Nursing Home Abuse

One of the most unsettling thoughts with respect to placing our loved ones in a nursing home is the concern that someone might physically abuse them. Most states have laws that are designed to protect the elderly from abuse and neglect. Despite these laws, the sad reality is that many elderly people continue to be abused. This situation came to light recently in a Montgomery, Alabama, nursing home. Authorities found that a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and former nursing home employee punched a 93-year-old nursing home patient. The report indicated that the elderly patient continued to spit her medicine out when the CNA attempted to administer the medications. The CNA was arrested and charged with abuse or neglect of a protected person.

In 2013, CBS News reported an event where two CNAs physically abused patients in Dallas, Texas. The events were caught on camera. In that report, CBS reported that an elder/nursing home advocacy group, Families for Better Care, researched reports from every state and concluded that 11 states received a failing grade for failing to protect elders from abuse and neglect. For the southeastern states, Florida and South Carolina received a score of “B.” Georgia and all other southeastern states, except Louisiana, received a score of “D.” Louisiana was one of the 11 states that received a failing score of “F.” The states with a “superior” grade of A” were Alaska, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. According to the group’s findings, one in five nursing homes abused, neglected or mistreated residents in about half of the states. The advocacy group determined that the nursing homes that staffed at higher levels received a higher ranking, while those who had fewer staff or who were understaffed received lower rankings. As late as September 2014, the group updated its findings. The updated report can be found at

While the examples of abuse such as those reported in Alabama and Texas are presumably an exception and not the rule in nursing homes, if you suspect your loved one is being abused, the best course of action is to report the abuse to the facility administrator, the facility ombudsman, and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). For information related to the ADPH, you can go to www.adph. org. The ADPH also maintains a complaint line, and you may call them at 800-356-9596 or 800-873-0366. Of course, you may also need to report the event to the local law enforcement agency as well.

Hopefully, nursing homes will do a thorough job of performing background checks and detailed interviews in order to minimize the possibility of hiring a person who would abuse elderly patients. If you need more information, contact Boyd Newton, who handles Nursing Home litigation, and who can be reached at 404-593-2630 or by email at

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Great Advice From Consumer Reports

February 18, 2015 6:00 am • From the editors of Consumer Reports

In an ideal world, respectful treatment from health care providers would be the norm. In the real world, you may have to insist on it. Consumer Reports suggests increasing the odds of a good hospital experience with these strategies:
•Choose the right hospital. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine linked low patient satisfaction with less-than-stellar hospital performance in areas such as pain control, discharge instructions and communicating about medication. And research in the American Journal of Managed Care showed that people who were satisfied with their care after a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.
•Help providers see you as a person. Once you get to the hospital, chances are you won’t know many of the folks taking care of you. Reminding people that you are more than a diagnosis can change that. Bring in pictures, maybe one showing you playing golf or tennis. Add a personal detail when you describe your medical problems to a doctor.
•Invite your doctor to have a seat. In a recent study, Norwegian researchers created simulations in a hospital setting, using real doctors and actors as patients and comparing electronic devices with paper medical records. The patient actors thought the doctors were so busy with their devices that they shouldn’t interrupt to ask questions. If you experience that dynamic, you can change it and make it easier to communicate by inviting your doctor to sit down and have a conversation.
•Have your people with you. An advocate can help in a number of ways — for instance, making sure you are comfortable, getting information from the doctor or nurse, helping you make decisions about treatment and speaking for you if you aren’t able to speak for yourself.
•Know when errors tend to occur. In a new national Consumer Reports survey of 1,200 recently hospitalized people, patients who thought there weren’t enough nurses available were twice as likely to experience some kind of a medical error and 14 percent less likely to think they were always treated with dignity and respect. Shift changes can also create safety hazards, as can care transitions, such as moving from an intensive care unit to a hospital floor. If you know when and where errors are most likely to occur, you can make a special effort to have your advocate be present then.
•Find a “troubleshooter.” Navigating the hospital is much easier with an “insider” ally. You or a family member should introduce yourself to the head nurse on duty or seek out the nursing supervisor, attending physician or even a physical therapist or aide with whom you feel comfortable. Then, if something goes wrong, you will have already established a personal connection with someone who knows the system and can help.
•Be assertive and prepared, but always be courteous. Think about what you want to ask your doctors when they rush in for that early morning visit, and say it out loud a few times so that you get what you want from the encounter.
•Write things down. With doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students and social workers in and out of your hospital room, it can be very difficult to keep track of what is being done, especially when you are ill. Consumer Reports recommends listening to what they have to say, asking questions and taking notes.
•If you don’t understand something, ask again. Medicine is complicated stuff, and sometimes doctors forget you haven’t studied it. “This is so much a part of their lives and their vocabulary. Sometimes they rush through an explanation without realizing that the person in front of them has no clue how to interpret what they just said,” says communications specialist Carolyn Thomas. “I simply raise a hand in the ‘stop’ position, and politely remind them that I haven’t been to medical school, so please slow down and translate.”


