When a family places a loved one in a nursing home, the family expects that their relative will receive quality care and kind treatment. The last thing that they would expect is that their loved one will become a victim of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, there have been many instances of nursing home abuse throughout Texas, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
If you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to know your rights and how to hold the facility accountable. Your loved one may have the right to financial compensation. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can focus attention on a problem and prevent other nursing home residents from suffering similar treatment. The nursing home abuse attorneys at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. pursue injury claims on behalf of people in Texas who have been hurt as the result of abuse in nursing homes, assisted living and other elder care facilities.
The Elderly Are Suffering a High Rate of Fall-Related Brain Injuries
In recent years, the media has paid an increasing amount of attention to the issue of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in America. Though TBI can be caused by work-related accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and other unexpected circumstances, the media has placed most of its attention on TBI sustained during athletic practice and competition. It will therefore likely surprise readers to learn that the number one cause of TBI is slip and fall accidents.
A vulnerable population within American society is most at risk for head injuries caused by fall-related accidents. According to the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Adults ages 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death, and they tend to recover more slowly or die more often from these injuries than do younger people.” More than three out of every five fall-related traumatic brain injuries occur in elderly people who are at least 65 years of age.
The rate of fall-related head injuries among the elderly population is a cause for sincere concern. Though parents are understandably rushing to protect young athletes from these kinds of injuries, caretakers and loved ones of elderly persons should similarly be treating the issue of TBI prevention seriously and urgently.
If your elderly loved one lives in a nursing or assisted living facility, please make sure that the facility is following the fall prevention protocol. If your loved one lives at home, please research ways to prevent him or her from falling. If your loved one has fallen and sustained a TBI as a result due to the negligence of another, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate your legal options. Our experienced attorneys are here to for you. Call 361-882-4357 to schedule your free consultation today!
Beyond Neglect: Houston Nursing Home Homicides
Stories of nursing home abuse and neglect are not uncommon. In fact, the problem has become so prevalent that in 2010, President Obama signed two new laws to address the problem of elder abuse. The Elder Justice Act provides federal resources to help prevent elder abuse, while the Patient Safety Abuse Prevention Act created a national program of criminal background checks on long-term care workers. However, what is far less common are reports of intentional homicide of a nursing home resident by another resident. Sadly, this is exactly what happened in April 2014 in Houston, Texas.
Below Average Patient Care at Lexington Place
Lexington Place Nursing and Rehabilitation in Northwest Houston has been the subject of an investigation by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. After a 4-day probe that ended in February 2014, the agency determined that Lexington was deficient in more than 12 areas. Some problems included immobile residents being isolated in their rooms, nursing assistants improperly handling catheters, medication errors, and unsanitary conditions.
Furthermore, Lexington was found to provide below average care in that registered nurses spent only 25 minutes per day with each patient, while the Texas average is 34 minutes and the national average is 48 minutes. Another indication of the below average care at Lexington was apparent in 2013 when it received 7 times the number of complaints as other Texas facilities.
Homicides at Lexington
While there is not necessarily a relationship between the level of care in a nursing facility and patient violence, the poor conditions at Lexington could have set the stage for what happened on April 23, 2014.
On April 23rd, paramedics found two Lexington patients, Primitivo Lopez, 51 and Antonio Acosta, 75 badly beaten. One patient was already deceased. The other died at a hospital. Lopez and Acosta were roommates. A third roommate, Guillermo Correa, 56, was charged with killing Lopez and Acosta. Lopez and Acosta did not get along with Correa. The day of the murders, Lopez and Acosta had argued with Correa. Correa then beat the two men with the armrest of his wheelchair. Acosta’s family members report that they had repeatedly requested that Lexington move Acosta to a room away from Correa. The most recent request was just a few days before the murders. They complained to the staff that Correa was verbally abusive and violent. Acosta’s daughter described Correa as “a violent schizophrenic who heard voices, and believed someone was trying to poison him.” She even said that Correa had threatened to kill patients and staff.
Lexington’s Potential Liability
Since the tragic incident, Correa has been charged with capital murder. The families of Acosta and Lopez will likely file wrongful death lawsuits against Lexington Place. Lexington may have a difficult time defending itself. Under Texas law, Lexington has a duty to protect its patients from any type of abuse. Evidence that it was well-known to staff that Correa was prone to violence, coupled with its failure to honor Acosta’s requests to be moved away from Correa, puts Lexington in a difficult if not indefensible position. Furthermore, Lexington’s poor record of following Department of Aging regulations may help create a picture of a facility that shows little regard for the health, safety, and comfort of its residents.
Lexington Place’s fate is yet to be determined. In addition to possible financial liability to the families of Primitivo Lopez and Antonio Acosta, Lexington also faces the possibility of fines and even closure because of its many violations of state regulations. What steps should nursing homes and assisted living facilities have to take to ensure that patients are safe from the criminal actions over other patients? In recent years, federal and state lawmakers have been active in taking steps to protect patients from abuse from staff, but they have not been as aggressive in taking steps to protect patients from other patients.