Archives for September 2014

Elder Abuse in Georgia Unlicensed Personal Care Homes

The 65+ population is steadily growing. By 2030, the government predicts there will be almost 55 million citizens over the age of 65 in the U.S., or 16% of the total population. While medical and scientific advances continue to result in increased life expectancies, there is still a growing need for assistance in aging. Sometimes this assistance does not require the services found in a skilled nursing facility or home. Instead, some individuals and families turn to a personal care home or some sort of community living arrangement facility. Many such homes or facilities offer support for the day to day basics that individuals may no longer be able to carry out themselves. Tasks such as meal preparation, laundry services, walking assistance, medication reminders, and light housekeeping may be provided in these homes.

Unfortunately, there are situations in which these tasks and other matters of simple dignity of living are not delivered to residents of personal care facilities. Some personal care homes appear to exist solely for the purpose of billing and receiving money from the federal and state governments, providing little, if any, quality care to residents.

Depending on the qualifications, services and delivered, some care facilities or care homes are not required to be licensed. In the state of Georgia, there were 293 complaints regarding unlicensed care homes in the 2014 fiscal year. This was up from fiscal year 2013, in which 253 complaints were documented. And that’s just registered complaints. How many residents or their families fail to report elder abuse in personal care homes?elderly

Complaints regarding the Uplift individual living facility in Valdosta, GA led to a 2 month long criminal investigation and culminated in a raid of the facility on June 19, 2014. Residents were freed from conditions entirely unacceptable for humans to live in and were relocated to another facility. Subpar care provided at the facility became apparent throughout the investigation, as the raid resulted in the arrest of six individuals for the abuse and neglect of disabled adults.

Sadly, the Valdosta incident is far from being the only situation in which individuals are mistreated in care facilities. In July, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that a Cobb County woman had kept six elderly women in her basement in makeshift plywood rooms. Georgia Health News reports that 55 individuals have been rescued and transferred from 10 unlicensed personal care homes since June of 2014.

A simple awareness of the potential dangers of personal care homes and similar living arrangements for the elderly can save time, money and potential emotional and physical abuse of loved ones. Always make sure that proper research is done when choosing a facility for the care of an elderly family member. Should an unfortunate and heartbreaking situation of elder abuse occur, contact Brownstein and Nguyen – your trusted Atlanta medical malpractice and elder abuse lawyers – for skilled and compassionate legal help.

A Back Up Plan to Avoid RSIs

Medical Malpractice in AtlantaThe occurrence of retained surgical instruments (RSIs) or unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs), while not extremely common, is more frequent than one might imagine. Items left inside a patient after surgery, including instruments and other surgical tools or materials, can cause infection, medical complications, pain and discomfort, and may even lead to death.

Many hospitals and medical professionals follow strict procedures and policies in order to avoid the potential for RSIs. Even so, the Journal of American College Surgeons reported that an estimated 1 in 5,500 surgeries results in an RSI. While a variety of items have been left behind, the most common is a surgical sponge. These sponges, used to soak up blood during surgery, can be difficult to spot as they become camouflaged blood soaked objects. Often tucked into hard-to-see areas within the body, it is reported that sponges, surgical instruments and other items are most commonly left in the abdomen, thoracic cavity, vagina, and pelvis.

The traditional method used to prevent RSIs involved taking a manual count of all items used during surgery, including surgical sponges. Nurses compared a count before and after a procedure for an inventory of sponges and other surgical instruments. While this provided some accountability, there was still room for human error. With technological advances, however, surgical sponges are now fitted with a tiny chip that gives off a radio frequency. Surgical teams are then able to use a wand or a mat at the end of a procedure to verify if whether a surgical sponge has been left inside the patient.

This technology advancement has shown to significantly decrease the amount of surgical sponges left behind. As a result, hospitals are able to avoid costly legal ramifications, hazardous side effects, and the emotional distress that occurs when an RSI takes place. Find out more about RSIs with this CBS news report, or through the findings of the Joint Commission. Also, before going in for elective surgery ask what methods will be used in order to prevent the occurrence of an RSI.

