Nursing Home Nightmares Part Two
A nursing home is a place where many people spend their final days. But after one North Central Florida woman's nightmare, she says it's a place she will never go herself.
Betty Murphy says her twin brother William Branson was never the same after he went to the nursing home. To this day, she faults herself for not doing more research.
"I thought he would come back home," says Murphy. The way they told me, he would be in there for six weeks and then he could come home. But it never happened and six months later he was dead."
Betty was born just seven minutes before her twin. Even though she was older, he was always teasing her. William would nearly scare Betty to death by putting grasshoppers in her bedroom. Now those memories are overshadowed by what the emergency room doctor said just days before he died.
"He told me at the admitting at the ER that it was the worst case of neglect he had ever seen," says Murphy.
Betty has a copy of the bed sore pictures William had when he died. She says originally, his health was pretty good. He had to go to the nursing home because he had a blood clot and was HIV-positive. William went back and forth between the hospital and nursing homes with pneumonia and other infections.
He spent his last few months at Oakhurst Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Ocala. But Betty questions the care he received at the end.
"All I wanted to do was bring him home," says Murphy. "That's all I wanted, but they wouldn't let me. They said I couldn't take care of him. But they didn't take care of him either."
Tom Barnes at the Department of Children and Families says one of the biggest problems nursing homes faces is there aren't enough qualified people to take care of patients. DCF investigates anytime there is a report to the Florida Abuse Hotline. In the latest data, there were 2200 DCF investigations in Alachua, Columbia, Levy, Marion and Putnam counties from July, 2002 to June, 2003. Barnes says nursing homes make up about 20% of that number. And they haven't gone down.
"There are more jobs that qualified people," says Barnes. "Regrettably there are times when the ability to provide quality care is less of a qualification than just to be there."
A facility like Tacachale is one of the reasons nursing homes struggle to find qualified people. They have to compete, not just with each other, but with hospitals and other facilities like Tacachale for staff. Barnes says while it's impossible to eliminate abuse and neglect completely, what can lower your risk is individual attention. And that starts with the family.
"The worst thing a family member can do is look for an easy answer," says Barnes. "It's long-term involvement, long-term care, long-term commitment to the wellbeing of the resident."
That's something Betty Murphy thought she was doing. She visited her brother a couple times every week. But in her mind, it still wasn't enough.
"If they love their loved ones, they need to keep a close eye on them," says Murphy. "I did, but that didn't help. Maybe it will help sometime with somebody watching this."
We tried to contact Oakhurst for their response to Betty's story, but they did not return our calls.
When Betty put William at Oakhurst, it had the state's highest five-star ranking. Now there are new rankings out and Oakhurst has dropped to a three-star facility.
Wednesday, we'll look at the new rankings more closely and explain how you can use them to make a decision about your loved one's care.
If you think someone you know has been abused, you must report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 96-ABUSE.
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News
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