- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Nursing home patients have been dragged down hallways, doused with ice water, sexually assaulted and beaten in their beds, yet few prosecutions have resulted, a congressional investigation found.
Yesterday, the son of one beating victim tearfully gave senators a message from his late mother: "I don't want anyone else to suffer like this."
Describing the attack on his mother, Helen, in a Sacramento, Calif. nursing home, Bruce Love said that by testifying, "I am here today to fulfill my mother's request."
The 18-month review by the Senate Special Committee on Aging concluded that many physical and sexual abuse cases in nursing homes are treated differently than similar crimes elsewhere. Part of its evidence includes a dramatic deathbed interview with one victim.
On a videotape shown at the hearing, Helen Love sat with a metal band pinned to her skull and described the 1998 beating she said was delivered by a caretaker after she soiled herself.
"He started beating me all along the bed," the elderly women said in a slurred voice as she described the attacks to lawyers. "He choked me and he went and broke my neck. He broke my wrist bones, my hand. He put his hand over my mouth."
Mrs. Love died two days later from the trauma. The nursing home staffer eventually pleaded no-contest in the 1998 attack and served a year in prison.
The investigation found that nursing homes rarely call police for attacks that would bring an instant response if they occurred elsewhere.
"A crime is a crime, whether in or outside of a nursing home, where residents should not spend their days living in fear." said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, chairman of the committee.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, does not require nursing homes to call police when there is suspicion of a crime, but officials said the agency is acting to speed notification.
CMS Administrator Thomas A. Scully said the agency will instruct state enforcement agencies to immediately notify local law enforcement or state Medicaid fraud units, depending on the crime.
The agency has also developed a poster for nursing homes with phone numbers to report problems to ombudsmen, the state compliance agency and the CMS Medicare number, 1-800-Medicare.
About 1.6 million Americans are cared for in 17,000 nursing homes. The homes received $58.4 billion in reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid in 2001.
Government figures show that from July through September 2000, nearly 26 percent of nursing homes were cited for violations that ranged from actually harming residents to poor record keeping and failure to put into practice policies to prevent abuse. Fewer than 2 percent of the cases, however, involved actual harm to residents.
Officials in the nursing home industry said most facilities provide quality care. "We deplore any that do not," said Alan DeFend, spokesman for the American Health Care Association, which represents 12,000 mostly for-profit nursing homes.
"We are concerned that the bad actions of 2 percent of nursing homes would overshadow the good work of hundreds of thousands of caring health professionals who provide quality, compassionate care every hour of every day," Mr. DeFend said.

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