Fatalities At Railroad Crossings Are On the Rise

According to Bloomberg News (2/6, Levin, 2.94M), deaths at rail crossings are beginning to rise “after years of decline, possibly due to an improving economy that has increased traffic on both roads and rails.” The article adds that over the past decade, the number of people killed at rail crossings has “dropped by more than one-third…and since the 1960s has fallen at a faster pace than highway deaths.” Unfortunately, in 2014, fatalities at “rail crossings were on a pace to reach the highest level since 2010, according to” FRA data “through November.”


OSHA To Fine Ashley Furniture $1.7 Million For Safety Violations

According to The New York Times (2/3, Abrams, Subscription Publication, 9.97M) Ashley Furniture, a major global furniture maker, is facing $1.7 million in OSHA penalties “to settle charges that unsafe conditions at its manufacturing plant in Arcadia, Wis., led to more than 1,000 injuries.” OSHA “cited the company for dozens of violations, including disregard for safety standards that led to a number of gruesome injuries.”


Summer Football

On August 3, 2011, Michael Carvel of The Atlanta Journal Constitution ( reported that two Georgia high school football players died on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. One of the players who passed away had spent more than a week in the hospital, as officials try to determine the effects of hot weather on both players.

Fitzgerald High School defensive lineman DJ Searcy died on the morning of August 2, 2011 following practice at a camp in northern Florida. According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the 16-year-old was found unresponsive in his cabin by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Forrest Jones, Locust Grove High School offensive lineman passed away on the night of Tuesday, August 2, 2011, a family member told Channel 2 Action News. Jones passed out at a voluntary workout the week before. According to his family, physicians believe that Jones, 16, may have had a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Jones collapsed the week before his death at a voluntary workout, which is not governed by GHSA rules and policies. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that most high school football teams have voluntary workouts for weightlifting, conditioning drills and 7-on-7 passing tournaments in June and July.

According to the Georgia High School Association, there had not been a heat-related death for a high school football player in Georgia in five years, until August 2, 2011.

The GHSA is the state’s governing body for high school athletics. Michael Carvel of The Atlanta Journal Constitution ( reports that the GHSA mandated that all member schools develop their own heat policies after the death of Rockdale County football player Tyler L. Davis after a voluntary workout Aug. 1, 2006. The GHSA also suggested the use of a heat-index rating or wet-bulb temperature to determine whether practices should be held or modified because of extremely high temperatures.

Monday, August 1, 2011 was the GHSA’s first official day of football practice in helmets and pads.

According to the AJC article, GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said “[Our heat policy] does not address voluntary football workouts over the summer, although we do encourage that schools do this. In fact, it is my understanding that Locust Grove High School takes a wet-bulb reading before every one of the voluntary workouts over the summer, including the one where the young man went down.”

Michael Carvel reports that the GHSA may develop a more stringent and more uniform heat policy in the near future and that University of Georgia researchers are in the final stages of a three-year study on heat risks associated with high school athletics.

Ralph Swearngin is reported to have said “They’ve got 30 high schools around the state with state-of-the-art equipment, and they have trainers that are taking readings every 15 minutes, starting before practice until after practice — and then they keep up with any heat-related issues that come up during practice,” “When that study is over, we’ll have hard and fast data that will maybe cause us to change our policy.”

The AJC article states that over 32,000 high school students participate in football each year in Georgia. The deaths of the two players at Fitzgerald and Locust Grove have caused a lot of sadness and confusion in Georgia’s inner circles for football.

“It’s tragic and it’s sad,” Swearngin stated to the AJC. “When we try to find a solution to a problem like this, we get a little confused or we don’t know exactly what to do. There are so many different factors when dealing with this type of situation. There are thousands of kids under the same conditions and nothing happens to them.It’s tragic and bad, but we really can’t take strong measures when it doesn’t affect everybody. So many times when a tragedy like this occurs, so many people want an immediate stop to all activities. And what keeps us from doing that is so many kids under the very same conditions have no negative effects.We’re going to find out as much information [about the two situations] as we can and go from there” Swearingen told the AJC.

This is a dangerous time of year for kids who play football. Please keep them hydrated and keep an eye on them for symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Announcement Against Texting by Commercial Bus and Truck Drivers


U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced federal guidance to expressly prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses. The prohibition is effective immediately and is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Department to combat distracted driving since the Secretary convened a national summit on the issue last September.

The action is the result of the Department’s interpretation of standing rules. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” Secretary LaHood stated. “This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”

“Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab,” stated Anne Ferro, Administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). “We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.”

FMCSA research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.

The Secretary announced the Department’s plan to pursue this regulatory action, as well as rulemakings to reduce the risks posed by distracted driving. President Obama also signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment.

The public can follow the progress of the U.S. Department of Transportation in working to combat distracted driving

If you are a victim of a texting while driving accident or need more information, contact Boyd B. Newton at 404-593-2630 or visit us online at