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Senate hearing focuses on reports of nursing home abuse

Connecticut residents who have loved ones in nursing homes should know that the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to discuss reports of abuse and neglect from some of the nation's nursing homes. One case of fatal neglect occurred at a nursing home with the highest possible ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The CMS, for its part, announced that it will update its Nursing Home Compare database, its online tools for researching nursing home quality and its Five-Star Quality Rating System. It is clear that nursing homes serving Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries need to be held to a higher standard as well.

Between 2013 and 2016, according to a CNN investigation, the federal government cited more than 1,000 nursing homes for mishandling or failing to prevent cases of sexual abuse, including rape and assault, in their facilities. Weeks before the hearing, a case arose in Arizona of a 29-year-old woman in a vegetative state who may have been impregnated by one of the nurses at her facility.

One case brought up in the hearing involved the sexual assault of an 83-year-old woman. Besides criminal charges, the perpetrator, a nursing assistant, faced a lawsuit from the victim's daughter. It ended with an unusual arrangement: the perpetrator is to pay $15 million if he abuses again.

Many of these cases arise partly through nursing home negligence. For example, the nursing home may continue to employ those suspected of abuse, or it may fail to conduct comprehensive background checks. Whatever the case may be, the family of those victimized in nursing homes may want to meet with an attorney to see what options might be available to them.

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