On August 13, 2017, a man named Charles M. Ball allegedly walked into two separate rooms at the Bluegrass Assisted Living facility in Elizabethtown and sexually assaulted two separate residents. Mr. Ball claims it was all a big misunderstanding; the Elizabethtown Police Department claims he confessed. The families are distraught, and Ball’s employer, Tender Touch Senior Services, Inc. refused to comment.
What happened at Bluegrass Assisted Living is just another example of the systemic problem of abuse and neglect in our nursing homes. Earlier this year, CNN created an in-depth piece of investigatory journalism titled “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes.” It said:
“More than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities (which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities), according to federal data housed by the Administration for Community Living. But agency officials warned that this figure doesn’t capture everything — only those cases in which state long-term care ombudsmen (who act as advocates for facility residents) were somehow involved in resolving the complaints.”
Over the course of three years (2013 through 2016), more than 1000 facilities faced federal citations “for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse,” and many of them had more than one citation. Half of them didn’t even get the police involved, or run proper background checks, or pursue any real investigation at all.
Kentucky is among the worst offenders in the country. In 2014, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found that “As of Oct. 1, Kentucky had 284 nursing homes rated on the [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] database, and a third of those had scores of one or two stars…. Only eight states had a higher percentage of below-average homes.” They also discovered “The state had just racked up a record 190 cases of ‘immediate jeopardy’ among nursing home patients, according to the Health and Family Services Cabinet, and had gotten a D on its Families for Better Care report card.”
We need to do better for our families
As of this writing, there are 293 nursing homes in Kentucky. Our own Cabinet for Health and Family Services lists more than 100 assisted living facilities. While you can use the Nursing Home Compare site to see how well or how poorly your loved one’s nursing home facility is, it does not provide rankings for assisted living facilities. The only research you can do easily involves online reviews – and the reviews of Bluegrass Assisted Living are suspiciously high, given the number of complaints we have heard over the years. The same may be true of other assisted living facilities throughout the state.
It falls on all of us to protect our loved ones from harm. Here are a few signs to keep an eye open for:
- Unsanitary conditions
- Dangerous or “cluttered” walkways
- Broken or malfunctioning medical equipment
- Low staff numbers
- Residents refusing care from certain staff members
- Poor or inadequate security measures in place
- Uncertainty or generic answers from staff about how your loved one is doing
- Changes in the residents’ hygiene, appetites or personalities
- Heavily medicated, restrained or isolated residents
- Multiple people in the halls who you don’t recognize, and who are not visiting a specific resident
Finally, trust your gut: if something seems wrong, it probably is. If you believe your family member has been abused, it is time to call an attorney who can help.
Crandall & Pera Law handles complex claims on behalf of injured, neglected and abused nursing home and assisted living facility residents, as well as their family members. Our attorneys in Lexington and Louisville have the skills, experience and resources to help you fight for justice. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form now.