Articles Posted in Atlanta Elder abuse

Nursing home residents are entitled to receive care so their basic needs are met and they are also entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, a ProPublica article published last December 2015 revealed that too often residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not being treated with even a modicum of the respect that they deserve. The article revealed that staff members at many nursing homes and assisted living facilities were sharing photographs and videos of senior residents without their permission and in compromising positions. The photos, some of which included residents in partial stages of undress, were placed on Snapchat and on other social media websites for purposes of mocking the seniors.  atlanta nursing home abuse

This type of abuse is unacceptable, as are all types of abuse of the elderly. When staff members engage in this behavior, the nursing home that employs them should be held accountable in a civil lawsuit. An Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer can provide assistance to victims of elder abuse and their families in exploring all legal options for recovering monetary damages for inappropriate treatment of seniors in nursing facilities.  Efforts also need to be made to prevent and punish this type of abusive behavior when it occurs. Multiple U.S. senators have now taken up the cause, as examples of abuse cases continue to mount.

Senators Urge Action to Prevent Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse

During the holiday season, many people visit nursing homes. You may go to a nursing care facility to see friends or family members, or as a volunteer to bring holiday cheer. When visiting a nursing home facility, it is imperative to be on the lookout for signs of any problems that could indicate a vulnerable senior is being abused. christmas-star-1420864

According to WIAT, nursing home abuse is extremely common.  One survey of 2,000 residents of nursing home facilities revealed 44 percent said they had personally been the victims of abuse and 95 percent had witnessed someone else being either abused or neglected. Too many seniors are not able to speak up for themselves to put a stop to abuse, and they need someone who can help them to file appropriate reports and file civil lawsuits to get compensation for harm they endure. An elder abuse lawyer can help those who are harmed by abuse, so speak up and get in touch with an attorney if you believe someone in your life has been harmed by poor treatment at a nursing home.

Signs of Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse to Watch For

The number of seniors with no children and no living spouse is growing and is expected to continue to expand in the future. Today, one in four seniors age 65 and older is a widow, a widower, or single and has either no children or no children that live close by.  Among Americans between the ages of 45 and 60, currently 1/3 of the population is single. While seniors without spouses or local children are not necessarily socially isolated, a good portion of the aged population who fits into this demographic group also has no close friends nearby and no community network. Seniors who fit this description have been given the name “elder orphan,” according to Family-Studies.orgold-faces-3-940609-m

Elder orphans could face an increased risk of falling victim to nursing home abuse and neglect, compared with seniors who have wider communities and close families to protect their interests. Seniors without close family members need to be vigilant about protecting their own interests, whenever possible. This means if you are a victim of abuse, you should contact an Atlanta nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer for assistance.  Children who have parents in nursing homes and who suspect abuse should also take legal action, because an abuse investigation and lawsuit against a facility can stop the abuse of seniors who may not have an advocate to speak out on their behalf.

Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse a Growing Risk for “Elder Orphans”

Our Atlanta nursing home abuse attorneys read an article about an investigation into management of a senior citizen home for exploitation of elderly residents of the Loving Care Senior Citizen Home in Columbus, Georgia. The owner, director, and maintenance manager were among those arrested in connection with Loving Care’s ongoing abuse and exploitation of residents.

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Sheryl Drakeford, the director of Loving Care, was charged on December 4th with intimidating or exploiting a disabled adult, and also a misdemeanor charge of operating a personal care home without a license. Bruce Davis was also arrested in connection with these crimes. Marcus Miles and KaShonda Miles were also charged in connection with Loving Care for aggravated child molestation, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of sexual assault of a person while in custody. A fifth suspect, Tina Drakeford, was also arrested just last week. She is charged with exploitation of a disabled or elder adult.

Several patients stated that they hadn’t received money that was funneled through Ms. Drakeford. She is accused of taking hundreds of dollars from her often needy victims, sometimes collecting money from those that had no place to stay or had moved out. But that is the tip of the iceberg with the cruel abuse allegedly perpetrated at Loving Care, a place where elderly and disabled adults should be cared for but instead were mistreated and abused in shocking ways. In addition to financial fraud, residents were not given proper medical care and medical records were improperly kept, residents lived in unsanitary conditions, and were also subjected to physical cruelty and even sexual abuse. Sgt. Mark Richards of the Columbus Police Department’s Bureau of Investigative Services and Special Victim’s Unit said in a statement that the residents were also not given enough food in the facility that was poorly equipped and understaffed. Investigators found remnants of bugs, food items covered in roach feces, and long expired and rusted canned goods when they searched the premise.

