Prosecutors Fail to Adequately Protect Victims of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

When one woman learned in 2007 that her 93-year-old mother had died at the nursing home where she lived, she assumed that she had died of natural causes. But the details of the death of her mother are far from natural or dignified. She was found on the floor with her head stuck between the side rail of the bed and the mattress, her neck unnaturally stretched.

Not only did officials at the nursing facility fail to tell her how her mother died, but they hid the facts. According to a citation issued by state regulators, "there was no evidence the family, the physician, the administrator, or the director of nursing were immediately notified." However, when prosecutors reviewed the case, they found no evidence to charge anyone with a crime. Regulators admitted that the nursing home failed to adequately assess whether the resident should be placed in a bed with side rails, which the citation said, might have prevented her death.

Unfortunately,the responsibility for criminal prosecutions of long-term care facilities is spread over several agencies, with no single authority as overseer.  Of one state's 107 citations, 18 involved deaths and 30 led to hospitalizations, yet only seven of the citations resulted in criminal charges. Eight cases are still open. Cases where no charges were filed included those at facilities where a man wandered away and froze to death; a patient who was not monitored lost 87 pounds in 19 days and was later hospitalized; and a patient who fell and broke her hip but did not receive medical attention for seven hours. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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