Here in greater Philadelphia, we recently saw a case of Pennsylvania nursing home abuse exposed only because of a hidden camera. That patient is now living with her daughter's family, and the family has filed a lawsuit against the home even as prosecutors pursue charges against the three employees involved. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I was interested to see a recent article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a similar hidden-camera situation uncovered abuse in an Ohio nursing home. According to the article, a former aide at the Prentiss Center for Skilled Nursing Care pleaded guilty this week to seven counts of abusing or neglecting a patient. Virgen Caraballo and other aides are accused of abusing and mocking Esther Piskor, 78, after they were caught on a hidden camera installed by her son. Caraballo and three others were fired, and the Piskor family is now suing the home.
Steve Piskor moved his mother into the Prentiss Center in 2009. He became concerned about the quality of her care after his daily visits sometimes found her sitting in a soiled wheelchair. He also found marks on her face. He filed four complaints with the home that led to no action, he said, so he installed a camera in the room that was visible to employees. Nursing home administrators permitted the employees to put a towel over that camera, so Piskor installed a hidden camera disguised as an air freshener and posted a sign on a bulletin board in her room notifying visitors about the camera. Within two days, he says, he had footage of employees throwing Esther Piskor into a wheelchair, pushing a hand into her face, spraying something into her face and other inappropriate behavior. He and his attorney brought the videos to police and nursing home administrators -- though the administrators reportedly debated whether the behaviors constituted abuse. Esther Piskor has been moved to another home.
The family's attorney said he suspects Esther Piskor was not the only victim, and as a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I suspect he's right. Often, this kind of abuse or neglect is not targeted at one specific individual, but a result of failures throughout the system in place at the home. Sometimes, neglect grows from understaffing homes to save money -- staffers are simply too overwhelmed to give everyone the attention they need. As a result, they may start cutting corners or forgetting vital information about medication, feeding requirements and more. Cost-cutting measures can also lead to the hiring of workers with little training on the needs and legal rights of nursing home patients. As a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I believe patients deserve to be placed ahead of nursing home companies' profits.