While the frequency of these surgical mistakes is hopefully decreasing, it is important to know your legal rights. The medical malpractice and negligence attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have over 20 years of experience handling cases in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Contact our legal offices today for a free case evaluation.

Hollywood Immigration

Open a newspaper, watch the news, browse a news site, or listen to the radio and you’ll hear about immigration in the United States. Its hard to miss given the constant debates and arguments that the current system is broken. Unfortunately, a growing number of individuals and families have been caught in the middle of this sensitive political football. Some are stuck in limbo, waiting for government action, while for others time has run out as their families are torn apart and they are sent back to their home countries.

Hollywood has long found inspiration in true stories. In many cases, narratives are turned into realistic fiction but still document and highlight important issues that are sometimes overlooked. There is a certain power and connectedness that people share with narratives. This is certainly true when it comes to the topic of immigration captured on the silver screen.Hollywood Immigration

In 2006 Tom Hanks portrayed fictional character Viktor Navorski in The Terminal, a movie about an immigrant from the fictional country of Krakozhia who was caught in limbo due to political turmoil back home. Viktor was unable to enter the United States, but was not permitted to return to his home country. Basically, he was without country. The movie depicts the challenges faced while living in an airport terminal while trying to gain entry into the United States. While this account is fictional, it is loosely based on the true story of Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri who lived in a Paris airport for over seventeen years.

While Hollywood’s version of The Terminal is fictional, Nasseri’s story is true. Similarly, there are countless true stories currently unfolding for those seeking to make the United States their home. Many of these would-be immigrants currently waiting in place are in need of support from a qualified, experienced, and trusted immigration lawyer. Brownstein & Nguyen has represented countless individuals and families seeking help to live permanently in the United States. Our Atlanta immigration attorneys are ready to help with your real life story – contact us today for a consultation.

Do Immigrant Children Deserve Due Process?

Due process is the bedrock of our legal system in the United States. Based on the guiding principle that every free person is entitled to adequate notice of a charge or grievance and a fair opportunity to be heard, due process encompasses fairness in both legal proceedings (procedural due process) and the application of laws (substantive due process). So important is due process to our democratic system that it is embodied in the 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

In the eyes of the law, children are persons entitled to due process. Thus, one would expect that children appearing in our courts would receive due process including proper advance notice of a hearing and the right to a lawyer or attorney if they are accused of a crime or unlawful behavior. But is this true when we are talking about unaccompanied immigrant children? Recent evidence from Atlanta immigration courtrooms suggests not, as case after case involving unrepresented minors is heard at a remarkably fast pace.

Busy Court JudgeIn the last eighteen months, there has been a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Many of these children work alongside their families to scrape together every last cent to pay their way across the border in search for freedom from oppression and the promise of a better life. With their home countries being torn apart by gang violence and poverty, the hope of reuniting with family members is what keeps many of them going.

Where do unaccompanied minor immigrants go?

Upon crossing the border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turns unaccompanied minors over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is up to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to locate a parent, relative, friend of the family, or sponsor to help care for the minor until the time of their deportation proceedings.

What’s the connection with Atlanta?

While the surge of unaccompanied minors has made national headlines, it is very present here in Georgia and Atlanta. Over 1,400 unaccompanied minors have landed in the metro Atlanta area while awaiting their fate. The immigration courts seem to be pushing these cases through the courts at an alarming rate. In many cases, unaccompanied immigrant children are not represented and complex cases can get dismissed in the midst. Non-profit immigration lawyers who are willing to donate their time try and help unaccompanied children with valid legal grounds to stay. However, if cases are pushed through the courts at break-neck speed and legal counsel is not available or cannot devote the necessary time to dig deeper into individual cases, many children will fall through the cracks and be returned to the same terrible conditions they fled from.

At Brownstein & Nguyen we do not claim to have all of the answers regarding the current immigration situations. We do however, have years of experience as Atlanta immigration lawyers to offer unaccompanied children and their families seeking answers and representation. The immigration attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have successfully made a difference in the lives of countless individuals needing help with immigration law cases over the years. Contact our Atlanta immigration law offices today.

