive position as well, I’m not sure if we’re gonna get into kind of proactive or how to determine what nursing home you might wanna get into or what steps you can take before you’re there. But to Derek’s point, unfortunately, with these nursing homes, what we found is you got to speak up. If you don’t speak up, things aren’t going to change. Even if you feel like you’re being a pain or inconvenience on somebody, that’s your loved one that you’re speaking up for. Unfortunately, with these nursing homes, sometimes it’s the patients with the loudest advocates that get the best care. That’s not the way things should be, but more and more we’re seeing that is the way things are.

Alyson: For sure, and that goes even beyond just nursing homes too.

Brett: Absolutely. That kind of leads into the next question that I want to get into is if somebody has a loved one in a nursing home and they think that they are being abused, what would be the next steps for them to take?

Derek: I think first you would go to the nursing home administrator, but nursing homes are very regulated. So, the Department of State and the Department of Aging in Pennsylvania, they have field offices, you can call them, you can make a complaint. They will come out and investigate and they will make surprise visits to the homes. And then those investigations eventually become a public record and they do not fool around with that. If you make an allegation of abuse, they’re likely to be out there in a couple days investigating, pulling records, and they keep the clients updated on the results of their investigation.

Alyson: That’s really good to know.

Brett: Yeah, and again, I’ll get into this a little bit more maybe on the next section, but there’s actually – and I’ve done some research on this. The Department of Health has statistics, and there’s a special group. It’s called the Special Focus Facility Program. And if you continue to make reports of abuse about different facilities, that facility might be placed on a list where they have to comply with certain regulations by X date or they remain on that list. And to Derek’s point, any complaints that are registered to the Department of Health or the Department of Aging are public records. So, you can literally go onto their websites and see and specifically look up your nursing home or a nursing home that you’re possibly considering and see what complaints have been made. And depending on the nursing home, the complaints are in, and I forget if it’s three categories or four where it’s minor, medium, or severe, and they’re even color coded some of them. So, you can literally see and track those complaints, which is certainly a good resource for the individuals to make sure that their complaints are being heard or Their concerns are being addressed or hopefully rectified.

Alyson: Yeah, that’s really great to know I feel like and you kind of touched on this earlier that a lot of reports of this abuse go I mean they go unreported and I feel like that maybe because people think that nothing’s going to happen so it’s nice to hear that there are regulations and that somebody will be out at a nursing home and looking into all of that very quickly.

Brett: Yeah, absolutely.

Alyson: So that is kind of another question that I wanted to bring up. Are there any other reasons why you think that people don’t report the abuse? Do you think that might be one of the main reasons that they think nothing will be done? Or are there some other reasons that you think?

Brett: Yeah. I mean, first of all, I think it’s, yes, I think that part of it is that, that they think that their complaints will go on deaf ears. I think part of it is that it’s a pain or that you’re so focused on your loved one and getting them the help that you need, that you’re not gonna register any complaints. What we see a lot of times with our clients, when they get to a lawyer, they’re speaking with a lawyer for two reasons. The first is they want justice for what happened to their loved one. And a lot of times, I would say the majority of the time, they don’t want the same thing to happen to somebody else. So, to Derek’s point, filing a complaint, then you might have to make a phone call, or you might have to send an email. So, it’s not as easy as just snapping your fingers and they do an investigation. So, you know, a lot of people, that is an additional burden on them, in addition to everything else that they have going on. So, I get why one wouldn’t want to do that necessarily, but again, to Derek’s point, that is what gets people investigated. That is what gets, you know, the Department of Health or the Department of Aging out there to address these issues. So, that it doesn’t continue to happen.

Alyson: Yeah.

Derek: And oftentimes, we’re getting involved after the event or after the person unfortunately passes away. There are times, though, where we get calls when the patient’s still in the nursing home. It makes it a little more tricky to get the records. And they’re usually afraid of a reprisal, which then the nursing home would have other problems. But I have one client right now where they’re actively trying to transfer the patient and get them to another nursing home once they discover the problems that exist. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. There’s a lot of issues in transferring.

Brett: And another thing, a lot of these, if we’re speaking directly to the victims themselves that are in the nursing homes, a lot of these people are not in a good way. They might be ashamed or embarrassed. If it’s a loved one, for example, then there might be a lot of guilt. For example, if you send somebody to ex-nursing home and then your loved one gets abused, they feel a certain level of guilt. Well, why didn’t I send them to a different facility? So, by reporting it and by going through the investigation, they’re highlighting an area where they’re ashamed or feel guilty, whether that’s right or wrong, is a different story. But I think that we see, especially when you’re talking about wounds or falls or things like that, Derek and I deal with this level of guilt from the family. Well, what if I had just taken them here? Or if I had visited them on that date, and again, we’re gonna talk about one case in particular where due to COVID, the family wasn’t able to visit and their first response was to blame themselves for letting this happen, even though they’re not healthcare providers, they weren’t involved whatsoever, and there was nothing that they could have done otherwise. So, I think that there’s a number of factors which make these reports that much more difficult for the individuals or for their families.

