North Carolina readers may remember hearing that 12 Florida nursing home patients died of heat-related illnesses in 2017 after Hurricane Irma damaged the facility's air conditioning system. Following a two-year investigation, authorities recently charged four people in the case and said that more arrests are expected to take place.
The Elder Justice Act was a bipartisan bill passed, after seven years of struggle, back in March 2010. North Carolina residents should know that the bill is meant to prevent cases of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. Lawmakers then had trouble being convinced of the enormity of these problems, and many still do.
While nursing home abuse may not receive a lot of attention, it is just as big a problem as child abuse or domestic violence. Roughly 5 million people aged 60 or older are abused in North Carolina and throughout the country each year. Those who live in nursing homes are vulnerable because they may not get a chance to interact with their family and friends on a regular basis. However, there are ways to help nursing home residents stay safe.
The Special Focus Facilities program run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is supposed to help keep nursing home patients safe. However, the program is limited to overseeing just 88 struggling facilities at a time. This is in spite of the fact that a report found that 400 additional facilities could benefit from the SFF program. According to the report, the government knows that some nursing home residents in North Carolina and elsewhere are receiving substandard care.
Federal law does not prohibit the use of surveillance video cameras to oversee elder care, but using them could invade other people's privacy. People in North Carolina considering surveillance equipment to monitor the care of their elderly relatives should not install cameras in secret. Consent is important because nursing home residents and staff members have a right to know that they are being recorded.
Nursing home neglect and abuse can pose a major threat to the health and well-being of elderly or disabled residents in North Carolina. A report presented to the U.S. Senate in June revealed that the federal government knew that a number of nursing homes were severely troubled but did not release that information to the public. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, has come in for criticism due to allegations that it has not done enough to crack down or warn the public about nursing homes that could pose a danger to their loved ones, allowing them to continue to accept less-informed patients.
Residents of North Carolina who are concerned about neglect and abuse in health care facilities should be aware of a disturbing case in which a vulnerable patient gave birth in an Arizona nursing home. A subsequent medical exam discovered that she had suffered sexual assault at the hands of a male employee. Her attorneys planned on going to court if an agreement on a settlement for the victim and her parents could not be reached, and a separate case was opened against the nurse who assaulted her. It was proven that he was the father of the baby after a paternity test.
Healthcare fraud may not be what immediately comes to mind when people in North Carolina discuss nursing home abuse, but it is a serious and growing issue. Generally, the healthcare fraud engaged in by nursing homes involves illegal, inflated or improper medical billing. Residents in nursing homes who get funding from private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare are more vulnerable than others to fraud. When such fraud happens, it can have serious negative effects for the resident.