Washington State Personal Care Homes Hid Abuse, Paper Says

Another nursing home resident has suffered over hidden<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/nursing_home_negligence"> abuse, the Seattle Times reports. An explosion destroyed a patient’s, Audree Hopkins, face, burning off her earlobes and the tip of her nose, said the Seattle Times.

Detective Suzanne Moore of the Seattle police spoke to workers involved in Hopkins’ case, but by the time an investigation initiated, five days went by, said the Seattle Times; no evidence remained. Hopkins, 68 and partially blind, suffered a stroke and from emphysema and was a resident at the TLC Adult Family Home for six months when, in March 2007, an explosion severely injured Moore, said the Seattle Times.

None of Hopkins’ caregivers took responsibility for handing Hopkins a lit cigarette, said the Seattle Times. Hopkins, a smoker who was not connected to an oxygen pump at the time of the explosion, was unable to light her own cigarettes, wrote the Seattle Times. Hopkins was typically connected to an oxygen pump in the evening in order to breathe.

Moore discovered, after reviewing Fire Department reports, that responders did see an oxygen pump on the deck and also learned that Hopkins’ husband, Larry, took possession of his “melted wheelchair, damaged oxygen pump, and burned clothing,” according to the Seattle Times. Moore then took the items to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for testing, where a fire trail was revealed that led from Hopkins’ nose to her sternum, matching the path of her breathing equipment, the Seattle Times explained. A cigarette is believed to be the ignition source.

It seems as if three of Hopkins’ caretakers lied to Moore. For instance, the owner of TLC, Antonia Malla, did not contact the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) when the accident occurred, a legal mandate, noted the Seattle Times. As a matter-of-fact, an investigation conducted by the Seattle Times revealed that this type of cover-up by adult family homes is more common than not.

According to the Seattle Times, in the past five years, some 357 of the adult family homes in Washington state have hidden a number of cases of resident abuse or neglect, with many involving serious injury or death. As a matter-of-fact, in many cases, “untrained or unlicensed caregivers mishandled residents’ medications, sometimes giving them fatal overdoses,” wrote the Seattle Times. In some cases, residents fell ill when not given “basic care and hygiene,” in another case, a man died due to an infection because “his catheter was not changed or sterilized for four months,” the paper added.

In most cases, caregivers would try to hide their actions by lying, forging medical records, and threatening residents, said the Seattle Times, with the agency not conducting investigations after being notified by the DSHS of abuse or neglect.

We’ve been following the horrendous and harrowing issues surrounding nursing home abuse for some time now. Most recently covering a story originally run by the NewsObserver in which regulators in North Carolina State issued a recommendation for $20,000 in penalties against Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home where a former nurse is accused of patient abuse related to morphine overdoses and, most seriously, murder.

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