Derek: And oftentimes when the injuries are happening or the abuse is happening, it becomes overwhelming to the family. They’re working, they have families of their own trying to take care of them. The last thing they’re necessarily thinking of is an investigation or calling a lawyer. But that option is there and sometimes that might be the better option because at least somebody then is working on their behalf.

Alyson: Yeah. I’m sure it’s definitely not a fun or simple process to navigate, which kind of leads into the next question. You know, if somebody decides that they want to pursue legal action, like what are the different options for the victims of the abuse and neglect in nursing homes?

Derek: Well, first, you should call a lawyer with experience in it so you can get those options. But I think there sometimes are, you can file the complaints with the state. Nursing homes are also regulated a lot by Medicare and Medicare’s regulations. So, they may do an investigation. Frankly, we’re the ones doing the investigation by ordering the records and then talking to the appropriate experts. I have helped at times when someone’s in the home, but usually we’re contacted after the event.

Brett: Yeah. And if they don’t want to go the legal route, you know, let me back up. To Derek’s point, we suggest that they go the legal route because then we’re essentially taking over the investigation for them. You want to speak with an experienced attorney because some of this abuse might be on film, for example. And that’s where an experienced attorney will send out something along the lines of a spoliation letter. A lot of times our clients, they want to file a complaint with the Department of Health. There’s online forms that they can get for that. There’s a number. There’s an email address. The National Center on Elder Abuse, if it’s an elderly abuse related case, or the Department of Aging, there are multiple avenues for doing it. But unfortunately, it’s the type of thing where if you don’t know, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s why contacting an attorney is that much more important in these aspects because you would be shocked or maybe you wouldn’t be shocked because we’re here. People would be shocked by the amount of things that are caught on film. And if you don’t know to ask for that or send a spoliation letter which says you need to preserve this evidence, then the film either might get legs or might get recycled in there, whether it’s a 48-hour, 72-hour film save, I don’t even know what the technology is called. You would know that better than I would. But when you don’t know what you don’t know, that’s a scary position to be in. So, contacting an attorney like us or somebody with experience like us kind of allows you to say your story, say your concerns, and let somebody that has dealt with this very frequently, kind of deal with it and walk you through those steps, if nothing else, so that you realize that you’re not on your own.

Alyson: Yeah, absolutely. And I would think just based off of what you said that especially just being in 2023, like there are so many ways that evidence can be collected, like something might be on film, there could be a picture. And so, I would think that in present day, it’s probably simpler to be able to prove that there was negligence or abuse in nursing homes.

Brett: Absolutely. And a lot of times, the biggest issue that I have with the nursing home system in and of itself being able to get somebody on the phone or the lack of responsiveness. If you as an individual are calling to register a complaint with a nursing home, they might send you right to voicemail or they might not get back to you. Again, and you probably wouldn’t be shocked, but one might be shocked by how quickly they’ll respond when they get a letter from a lawyer that says, call me now, or put your insurance carrier on notice. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s what it takes to get a response. That stinks, I get that, but Derek and I and our whole team are in a fortunate position where we’re able to get those responses and able to track down that information so that you as the individual can focus on what you need to, which is your loved one and getting them the care and treatment that they need moving forward, or if God forbid, they’ve passed away or dealing with that grieving process and however you need to deal with it.

Alyson: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that wraps up for the most part all of our questions for the episode, unless there is anything else that you guys would like to bring up or something that popped into your head that you would like to share based off of all of those.

Brett: Do you have anything?

Derek: No.

Brett: I have one that I think is good. And I touched on this earlier. I think that what a lot of people need to do or what is very important is understanding your resources when selecting a nursing home for a loved one or for yourself.

Alyson: That’s a great topic. Feel free to… Yeah.

