As a Pompano Beach nursing home abuse lawyer, I was dismayed to see a recent article about a nursing home fined for lax oversight of its patients. According to a Nov. 15 article in the Palm Beach Post, Homewood Residence was fined $7,500 by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration after a patient there died from drinking dishwashing detergent. Michael Gruen, the patient, was 93 and suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease when he got into the kitchen of the dementia unit and drank the solution, which was made of lye, a caustic chemical that causes burns on contact with skin. The facility admitted no responsibility when it reached the fine agreement with the state, but a spokesperson had previously said the facility could not have anticipated Gruen’s actions. It faced a fine of up to $10,000.
According to the article, Gruen got into the kitchen unsupervised late in December of 2009, while staff members were busy with another patient. The spokesperson said Gruen must have gotten into a cupboard and detached the dishwashing solution from the machine. A staff member found him standing over the container and asked if he had swallowed any, but he didn’t answer. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died 18 hours later of severe burns to his esophagus. Gruen’s case was the third leading to a fine for Homewood within two years. In 2009, the facility had paid a $3,000 fine for allowing a virus outbreak affecting 10 patients and a $1,500 fine for questionable treatment of bedsores. State records from 2008 show that inspectors had already warned Homewood about unsafe conditions in the dementia unit, where residents had access to dangerous objects like hot coffee pots, curling irons and chemicals.
I am extremely disappointed at the article’s suggestion that unsafe conditions have been allowed at this nursing home. But as a Tamarac nursing home abuse attorney, I’m also disappointed that the state hasn’t fined Homewood more harshly for Gruen’s death and its other safety violations. The average cost of nursing home care is $50,000 and rising, according to the AARP. If that’s true at Homewood, the $12,000 it’s paid in fines over two years is just under one-quarter of one resident’s yearly payment. Fines are intended to give shoddy nursing homes an incentive to change their ways, but fines this low are unlikely to make bad homes change their ways — and they’re little comfort to victims. Nursing home patients and their families may be forced to seek justice and meaningful penalties against unsafe nursing homes by filing their own lawsuits in civil court, regardless of any professional or civil consequences the home faces.
Cohn, Smith & Cohn helps nursing home patients and their families fight for justice and fair compensation from the homes that have hurt them. Nursing home negligence goes beyond failure to supervise dementia patients, unfortunately. Homes around the United States have been fined, sued and even shut down for neglect and abuse including failure to treat illnesses soon enough, allowing serious bedsores to form, failure to supervise violent patients, physical abuse of difficult patients, theft of medications, over-medication, theft and even sexual exploitation. Whether or not state authorities step in, our Boynton Beach nursing home abuse lawyers can help victims and their families seek justice through a civil lawsuit. In addition to penalizing an unsafe home, these lawsuits can help families deal with the personal and financial consequences of nursing home abuse, which can include very high medical and care costs after the negligence is uncovered.
Cohn, Smith & Cohn offers free consultations, so you can speak to us at no risk or obligation. To set up a meeting, call our main Pembroke Pines office at (954) 431-8100 or send us an email today.