Iowa Nursing Home Neglect Leads to Three Deaths

“Fined Pocket Change with a Slap on the Wrist”

Review: “Iowa nursing home fined $46,000 after 3 resident deaths” by Clark Kauffman, 5-1-2018

Main Idea:

The Iowa nursing home, Casa de Paz, located on 2121 West 19th Street in Sioux City, IA and home to 56 residents has recently been fined less than $46,000 for accusations of “employing incompetent caregivers, neglecting residents with life-threatening conditions and denying residents their pain medication” leading to the death of three residents. This facility has an ongoing history of fines and sanctions by the state and CMS leading to the “worst possible rating” of 1/5 stars for overall quality.

Kauffman gives a recap of each resident and the circumstances surrounding his death: (1) Resident was having unaddressed respiratory distress for the 12 hours leading up to his death. (2) Despite doctor’s orders, nursing home staff failed to monitor resident despite resident’s complaints of ‘not feeling well’ and calling out for help. (3) Resident had been in great pain after back surgery and it went unaddressed and overlooked by nursing staff- patient died when finally re-admitted to hospital. These are just some of the recollections given by Kauffman regarding the deplorable behavior occurring at Casa de Paz. Other inaction includes failure to address skin tears/wounds appropriately, failure to manage resident’s incontinence/catheter/toileting needs, failure to follow-up on conditions after falls, and failure to answer call bells in an appropriate amount of time.

The article specifically states that the state and federal government knew about these behaviors, injustices, and oversight and continue to acknowledge it.

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The headline alone makes me sick. 3 DEATHS (essentially murder caused by neglect) and the nursing home was charged $46,000. $46,000. How much is a life worth? Apparently, the lives of older adults are worth approximately $15,000 a piece. How can the state look at the conditions, make a record of it, acknowledge the abuse, neglect, and incompetence and charge them less than $15,000 per death? What’s worse, they charge them a ‘slap on the wrist’ penalty and allow them to continue servicing human beings!

In the last 2 years, Casa de Paz has been cited for at least 4 different deplorable scenarios and they continue to accept new patients. There is a clear pattern here, what will it take? What what will it take for the state and CMS to actually do something about it?

“Inspectors reported that while they were in the facility, residents’ call lights went unanswered for up to 33 minutes. One tearful resident allegedly told inspectors she had been left sitting in urine for an hour, saying it made her feel “like a piece of nothing.” >> Nothing is done about this. No matter where I find myself working or visiting, this is actually what happens. People are left sitting in wet briefs because “lunch is being served soon” and it would take too long to get the lift— wet pants are covered with a sheet to “maintain dignity” when taken out of their room to an activity. Call bells go unanswered for 30-45 minutes at a time and sometimes staff will come into a room, shut off the bell, and walk out without ever assisting the resident.

You see, people write these allegations off when residents speak of them—“they are confused” “they have dementia” “they don’t know what they are saying” “they are being dramatic” “it’s not that bad” “we are understaffed and doing what we can do” — how do these people live with themselves?! These are human beings…the same human beings who built this country on their back. They are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and loved ones who raised us. What gives us the right to discredit what is causing them harm?

What gives us the right to call ourselves “inspectors” and do nothing but charge a facility $15,000 per person after their death has been correlated to neglect? Neglect/abuse a child or an animal in a home which leads to death and get fined and sentenced to prison. Be an administrator in charge of 50+ older adults (in their home) who die due to poor management, incompetent workers, and neglect…get a slap on the wrist and then receive help holding the doors open for more poor souls to enter.

This is only one facility that was picked up by the news for these allegations. According to CMS, there are 442 nursing homes in the state of Iowa. 41 of these facilities have received the poorest quality rating of 1 star and 68 received two stars (“below average”). Greater than 20% of all of the nursing homes in Iowa, as of 2018, are below or drastically below average for treatment of patients and quality of care. Federal CMS inspection on 109 of these facilities are rated 1-2 star out of 5 which means the government has been in these homes, is aware of what is going on in these home and they are still  allowing them to run.

What is wrong with our government? Our government has an institution designed to protect older adults, yet people are being put in these homes to die. The news articles aren’t on the front page, they are buried in the Lifestyle section.

Do you understand that this will be you and your parents some day? We are all getting older and nobody is immune to ‘the system’. If we don’t stand up for the elder care industry and begin transforming it, we are all in a ship that will sink with us trapped inside of it.

Has the government done its job for our older adults?

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Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L is a blogger, freelance writer, and elder care advocate. With 10 years of experience in the elder care industry including educating older adults/caregivers on Medicare/Medicaid insurance, claims processing, occupational therapist, private consultant to assisted living facilities, and director of rehabilitation, Michelle now advocates for justice in the elder care industry and the rights of America’s most vulnerable population. Michelle’s platform is elder abuse and nursing home negligence awareness.