Brett: And again, maybe I should have started with this instead of ending with this, but there are multiple resources which can help you kind of navigate those waters, so to speak. Obviously, there’s a lot of nursing homes. Everybody’s got cool, colorful websites with great pictures and videos about how your loved one will be 50 years younger when they walk in the door, for example. But if you look at, there’s Medicare.gov, which is a great resource. And if you look on the providers and service page, they literally outline for you a star rating system of each of these nursing homes, a staff rating system, vaccination ratings, fire and safety inspection ratings, penalty and fines, number of beds, proximity to hospitals, inspection details, insurance participation, because that’s always you know, a potential issue. But, you know, for example, unfortunately, Derek and I get these cases when stuff has happened. So, we’ll go back and we’ll investigate that nursing home and we’ll see that they got half a star out of five and that their staff rating is a zero and that they’ve paid, you know, Derek and I have one where they’ve paid $315,000 worth of fines in the last, I forget, you know, three or four years. If you can look at that beforehand and kind of say, hey, I’m sending my loved one or my spouse or loved one, whatever the case may be, to a place that has five stars or has a good staffing ratio that’s down the street from the hospital, that has a good number of beds, that hasn’t been penalized hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year for violations. That is at least a good way to hedge your bet that your loved one is going to get the care and treatment that they deserve. The Medicare.gov also, and again, I know I’m kind of going off on a tangent here, but they actually provide a checklist of what to look for when investigating these homes. Because again, you’re doing an interview with these homes to see if they are good enough for your loved ones, right? And they have literally a checklist of things to look for, questions to ask. They also tell you, any nursing home cited for abuse will have a specific icon next to their name. So, you can literally go online, as Derek was talking about, and see what they’ve been cited for. And if those citations don’t, if they ran out of ice one day, for example, that might not bother you. If they’ve had five people die in the last month due to allegations of abuse, that might be a red flag for you. So, you or an individual can make that determination. But again, when I was talking earlier about the guilt that these individuals feel for sending them to nursing home X, because they had the coolest website or because they had the best food options or because they were the cheapest option. I would venture to guess that if these people knew that information leading into it, then their decision might be steered elsewhere and they might be able to find a happy medium for their loved one, which hopefully mitigates the damages or lessens their conversations with us. As much as Derek and I love what we’re doing and love to help these people, we don’t want loved ones or individuals to get abused by nursing homes. What Derek and I are doing, unfortunately, is policing the system as much as we can and getting justice for those that have been abused. But most of our clients, we wish that we never met because that means that their loved ones didn’t have a catastrophic injury or weren’t abused, things of that nature. So, anybody that I know that’s sending a family member to a nursing home or a loved one to a nursing home, whatever the case may be, I always say, “Hey, look at this before you get there.” Don’t just look on their website. They’re not posting negative reviews. They’re not posting how many times they’ve been fined. They’re posting a five-star review from one client that happened to really love them for whatever reason. That’s what you’re seeing. And that can be very misleading, obviously, for a number of reasons.

Alyson: Yeah, it can be.

Derek: Yeah, and I would definitely check the facility, not just check out the website. And some people don’t do that. And pictures on the website are old.

Brett: Right.

Derek: …what it’s like and also, I mean, I’ve been to nursing homes to visit people and at times I almost have unfettered access because I’m wearing a suit. And so, security, you would, you know, we’ve had assaults with people coming in off the street as well. So, you have to check the security, you have to check that they’re being, if you’re going to put your loved one in one of these homes, that they’re being taken care of not just during business hours, but 24 hours a day. Most people there are helpless.

Brett: And also, to Derek’s point, if you have the time, go more than once. Because if they know that you’re coming, it’s like a college tour. If you’re there on a beautiful day and big football games in town and the team’s doing well, it’s gonna look great. Go there on a crappy day, on a weekend, when they’re not expecting you, and see what the staffing ratios are. It doesn’t mean to hold it against them. Look, if you’re showing up on Christmas, the staffing’s gonna be different than it is the day before or the few days before. But when you go on a weekday, at a business hours or you go on a weekend, see what it’s like. Go into the rooms that your loved one is going to be living in. Don’t just walk through the gym or speak with one or two people that are working there that are the greeters when you enter. You really have to do your due diligence and unfortunately again, that is burdensome but the amount of problems or issues that you can save yourself from on the long run, it’s just, it’s invaluable if you can do that.

Alyson: Yeah, for sure. I’m really glad that you brought that up again, because I think that’s really, really important information. And like you said earlier, people don’t know what they don’t know. A lot of people probably aren’t even aware that they can go to that website and that they have ratings and all of that type of stuff. So, I appreciate you bringing that back up. It’s definitely valuable. People need to know it. So now I want to move into a case study of one of your recent cases, which actually had a pretty long article written about it very recently. I don’t want to share all the details. I’d love for you guys to share it. If you guys could just go into the case, what happened, and a little bit about the work that you both did on it, that would be awesome.

