New Mexico residents who are seeking a nursing home for an elderly loved one have probably gone on the Nursing Home Compare website. Back in October 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made a change to this website that some experts are saying is doing more harm than good.
New Mexico residents who have a senior loved one in a nursing home may worry about their well-being. Elder abuse occurs when a senior is emotionally, mentally, sexually or physically abused by a caregiver.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New Mexico and around the country are expected to do all they reasonably can to keep their patients and residents safe. That's why they can be held accountable in civil court when they fail to meet this standard of care. A nursing home in California was reminded of this on Dec. 16 when an elderly patient and her daughter filed a lawsuit seeking $50 million in damages.
The reasons keep emerging for New Mexico residents to maintain vigilance over the well-being of their loved ones in elder care settings. The details change somewhat with each new case of nursing home abuse, but the traumatic emotions felt by victims and the disbelief of many faced with these crimes are as common as to be considered universal.
No one wants to imagine their most vulnerable loved ones subject to abuse by supposed caregivers in New Mexico nursing homes, but chilling evidence from a new case serves to remind relatives of the need for vigilance. A video revealed remarks and actions by a caregiver that authorities saw as psychological abuse. A criminal case may be forthcoming, but the outcome for the patient and the facility as a whole was unclear.
Nursing home residents in New Mexico rely on health care staff to provide them with correct doses of medication. A routine audit of medications at one facility, however, revealed a betrayal of this trust. The staff discovered that a bottle of liquid morphine sulfate had been diluted with saline solution and reduced to only a 14% concentration of what it was supposed to contain. A registered nurse appeared to be the source of the tampering, and the facility administrator reported the incident to authorities. Police subsequently arrested the man, who now faces a charge of tampering with a consumer product.
New Mexico readers may be interested to learn that a Washington nursing home is being sued by the family of a disabled woman who was allegedly raped multiple times by one of the facility's employees. The crimes were captured by a hidden camera.
About 5% of the nursing homes in New Mexico and around the country now have a red icon next to their name on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. The icons are placed on Nursing Home Compare pages to let potential residents or their family members know that government investigators have discovered evidence of abuse at the facility. Icons are placed when abuse within the last year directly led to a patient's harm or neglect or abuse could have harmed a patient in each of the last two years. The icons are updated monthly and removed if a facility goes incident-free for a full year.
Residents of nursing homes in New Mexico depend on the facilities to provide adequate care and treat them with dignity. Violations of these expectations can inflict serious physical and emotional injuries both on the victims and their relatives. The law recognizes the betrayal that victims of nursing home abuse have suffered and could enable the collection of compensation for damages arising from a variety of factors. People who need to hold a nursing facility accountable must gather as much evidence as possible about what happened to improve the likelihood of gaining a settlement.
New Mexico families may struggle with choosing a care facility when they are no longer able to care for elderly loved ones at home. They may worry that if they make the wrong choice, their elder relatives could face neglect, abuse and even a shortened lifespan. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Studies is introducing an informative system that is designed to provide additional information to families researching care homes. The agency runs a website for consumers to compare nursing homes. On the listing page, CMS will place a small red icon near the names of facilities where there have been reports of exploitation, abuse or neglect.