Nursing Home Abuse Alleged in New Mexico Lawsuit

Jun 10, 2016

Former New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed a nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuit in 2014 against two New Mexico companies that operate nursing homes throughout the state. Current Attorney General Hector Balderas is now spearheading the ongoing lawsuit, which alleges that nursing homes operated by Preferred Care Inc. and Cathedral Rock (taken over by Preferred Care Inc.), were understaffed and poorly managed. After filing the initial lawsuit, a law firm investigation found many of the facilities severely lacking in overall structure, level and quality of care, and management.

After Balderas took office, he continued the investigation, and subsequently filed a revised lawsuit alleging more serious abuse and neglect between 2011 and 2014. Balderas’ updated lawsuit included documentation of several specific incidents where poor quality care resulted in serious injury or death of a nursing home resident.

Nursing Home Abuse Examples

Example One: One of the incidents listed in the revised lawsuit was that of a man who was admitted to one of the nursing homes operated by Preferred Care, Inc. after suffering a stroke. According to reports, the newly-admitted resident was found in “bad shape” during several visits by his wife. In 2014, she decided to remove him from the facility completely after one particularly concerning incident.

According to the wife, she found her husband laying in a pool of urine. It was noted that the urine had been on the sheet long enough that it was discolored and starting to dry in places. The resident was immediately removed from the facility and taken to the hospital. At the hospital, the man was diagnosed with anemia, internal bleeding, and an infection on his foot. His condition had deteriorated severely since admission to the nursing home, rather than him being rehabilitated from the stroke.

Example Two: A second incident listed in Balderas’ revision was that of a 68-year-old woman who was admitted to a Preferred Care Inc. facility in 2013 for rehabilitation. The lawsuit notes that the woman was a fall-risk patient, but routinely did not receive the help she needed with mobility. The woman was admitted for only 30 days of rehabilitation, but tragically, did not survive that long. According to the lawsuit, her daughter was contacted by the nursing home stating that her mother was found on the floor with severe bruises on the right side of her face.

Upon further assessment, the lawsuit alleges that the woman’s jaw was broken, and her eye socket had sunken into her face. Unfortunately, she did not survive her injuries and died that same day. Her daughter believes that her death could have been avoided if nursing home staff had been there to assist her mother.

Poor Management and Understaffing

Further investigation into the facilities now solely owned by Preferred Care Inc. indicates a series of serious problems. Some examples of the dangers of poor management and understaffing include:

  • One facility’s charge nurse was assigned only one nurse’s aide to care for 22 patients, which resulted in neglect, including patients not being bathed, toileted, or their clothing changed.
  • Preffered Care, Inc. has also been accused of overbilling the federal and state governments for Medicare and Medicaid, including accepting taxpayer dollars for care they did not provide. Balderas’ office estimates the monies lost to top more than $150 million.

In response to questions from the media following Balderas’ updated lawsuit, Preferred Care, Inc. contends that the allegations are unfounded and unsubstantiated, and that the misplaced claims about taxpayer dollars will not prevail as facts are revealed.

Nursing Home Abuse is Not Okay

Abuse of elderly individuals is a serious problem facing American society. Across the United States, the number of nursing home abuse reports has increased significantly since the 1990’s. Brown Wharton & Brothers previously reported statistics indicating that as many as 30 percent of all U.S. nursing homes have been cited for abuse or neglect, which totals almost 9,000 citations between researched years 1999 and 2001. During those same years, there were at least 1,600 reports of nursing home abuse or neglect that resulted in “immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury”.

Another concerning piece of research was a study in 2000 among 2,000 nursing home residents. This study reported that 44 percent of nursing home residents surveyed admitted to being abused, and 95 percent admitted being neglected or seeing others suffer from neglect. These statistics are frightening.

How to Report Nursing Home Abuse

If you believe that your loved one has been victimized by abuse or neglect, it is important that you get help immediately. Aside from removing your loved one from immediate danger and seeking medical attention, there are several routes you can take to report abuse and neglect to the authorities. State organizations you can contact for reporting and additional information includes following:

  • State Long Term Care Ombudsman
  • Office on Aging
  • Medicaid Fraud Unit Control
  • Adult Protective Service Agency
  • Citizen Advocacy Group
  • Local law enforcement

Get the Help You Need

As Americans, we place our loved ones in nursing homes to help them get adequate care, rehabilitate, and live a safe, quality life. We expect that our loved ones will still be protected by the fundamental rights that govern our citizens and protect us from wrongdoing. Unfortunately, lawsuits like the one in New Mexico suggest that there are many nursing homes that fail to meet their purpose, uphold their duty, and protect the rights of their residents.

To learn more about nursing home abuse, legal rights of the elderly, and how to protect your family, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers for a free case review. Our team of attorneys is passionate about protecting the most vulnerable Americans. Contact us today by filling out our “Contact Us” form.