4OYS Investigates Nursing Home Abuse

Created: 07/18/2014 9:30 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Reporter’s Notebook: There’s no way to stop aging.  For so many, senior citizenship is marked with health problems, dementia, and vulnerability.  In many cases, the care for a loved one eventually becomes too large a problem or unmanageable.  Every day in New Mexico, seniors are admitted to nursing homes, often as a last option and in dire circumstances.

Admitting your loved one to nursing homes is an emotional time filled with stress and worry. The KOB 4 On Your Side began looking at concerns with nursing homes in the Albuquerque area, not to instill more fear, but to encourage people to really do their homework when it comes to finding an assisted living facility.

Through an Inspection of Records Act request, our investigative unit requested a copy of all inspections done of all nursing homes in Bernalillo County by the NM Dept. of Health. In our state, this is the agency responsible for investigating complaints and ensuring compliance with laws, rules, and regulations. There were dozens of deficiencies noted among nursing homes in every quadrant of the city. Some concerns were minor…like an ant infestation in a food pantry to the more serious…like nurses dropping patients due to lack of care and seriously hurting them.

In our research, we found Paloma Blanca Health and Rehabilitation in Albuquerque had by far the most deficiencies in the last year compared to its competitors. The problems noted by state health department officials were troubling. The issues range from billing concerns to patients allegedly being neglected to the point they seriously injured themselves or died.

By going through court records and meeting with attorneys familiar with nursing home abuse, we found Fredrick Cloyd.  We interviewed him via Skype from his home in San Francisco. His family is suing Paloma Blanca accusing the company of being responsible for his 82-year-old mother’s death. Records show she fell more than 20 times during her short stay, even breaking a hip.  Fredrick says Paloma Blanca staff knew how to get a hold of him, but chose not to until it was too late. Fredrick told us a nurse called him to tell him that his mother was about to die and he needed to get to Albuquerque quickly. His mother, Kiyoko Cloyd died a short time later. Fredrick and his legal team believe Kiyoko often needed to use the restroom, but Paloma Blanca staff ignored her, forcing her to get out of her bed unassisted and falling.

While gathering information for this story we met Albuquerque attorney Dusti Harvey. Dusti is exactly the person you want to talk to before admitting your loved one into a facility. She’s been both on the defense and prosecution side of nursing home abuse cases for more than 15 years. She knows her stuff. Dusti gave us excellent recommendations to consider BEFORE admitting a senior.

1.     Never sign an arbitration agreement.  This agreement strips your constitutional right to a jury trial should anything ever happen to your loved one.  This allows the company to spend less money on litigating your claim and often gives the corporation an upper hand on choosing the arbitrator. 

2.     Do more than one visit.  Often the facility will offer a “canned visit.”  Sometimes the tour guide will carry around a flashy-colored binder as a visual way to let other staff know that a tour is in progress.  Take the tour, but also drop in at odd times like weekends or evenings. 

3.     Visit and read what kind of deficiencies inspectors noted about the facility you are interested.  Demand to know how administrators have corrected those deficiencies.  Don’t just take their word for it, demand proof. 

4.     Choose a facility that will be close to your home. A frequent visit is critical for the health of your loved one. Be sure to find a home that you will be able to easily and conveniently get to.

5.     Don’t assume that just because a facility has a religious affiliation, that it is in any way safer or better than non-religious affiliated homes. The problems we saw were across the board.

6.     Once your loved one is admitted, don’t drop in at the same time.Don’t visit every day after work. The staff will know that you’re arriving and will be expecting you.Instead, drop in before work some days, during your lunch break on other days. Change it up.

If you suspect a loved one is being abused, REPORT IT. The NM Dept. of Health will investigate. If the abuse is criminal, report it to police immediately. Our loved ones deserve the best care; a little bit of snooping and homework will help get them there.

One more note, we reached out Paloma Blanca’s corporate office located in Florida. We outlined the concerns noted in the lawsuits and in state inspection reports. The company chose to not respond to our story, even with a week’s advance notice.

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