AARP has started an online dating service! Actually, AARP members qualify at age 50 (much to the dread of every person who, the day after they leave their 40s, starts receiving AARP membership solicitations), so this isn’t exactly senior-exclusive news. I mean, The Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band. Am I right?
Unfortunately, though, today’s senior citizen bad news is a little more overwhelming.
Today comes word out of Lumberton Mississippi that the U.S. Department of Justice is joining a whistleblower lawsuit against a former south Mississippi nursing home operator who “charged Medicare and Medicaid for services that he didn’t provide or for services so bad they were ‘effectively worthless.’” To put it mildly. Writes the Associated Press,
Douglas K. Mittleider and companies he controlled ran the nursing home from October 2005 until May 2012. The suit says Mittleider and his companies withheld employees and supplies, letting the nursing home run down while providing only the bare minimum of cash to operate. Among items that were supposedly rationed to save money were towels, garbage bags, laundry bags, medical tubing and oxygen bottles. Staff members were sometimes asked to delay cashing their paychecks.
The suit says residents suffered pressure ulcers, falls, dehydration and malnutrition. In one case, a snake was found in the bed of a patient complaining of leg pain. Residents complained of being hungry and one administrator used personal money to buy them snacks, the suit says.
This was apparently part of a “nationwide scam by Mittleider to bilk nursing homes for money while stiffing creditors.” He could “face triple damages for all the money his companies have received from federal programs, plus civil penalties.”
As if that weren’t bad enough, last week, a medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against an Illinois nursing home after 57 maggots were discovered in the ear of a 90-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.
And the plight of nursing home residents during Hurricane Sandy, revealed in this terrifying New York Times story last week, continues in the news. Here’s yesterday’s letter to the editor from Suzanne Mattei, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment:
Your revealing investigation of the hazards suffered by nursing home residents after Hurricane Sandy raises many disturbing questions. How many residents failed to receive needed medication? How many suffered health effects from the “cold, wet darkness” that ensued when the power went off?
And what effects have been suffered by the people in the affected communities who live at home but need home care or other assistance? Let’s remember that the power failure affected people both inside and outside the evacuation zone.
These and more questions about our health care system’s preparedness and response must be examined in public settings. We will need all of our elected officials — at both the state and the local level — engaged in ferreting out the facts and finding solutions for the future.
One thing is certain: This should never happen again.
Boy, let’s hope not.