A Texas news station, KRIS 6 News, has recently wrapped up an investigation into whether veterans are knowingly placed in harm’s way at a Texas nursing home. According to the investigation, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has continued to place veterans in The Palms Rehabilitation and Nursing in Corpus Christi despite a series of complaints and poor inspections.
If you have a loved one who is a veteran and who may need the care of a nursing home, read on to learn more about this potentially dangerous situation and how you can protect your loved one. To learn more about your legal rights, contact Brown & Brothers.
VA Contracting with Poorly-Rated Nursing Homes
Deciding that it is time to consider a nursing home is never an easy choice for families caring for an elderly loved one. For families of veterans, it is common to trust the guidance of the VA when choosing a nursing home. Unfortunately, not all of the nursing home options available through the VA are up to par.
In 2014, The Palms was subject to an unannounced visit from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. State officials were forced to intervene after that visit due to the poor health conditions of patients, including several suffering from dehydration or risk of infection. The Palms was fined $188,000. During the same period in 2014, the VA renewed a 5-year contract with The Palms, and continued to place veterans in the facility. Why?
Reports of negligence or complaints against The Palms did not directly involve veterans, so the VA continued to place veterans in the facility despite being aware of the complaints. According to the VA, the reports they were getting from veterans in The Palms were mostly positive. Some veterans choose not to report neglect or care problems because they are afraid of retaliation. The VA coordinator visits contracted facilities six times every year in unannounced visits, but the information gleaned from residents isn’t always representative of what is really going on inside.
A Pattern of Neglect
There are a few patterns of neglect at The Palms that are gaining attention now that KRIS 6 News has investigated. Reports include:
- Residents being found in urine-soaked clothes and bedding while waiting for staff to “make their rounds”
- One resident slipped and fell, sustaining injuries, in an accident that was later noted as being preventable in the state’s report.
- One family member arrived at The Palms only to find her father unresponsive. Unable to get staff to assist her, the family member called 911. At the hospital, her father was diagnosed with severe dehydration and an infection. He died just a few weeks after being hospitalized due to the dehydration.
The attention placed on the neglect reports at The Palms has also prompted the VA to take action. A statement issued in May 2017 stated that the VA would be providing more nursing home options in Corpus Christi for veterans.
Protecting Your Loved Ones
Not only is making the choice to place a loved one in a nursing home difficult, but it is also often difficult to choose a nursing home. Whether your loved one is a veteran relying on help from the VA, or you are doing all the groundwork yourself, you don’t have to settle for the first nursing home you explore – and you shouldn’t. Here are some helpful tips for choosing the right nursing home:
- Research nursing homes in your desired area, and make a shortlist of contenders you can compare. Check out Medicare’s website for a list of nursing homes that accept Medicare benefits, or contact the VA for a list of VA contracted facilities.
- Talk to friends and family who have loved ones in a nursing home and get personal reviews. Word-of-mouth is a powerful system for referrals and getting the “inside scoop”.
- Schedule a visit to the facility and speak with different staff, residents, and healthcare providers on-site. During your visit, take note of any potential red flags, such as a foul smell, residents looking bored or in ill health, lack of staff on-site, etc. Many people find it helpful to visit during mealtime so they can inspect the sort of food being served.
- If you don’t have the opportunity to speak with healthcare providers, ask to meet with them specifically. Set an appointment if you need to, but make sure you speak to a nurse, doctor, therapist, or any relevant healthcare providers.
- Explore management of the facility. Is it run by a company, the government, or privately?
- Once you have reviewed and visited a few options, look further into online reviews and testimonials. Also, look at Medicare, Better Business Bureau, and other websites to find out what sort of ratings the facility has on a professional level.
Once you have made a choice of nursing home, be mindful that the exploration and monitoring of your loved one doesn’t have to stop there. If at any time you notice unusual or suspect behavior by staff or other residents, or suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected, you have options to get help. Not only can you file a report or complaint with the nursing home itself, you can also file complaints with Medicare, the VA, Ombudsman, or Adult Protective Services (APS) if applicable.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
In addition to filing complaints, many people also find it helpful to contact an attorney to discuss their legal rights and that of an elderly loved one. Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem, and your loved one deserves to have his or her legal rights upheld. To learn more about protecting the rights of your loved one, contact Brown & Brothers today to schedule a free case review with one of our skilled nursing home abuse attorneys. Fill out our online form to get started.