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Nursing Home Death Highlights Vulnerability of Residents

On December 8, Frank Mercado, 77, was a resident of a small nursing home in the Bronx where he had lived for the last four years. Unable to see clearly and suffering from dementia, Mr. Mercado was helpless as one of the employees at the home beat him to the ground. He was impaled on a metal protrusion from an overturned table and died hours after the beating.

Last week, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office said that the employee responsible for the beating, Cherrylee Young, 41, had been charged with negligent homicide, fatal assault, and endangering the welfare of an adult. This death highlights the vulnerability of nursing home residents in New York, where rates of substandard care, elder abuse, and neglect are high in almost every major study that has been released.

University Nursing Home

The facility where Mr. Mercado was attacked was University Nursing Home, a small facility of only 46 beds, but it is part of a larger consortium of nursing home facilities called Centers Health Care. This particular facility scored high on federal rankings, but those rankings have been called into question when state officials have found numerous violations there in recent years.

Over the last four years, New York officials have found nineteen life safety code deficiencies in University Nursing Home, compared to the state average of eleven. Filthy rooms, broken equipment, and failing to report resident injuries were all on the list. In one case, an 86 year old woman had her hand cut open by nails sticking out of a wardrobe, and in another an 81 year old man suffering from dementia complained of shoulder pain, where bruises had mysteriously emerged, but it was never investigated.

The nursing home has also received poor ratings for a number of other care benchmarks. In total, 74% of patients had depressive symptoms, compared with an 11.7% statewide average and 6.2% nationwide. In addition, sixteen percent of residents lost too much weight while staying at the facility which is almost three times the state average. Finally, 4.8% had catheters inserted into their bladders and left there compared with a state average of only 2.6%.

Nursing Home Ratings

Twenty percent of all nursing home communities receive top ratings from the Medicare system, but those ratings rely heavily on self-reported data that is not verified by the government, can be incomplete, or misleading. Because of the recent backlash on the poor ratings system, Medicare has made changes that will become effective in January to try and correct the issues that come with self-reporting.

This also highlights the importance of doing research and legwork before choosing a nursing home facility for your loved one. While checking the Medicare rating is good, also research how many state violations the facility has received. Check to see if there are any lawsuits pending against the nursing home or if it has made the news for negligent care.

Finally, visit the nursing home yourself, and try to do so multiple times at different times of the day. It can give you an understanding of how the facility operates at all times, and not just when the staff thinks that someone is watching.

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