Medical Care Issues for Elderly Hospital Patients

You have an aging parent, spouse or loved one who you fear is no longer capable of making decisions about their own healthcare. You planned ahead and obtained a healthcare power of attorney so you can legally act on their behalf and make decisions for them when the time comes. But the last thing you anticipated is bad or negligent hospital care and fighting for your loved one’s rights to receive the best possible care. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common scenario.

Hospital BedAs we age, we eventually lose mobility, physical capabilities and mental capacity. Whether these things occur separately and gradually as part of the natural aging process, or suddenly and in tandem due to illness or trauma – at some point we all become incapacitated. When that happens, we are at our most vulnerable and particularly in need of significant care and assistance. Unfortunately, not all healthcare facilities and providers are equally suited to care for incapacitated elderly patients. This is especially true of hospitals and acute care facilities that are traditionally geared toward the short-term treatment of illnesses and injuries. Once patients reach a certain level of medical improvement, it is expected they will leave to the hospital to convalesce at home or be transferred to a skilled nursing, rehabilitation or other facility.

Elderly patients who are hospitalized – whether from a fall, heart issue or other health problem requiring urgent care – are at risk of a debilitating, and sometimes fatal, decline in physical and mental health. Such a decline can create a difficult set of circumstances not only for the patient and family, but for also the treating facility. Many hospitals are not structured or staffed to provide long-term care for incapacitated patients needing daily assistance to survive. This can include, for example, immobile patients who require frequent turning and repositioning to prevent skin breakdown and bedsores or decubitus.

When elder patients become physically or mentally compromised to the point of needing full-time assistance, hospitals are required to provide adequate care until the patient can be transferred to a more appropriate facility. Unfortunately, long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are not required to accept patients, and many will reject patients depending on their condition. This problem can put aging patients and their families at odds with hospitals, which may be unable to provide adequate care necessary to ensure the patients’ well-being and comfort.

So, what can you do if your parent, spouse or loved one is in this situation? Here are a few suggestions, based on personal and professional experience.

  1. Seek open communication with doctors and staff. It is critically important to consult and openly communicate with your love one’s treating physicians, nurses, and other staff members (for example, social workers or patient care coordinators) so you can have a complete understanding of the medical facts and their opinions concerning the patient’s condition(s), prognosis and treatment. Ask as many questions as necessary to help gain such an understanding. Learn what care options are available for your loved one, given their condition. You might consider keeping a journal and taking detailed notes of your conversations with physicians and hospital staff, so later you can recall who said what.
  2. Work to resolve disagreements concerning care amicably. If a dispute arises concerning the appropriate care or best course of action for your loved one, seek to resolve it by working cooperatively with physicians and hospital staff. If possible, try to craft a solution that is in the patient’s best interests and also satisfies the goals of the family and hospital. Keep in mind that healthcare providers and agents (family members with power of attorney) must always act in the patient’s best interests, and that professional providers’ views of what that might be in a given case may differ from those of the patient’s family.
  3. Address concerns with hospital administration. If you are unable to adequately resolve concerns or reach consensus on the best course of action and care for your loved one, ask to meet with a hospital administrator. Before meeting, you may wish to first provide a detailed outline of the situation in a memo or letter (the journal you kept will come in handy). Work to keep the meeting constructive and focused on achieving a resolution that best meets the needs of the patient, family and hospital. Be sure that appropriate individuals attend the meeting, including a decision-maker for the hospital and possibly a treating physician or other medical professional knowledgeable about your loved one’s condition.
  4. Contact an elder care attorney. If all else fails, consider contacting a qualified elder care attorney for consultation and possible representation. Such an attorney can assess the legal circumstances and provide advice about the best course of action to achieve the family’s goals. The attorney can also intercede on the family’s behalf and seek a resolution with hospital officials, both by making written requests and also by communicating with the hospital or legal counsel. Finally, as a last resort, the attorney can petition a court for relief on an emergency basis, if warranted by the circumstances. Courts may use their extraordinary equitable powers to order certain actions be taken on behalf of the family and patient.

If you are experiencing poor or inadequate hospital care for an elderly patient, or find yourself in a dispute over proper care for an aging parent, spouse or loved one, contact the elder care and medical malpractice attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen. Our Atlanta lawyers have years of experience fighting for the healthcare and legal rights of the elderly and their families.