Our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys read about the case of 61 year old Ellen Wadsworth from Warner Robins. She went to Houston Medical Center on Thanksgiving in 2008 because of severe pain in her feet, according to news reports. Ms. Wadsworth was misdiagnosed and released. Later that same night, she was taken back to the hospital after suffering a heart attack, and it was then that doctors discovered she had blocked arteries in both of her legs and both legs had to be amputated below her knees. This traumatic and radical surgery left her basically a prisoner in her own home. Prosthetic legs are too painful for her to use at her age and she lives in an apartment that is not handicap accessible and has no access to a handicap accessible vehicle, either.

Ms. Wadsworth sued Gregory Howland, the physician’s assistant who misdiagnosed her, as well as the doctor who signed off on the diagnosis, Dr. Paul Paustian, and their employer, Georgia EM-I Medical Services, PC. She sought damages for pain and suffering and for future medical expenses. The lawsuit claimed that Howland “ordered no tests or procedures to determine whether Ms. Wadsworth had blockages in the arteries of her legs”, even though they had found she had a “diminished pulse” in her legs. She claimed that in the hours between when she first went to the hospital and when she was brought back after her heart attack, there was time for a proper diagnosis and swift treatment that could have saved her legs. Attorneys for Howland, Dr. Paustian, and Georgia EM-I claimed Howland checked for blocked arteries and didn’t find any, and also that Ms Wadsworth had pre-existing vascular disease. The trial was in Gwinnett County and in 2012 a jury awarded Ms. Wadsworth $5 million in damages.

Howland, Dr. Paustian, and Georgia EM-I Medical Services appealed the judgment claiming errors in the jury instructions. They claimed that the trial judge confused the jury with the jury instructions. They said it was wrong to allow the jury to decide whether Ms. Wadsworth’s situation fell under the “emergency medical care” provision of the law. And the defendants also claimed that the trial judge was incorrect in rejecting their motion for directed verdict, because Ms. Wadsworth failed at trial to show “gross negligence by clear and convincing evidence” as is required.

Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers saw a worrying story in the news recently about a pesticide company spraying dangerous chemicals in Georgia nursing homes. In Macon, a federal grand jury indicted Stephen Murray, the owner of Bio Tech Management, a pesticide company, for conspiracy, making false statements, falsifying records, mail fraud, and illegal use of pesticide. The mail fraud charges are linked to using the US mail to bill nursing homes for their illegal use of pesticides. If found guilty, Murray and his company could face $10 million in fines and he could face a combined total of 650 years of jail time.

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The Alabama company, which provided monthly pest control services to the nursing homes, is accused of repeatedly misapplying the pesticide Termidor SC from October 2005 to June 2009 in numerous Georgia nursing homes. It claims Bio Tech used this pesticide more than twice a year to spray indoors, even though Termidor’s label says to only use it outside and not more than twice a year. An ingredient in Termidor has been linked to adverse health effects. Some symptoms of exposure are headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and mild eye irritation. Adverse health side effects are particularly problematic at a nursing home because the elderly and infirm are more vulnerable to these harmful chemicals than younger healthy people are. Often nursing homes have patients with neurological disorders, weakened immune systems, respiratory problems and other illnesses or conditions that make the affects of a pesticide even worse for them.

Not only is the illegal pesticide use being alleged, but also that Stephen Murray and his cohorts covered it up. The indictment claims that when Murray found out the Georgia Department of Agriculture was investigating him, he and co-conspirators falsified reports to say they used a made-up pesticide instead.

Our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers recently read about another horrific case of elder abuse in our state. The case at Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce in Jackson County may include homicide charges, and so far the owner and 20 other employees have been charged with various offenses, according to news reports.

Between the 21 people involved, including Care of Commerce’s owner Donna Wright, there are charges of more than 70 offenses involving physical cruelty, neglect, and financial exploitation of the elderly residents. They are accused of violating the Georgia Protection of Disabled Adults and Elder Persons Act. There was also an alleged violation of a state law saying convicted felons can’t work at health care facilities – Care of Commerce apparently employed a man on parole for voluntary manslaughter, as well as others convicted of felony drug offenses and identity theft.

There were reports of employees hitting patients and throwing water on them. One alleged incident involved an employee punching a resident suffering from dementia in the face in order to force him to sit down. Other abuse alleged included tying residents up with bed sheets and putting them in two diapers at once to have to change them less often. The authorities were tipped off to this abuse by an employee who complained about this horrific treatment. On July 2, after an ongoing investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation raided Care of Commerce. The GBI found three residents had been so mistreated they had to be hospitalized.