Brett: Sure. Do you want me to start? For a number of reasons, we can’t really get into names, but essentially, Derek and I were fortunate to meet, we have a client who has a lovely family and she was in a nursing home where they essentially just stopped taking care of her. And what ended up happening, the woman, and again, she was an elderly woman and certainly had some health problems, but due to some of her health problems, she started to have contractures in her hand, like her muscles kind of contracted and kind of left her hand in more of a fist and as part of the duties they were supposed to be clipping her nails and what’s it called, filing her nails down to make sure that everything was fine. Unfortunately, over a course of a number of months they stopped doing that and her nails ended up growing through her hand. And the wound ended up getting infected and I brought this up briefly before and Derek can piggyback on it in a second, the way that it was recognized, somebody took her to the hospital and there weren’t enough beds in the hospital. So, she’s sitting outside and a doctor walks by and smells what he called roadkill and dying flesh and immediately took her in. The police investigated, there were multiple arrests made and it was during COVID. So, the family wasn’t able to be there and they weren’t able to see her nails. They weren’t able to see her hair. She had a multitude of other issues due to the abuse. But the main issue was the hands. And the family felt a huge level of guilt because they weren’t there. And they didn’t know what they didn’t know. And they started kind of digging around and they ended up getting in touch with us. And we were able to send a spoliation letter. We were able to get an investigation. We were able to get the criminal transcript. Derek and I both met with the family. I went to the criminal hearing. Allison, who’s on our team, also went to one of the criminal hearings. And if you look at the medical records, it looks like everything is fine. They say that they cut the nails, they did this, they did that, but the nails were so long and had gone through her hand that it was impossible that they could have cut the nails. Do you want to kind of think about that?

Derek: So, you know, the records clearly were wrong and the results speak for themselves, but I mean, for criminal charges to be filed, it was an unbelievable case and set of circumstances. But a newspaper reporter then was digging in that particular county and this particular institution had multiple claims in the past as well. And some of them were very egregious. So that’s where somebody had the wherewithal or the knowledge to investigate this before they put their loved one there. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. But it goes to show there’s a lot of these places that are putting their profits over people.

Brett: And also, to the point where you don’t know what you don’t know, the family had no idea until they got a call from the hospital that their loved one was there, and the doctor said, hey, what happened? So not only did they not know what to do medically, which is certainly understandable, but they didn’t know how to go about an investigation or how to hold these people accountable. So, when they called Derek and me, we were able to get on it immediately. Like I said, we were at the criminal hearing. We were able to get the transcripts. They were actually photos that corresponded with the nurse’s notes where she said, I did X, Y, and Z, and clearly the photos showed that she could not have possibly done that.

Alyson: Wow.

Brett: So, you know, again, but for our involvement or but for legal involvement, the nurse at home would have said, hey, we did this, here’s our notes to prove it, and that unfortunately might have been the end of it.

Alyson: Yeah.

Brett: But because we got involved and, you know, because of our investigation and the steps that we took, we were able to get some justice for the family. Now, that doesn’t make what they did okay at all. It doesn’t take anything away from the victim or what she had to go through as a result of this. But the idea that Derek and I had was to bring a recognition to this so that this doesn’t continue to happen. Now, Derek and I aren’t foolish enough to think that it won’t happen again, but the more recognition that we bring to it and the more notoriety that these types of cases get and the more people like you, social media gurus like you post, the more the nursing homes need to say, hey, wait a minute, you know, maybe some of this profit should go into better staffing or better training or better recognition or better client relations. And to me, that’s a big deal.

Alyson: I would agree with that.

Derek: And in this case, it was during COVID, so the family wasn’t allowed there, but earlier we had talked about what can a family do. Everybody’s got a…almost everybody’s got a camera on their phone. In our world, a picture says a thousand words. So, if you’re visiting a loved one and see a bruise that looks a little suspicious or a bump, or you think there’s a sore, you know, take a photo, take a video, that and probably the more the better because that really helps us in our investigation. And, you know, if it has the date stamp on it of when you see this bruise and the records say nothing happened that day, well, you know, that can help us out as well.

Brett: Yeah. And ask questions. If you think that something is off or if your loved one didn’t get his or her breakfast that morning or isn’t being turned or if you leave for four hours and they’re in the same position as they were in the morning, ask questions. Say something. The expression, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Ask a thousand questions until you are satisfied that your loved one is getting the care that you need. But also, to Derek’s point, sometimes you have to do the investigation on your own. Take pictures. Write stuff down if you need to. Ask for the names of nurses or PAs or supervisors or social workers, whatever you need to do so that you can leave that place knowing that your loved one is getting proper care. That’s what you have to do.

Alyson: Yeah, for sure. I have heard of a lot of your cases at the firm and I will say that this one is one of the saddest ones that I’ve heard about and it’s so terrible to think that. That could happen somewhere where people are put to be safe and cared for.

Derek: And you’re not a lot of people preventable. Yes. It never should have happened.

Alyson: No, no. And I think I really liked that you guys brought up that a lot during the episode and shared a lot about what you can do to prevent the abuse because certainly there’s individuals that can be abusive but there are a lot of ways in which you can prevent that for your family members. So, I really appreciate you guys sharing that. Is there anything else that you guys wanna add? Or touch on or share before we wrap this up officially.

Derek: Not for me, thanks for having us. Thanks.

Alyson: Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much and we’ll be back soon. All right. Thanks, guys.

 

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