It is no secret that most New Yorkers would prefer to "age in place" instead of moving into a nursing home. For one thing, having access to the comforts of one's own home and the freedom to live as independently as possible is a natural goal. On top of that, however, are the myriad of horror stories that continue to pop up regarding mistreatment, neglect, and outright abuse that is sometime perpetrated at skilled nursing facilities. If you read enough of those harrowing accounts, it is easy to get the impression that these homes are no place to thrive in your golden years.
A new story coming out of Queens offers little relief. As reported this weekend in the NY Daily News, a former director of nursing at a Queens facility is now facing criminal charges for her conduct following a resident's wandering from the facility.
Authorities explain how two weeks ago a 74-year old resident of the facility went missing. He was apparently not properly supervised and wandered out of the home without notice of the caregivers. The man has dementia, and obviously is at risk of serious harm while alone in the community. The senior has still not been found.
Generally, nursing home neglect like that which allows wandering to occur does not give rise to criminal charges (though civil lawsuits are common). The nursing home director in this case, however, apparently engaged in an elaborate attempt to cover up the facility's missteps. It is that cover-up which prompted her arrest.
In particular, the former nursing home director apparently did not call 911 immediately upon learning of the man being gone. She allegedly instructed others not to call right away as well. Instead, the criminal complaint filed in the case suggests that she removed certain medical notes from the man's charts which may have shed the facility in a poor light. She also apparently told a colleague to make up a story about the senior's leaving on his own accord against the wishes of others. It wasn't until this cover up was in place that officials were actually told of the disappearance--4 days after it happened!
It is unfair to use single incidents like this to claim that all NY long-term care facilities are bereft of proper caregivers. But it is a useful reminder of the fact that not all nursing homes are alike. There are vast quality differences, and it is critical to plan ahead so that you or a loved one is able to move into a quality home that actually meets their needs if that becomes necessary down the road.