When I read the recent news about a 29-year-old woman who gave birth after being raped in a nursing home I was filled with rage. Chills shot up my spine and hot anger filled my body. Then, I remembered, THIS…. THIS is why we do what we do.
KABC Los Angeles just released this video detailing the incident.
The young victim had been at the nursing facility for more than 14 years after she suffered a near-drowning incident that left her in a vegetative state. According to news reports the staff did not know that the victim was pregnant until she went into labor and began moaning.
The Arizona Department of Health says they are actively working with local law enforcement in their criminal investigation. Additionally, Adult Protective Services are conducting health and safety checks on all current residents of the nursing home.
It will be interesting to see what surfaces as the investigation of this nursing home moves forward. We will learn if past complaints have been filed and we will see if there are other victims. Perhaps what will be the most shocking, is if we learn that staffers knew about patients who were being abused but did nothing about it. Sadly, this is a very likely possibility and one that we see in both nursing home abuse cases and sexual assault cases in schools and churches.
Mandated Reporting Laws for Nurses, Doctors and Teachers
Many groups of professionals are mandated reporters. Teachers, doctors, and nurses fall into these groups. According to CPH & Associates, “Nurses are listed in most, if not all, mandatory reporting statutes. Statutes include child abuse and neglect reporting statutes, medical neglect of children and the elderly, elder abuse in the community or in nursing homes reporting laws, and domestic violence.” This means that both the nursing home and its individual employees may be on the hook in this case. Both for a criminal lawsuit and a civil lawsuit.
Part of being a mandated reporter means that there are steps you MUST take if you suspect one of your patients is being abused or neglected. CPH & Associates lists the criteria found below:
- Watch, look and listen to your patient. Gather as much information as you can about the patient’s concerns;
- Assess the patient constantly for any signs of physical abuse, mental anguish, fear, financial abuse or unusual behavior;
- Document your observations and conversations pursuant to your facility or agency’s policy and if forms are required, use them;
- Share your concerns with the individual identified in your facility or agency policy to do so (e.g., CNO, Administrator, Risk Manager);
- Visit websites in your state that deal with reporting abuse and neglect to obtain guidance, especially in the event your concerns are not supported by your agency or facility; most have direct hot-lines for you to report your concerns without any agency support;
- Consult with a nurse attorney or attorney to help guide you with the reporting, especially if you are not supported by your employer;
- If you are in home health nursing, in the ED, or in a long-term facility, and you or your patient is threatened, either of your lives are at risk, or injury is a possibility, call security (if available) and 9-11; and
If this is the industry standard and nursing homes are built to take care of our loved ones how, then, did this pregnancy go unnoticed? The story is one we, as attorneys who sue nursing homes, hear all too often and it goes like this…
Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes and Skilled Nursing Facilities
Nursing homes and other facilities that care for the elderly or vulnerable commonly save money by hiring cheap, inexperienced nursing assistants (and usually not enough of them). These are the ones that the facility only puts out during the night shifts to hide them from the families of the patients. The facilities do little to investigate their backgrounds and provide even less monitoring.
Nursing assistants are an easy way for facilities to save money because there are no state regulations for the minimum number of nursing assistants to provide safe patient care. Nursing assistants do not have nearly the same amount of training or patient care skills as RN’s or LVN’s. In California, one need only complete a training program that consists of 50 hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of supervised clinical training.
Nursing assistants typically are tasked with repositioning patients in order to prevent bedsores. The state sets mandatory minimums for nurses per patient per shift. Not so with CNA’s. Facilities will use an insufficient number of CNA’s to save money. When there are not enough CNA’s, patients miss out on basic needs like being repositioned. Not being repositioned leads to bedsores. CNA’s are commonly also responsible for changing a patients diaper and for toileting of patients. Again, not enough CNA’s means that patients are left in their own filth for prolonged periods of time. All in the name of corporate profit.
Leaving CNA’s unsupervised with our most vulnerable populations is dangerous. Many facilities for the elderly and vulnerable just don’t care enough to hire the right people to provide safe care. They only care about how much money they can cram into their coffers.
How Do We Protect Our Loved Ones in Nursing Homes?
Often, people think of Nursing Homes as places for the elderly only. As you can see from this incident, nursing homes are for anyone who needs nursing care. These are the places we are supposed to trust. We are supposed to be safe here. We put our loved ones in Nursing Homes when they need a level of care we can’t provide for them at home.
These facilities have a DUTY to care of their patients. Instead, their main focus in on making as much money as possible. Even if it means death, abuse, neglect and sickness in their facility.
The young woman in this story is the victim of a flawed system that, all too often, abuses the most vulnerable members of our society. She was completely unable to defend herself and after the rape she had no way to communicate that she was pregnant.
The victim in this situation required around the clock care and many people had access to her. How, then, is it possible that NOT A SINGLE PERSON noticed that she was pregnant? How was there no one who suspected abuse within the walls of this hell?
If you or a loved one have been injured, neglected or abused in a California nursing home or skilled nursing facility, Case Barnett Law can help. Call us today at (949) 861-2990 or contact us here.