This month, the family of an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and several other conditions received $91.5 million in damages from a Charleston, West Virginia nursing home. The Charleston Gazette reported the 87-year-old woman was a patient for just three weeks at Heartland of Charleston nursing home where the workers failed to feed and care for her leading to her death just one day after transferring to another facility.
The family alleged that Heartland did not have enough staff to properly care for the woman and the other patients. Some former Heartland workers testified that properly caring for all of the residents was impossible with the ratio of staff to patients. Ultimately, the woman suffered malnutrition and dehydration so severe it led to kidney failure and her death, her family’s lawsuit alleged. The nursing home denied those allegations and pointed to a death certificate that listed Alzheimer’s as the cause of death.
Without commenting on the jury’s verdict, we note that the story opens the door to a discussion about the level of adequate care at nursing homes. Researchers recently reported that inadequate staffing correlated to inadequate care for Florida nursing home residents. According to a study funded by the Commonwealth Fund, published in the May 20 issue of The Gerontologist, the authors found that an increase in nurse staffing hours was associated with improved quality of care in Florida nursing homes.
The study reviewed data for 663 Florida nursing homes from 2002 to 2005 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)’s Online Survey Certification and Reporting database and from the Florida Nursing Home Staffing Reports.
This is one of the first studies to use the CMS comprehensive measures that determine the nursing home quality rating, between 1 and 5 stars. The rating system looks at the nursing homes’ health inspections, staffing and quality measures based on 10 different physical and clinical measures for nursing home residents. These ratings take into account the different levels of care needed for residents with more severe needs, such as bedridden patients.
During the time of the study, Florida required the average number of nurse staffing hours per resident per day to be 3.9 hours. However, the Palm Beach Post reported in May that a Florida budget deal was approved that lowered nursing home staffing hours to 3.6 hours a day, and nursing assistant staffing hours from 2.7 hours to 2.5 hours. This drop in suggested care goes directly against the findings in the study, raising concern among nurses, nursing home residents and their families and industry representatives.
According to Cloreta Morgan, a CNA at Unity Health and Rehab Center in Miami and a member of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, this can possibly kill lives, hurt the economy, and endanger lives. Without proper hands-on care, nursing home residents may run the risk of suffering from pressure sores, falling down, or suffering from malnutrition.
If you have a family member in a Florida nursing home that you believe has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect, contact an attorney at the law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney.
We represent victims of nursing home abuse and negligence in Port St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Stuart, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Vero Beach and Palm Beach. If attributes like ethical, hard working and compassionate are characteristics you seek in a lawyer, call Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney. Choosing the right lawyer does make a difference.
Call 1-800-299-8878 to speak with a knowledgeable Florida nursing home neglect attorney or fill out our online contact form.