At some nursing homes, deficiencies repeat over and over

Laurie Kash was quoted in a recent Watchdog article in the Democrat and Chronicle.


From the article:

Some advocates say the Department of Health does not adequately address neglect or mistreatment in the deficiency reports, and families are forced to file lawsuits in order to document problems and hold nursing homes accountable.

“We were very committed to bringing it into the public record,” said Laurie Kash, whose mother suffered a serious fall in 2006 at the Jewish Home in Brighton. For more than a week, staff was unresponsive to her complaints of being injured, Kash said. The family brought in their own physician, who determined Gertrude Kash had suffered a spinal fracture, and that lack of prompt treatment led to irreversible paralysis from the chest down.  She died in 2009.

Kash said the family sued after a Department of Health investigation concluded no harm had occurred. “We knew that what happened to my mom couldn’t have happened in a vacuum.” She said it was only through the discovery process that the family was able to get access to medical records and take depositions from doctors and staff.  “We saw every inch of the way where my mom was neglected,” she said. “It was traumatizing to learn what really happened.”

As part of the settlement in her lawsuit, Kash insisted that she not be blocked from discussing her mother’s experience. But often, these cases end in settlements which keep those details secret and prohibit the families from discussing what happened.

Laurie Kash’s guest essay in the D&C from April 3:


Reform at nursing homes key

By Laurie Kash, Commentary
Published in the Albany Times Union Op-Ed section, February 29, 2016

Laurie Kash (in red) at Comptroller DiNapoli's press conference

Laurie Kash (in red) at Comptroller DiNapoli’s press conference

Here is how bad it has gotten: New York state nursing homes cause pervasive harm. And the state Department of Health‘s lack of oversight is a major part of the problem.

My late mother was a poster child for the horrors that occur daily in these facilities. The catastrophic breakdowns in her care did not happen in a vacuum. Horribly, hers is one of many flesh-and-blood examples of systems that are in utter failure and must be held to account.

I learned all of this only after my mother walked on her own two legs into a nursing home for temporary care, physically intact, and three weeks into her stay became a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. She was injured in repeated episodes of neglect and medical malpractice at the institution entrusted with her care.

The background: One night my mother fell after a nurse failed to follow a physician’s order detailed in her care plan. Her subsequent 13 days of progressive neurological deterioration and severe pain were ignored or dismissed as exaggerated. Instead of receiving the critical treatment, she was referred to a psychiatrist.

It took a brief neurological examination by my brother-in-law, a heart surgeon who came from out of town, to diagnose her paralysis. But by then it was too late to reverse her spinal cord injury. My mother spent the remaining three years of her life confined to the nursing home, in a wheelchair, without autonomy or independence.

We filed a complaint with the Department of Health, which, after six investigations, dismissed most concerns. Despite clear evidence of neglect, DOH found only one deficiency and rated it as “causing no actual harm.” Meanwhile, outside expert physicians saw clear violations of the state’s standards of care, and the record shows that nursing home staff repeatedly violated their own care plans.

Our family filed a lawsuit against the nursing home and repeatedly asked the state to act. DOH stonewalled us. I prepared a “Contrast Study” in 2013, comparing my mother’s case to one in which the state shut down a nursing home, and submitted it to the state health commissioner. Even after seeing these documented disparities in applying federal and New York law, DOH took no meaningful action.

Finally, two years ago, I approached the state comptroller’s office with my study, along with fellow advocates at New Yorkers for Patient and Family Empowerment, the Gray Panthers, and other organizations. We asked for an Audit and Policy Analysis of DOH’s Nursing Home Oversight agency, which was last done 16 years ago in 1999. Thankfully, the comptroller agreed to conduct this long-overdue audit. It is what I hope will be the beginning of the resuscitation of our state’s lapsed nursing home oversight.

In my nine-year pursuit of nursing home reform, I have encountered countless family members experiencing agony and incredulity at the harm done to their loved ones by the state’s systemic dysfunction. New York nursing homes now operate with practical impunity.

This is intolerable. There are solutions. The oversight agencies and the nursing homes they oversee must be held accountable to standards that assure care with dignity for our most vulnerable citizens. This is not a privilege. It is a right.

I appeal to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to stiffen enforcement with significant and consistent fines against nursing homes when they violate legal standards of care, and to preserve the right to sue — which has been opposed by the industry — to help ensure accountability.

And I implore every concerned citizen to act — on behalf of our shared futures and those of our loved ones — by contacting the governor’s office and their state Legislators to press for these reforms.

Our failure to act will literally be the death of us.

Laurie Kash lives in Rochester. The nursing home reform website is