A scary story came out of California recently about an elderly woman who died even though a trained nurse was standing right next to her. Our Atlanta elder abuse lawyers know that Georgia’s seniors, as well as seniors across the country, are rightly concerned about this story.

The California tragedy occurred earlier this month. 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless collapsed in the dining room of her independent living facility, Glenwood Gardens, in Bakersfield, California. A nurse, an employee of Glenwood, got on the 911 phone call. The 911 operator pleaded with the nurse, named Colleen, to give Ms. Bayless CPR. Colleen told the dispatcher that company policy forbade her from performing CPR. The policy required her to wait with the hurt or sick person, but not provide any medical care. Repeatedly the dispatcher pleaded with her, and asked her to find someone else to help Ms. Bayless. The 911 call sounds horrifyingly cruel, with Colleen stating, “Not at this time” in answer to the question of whether there was anyone around willing to help Ms. Bayless. At another point the dispatcher said that the lady will die, and Colleen responded “Yeah.” Emergency personnel arrived seven minutes after the 911 call, but it was already too late for Ms. Bayless. The avoidable tragedy is heartbreaking, and it is understandable why Georgia seniors might be worried.

A Georgia news story on the incident points out that Georgia’s Good Samaritan law would protect people trying to help in an emergency situation from liability. This law applies as long the helper is not getting paid. But even without the Good Samaritan law, many retirement and nursing home staff were also shocked and upset by the incident in California. Greg Rowe, Director of Dougherty County EMS, said, “I’ve never gone anywhere that I can remember where they were just sitting, waiting on us to get there.” And Dr. Graham Nichol, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, noted that CPR more than doubles the chances of survival, also noting, “If liability was a concern, I would suspect there is a greater liability if someone dies.”

Elder abuse law is an often difficult legal practice area, because we all feel instinctively disgusted by people who take advantage of the most vulnerable members of society. But it is a field where compassionate and experienced lawyers are truly necessary, to try to help the victims of elder abuse. A recent story highlighted the unscrupulous nature of this type of abuse.

Phyllis Roberts, a Duluth area resident, saved all her life to be able to afford in-home care when she became too elderly and infirm to take care of herself. She wanted the comfort of dying in her own home, and she saved $400,000 for this purpose. However, one of her sons, Steven Lee Roberts, took power of attorney over his mother, subsequently wiping out her savings and fleeing to California. Her other son, Fred, and his wife Nan, said that Mrs. Roberts was “terrorized” and devastated, unable to understand why she had to leave her home. Nan said she never understood that the money was really gone. They had to place her in a nursing home and her son Fred said she kept asking, “What’s happening with my property? Can I go home? Is the money coming back?” And he could not answer her.

Steven Lee Roberts has been in jail in Gwinnett County for nearly two years on theft charges for the $400,000. But Mrs. Roberts died in the nursing home, without getting her money back or being able to return to her house. The family says court delays have kept Steven Roberts case from going to trial. But now, Georgia’s Department of Human Services is trying to work on smoothing the process and educating people on the horrors of elder abuse. Pat King of DHS said they are training first responders and prosecutors about elder abuse and how to identify and investigate it promptly. Although it is too late for her mother-in-law, Nan Roberts told reporters, “They should be a high priority at this stage in their lives. They worked their whole life and saved their whole lives, [and] someone comes along and takes it.” Pat King noted that Mrs. Roberts’s case is not unusual for the delays but that the new programs and training are opening people’s eyes to the devastation elder abuse can cause the victims and their families.

Another tragic nursing home case has come to an end in settlement in our state. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released information about a settlement with GGNSC Holdings LLC, a company which operates nursing homes under the name “Golden Living”.

The case against the company involved both the state of Georgia and the United States and is in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia as United States & State of Georgia ex rel. Micca v. GGNSC Holdings, LLC, et al. The allegations against Golden Living included violating the False Claims Act and the Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act, by providing substandard care to residents at two Atlanta area nursing homes and then billing Medicaid, Medicare, and the Veterans Administration. These Atlanta facilities were accused of providing inadequate care and worthless monitoring, documentation, prevention, and treatment of wounds. The period looked at in this case is from January 1, 2006 to May 31, 2011. The case was filed by Dr. Joseph Micca under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States. It was then investigated by the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. tsktsk.jpg

The US Attorney, Sally Quillian Yates, said that Golden Living’s actions were a threat to the health and well-being of the elderly and would not be tolerated. Georgia’s Attorney General concurred, saying of the mistreatment, “We will not stand for such egregious misconduct by a Medicaid provider.” A representative of the Office of the Inspector General for the Atlanta region further noted, “Healthcare providers need to know that if they provide worthless services to those most in need, they will pay the price.”