I-Team: Nursing Home Abuse Investigation - 8 News NOW

Colleen McCarty, Reporter

I-Team: Nursing Home Abuse Investigation

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Brandon Price, on the right, with his mother. Brandon Price, on the right, with his mother.

Every year an average of 20,000 nursing home patients become victims of abuse according to a recent government survey. The most common complaint is physical abuse -- a warning to families to take an active role in the quality of care your loved ones receive. I-Team reporter Colleen McCarty found that may be easier said than done.

Even the most vigilant families can miss things. Most of us aren't doctors. We have to trust in the people who care for our loved ones only to learn the hard way when that trust is misplaced.

For Brandon Price, the roles reversed early.  At the age of 50, his mom Johnna suffered three massive strokes leaving the feisty former Miss Hawaii with the mental capacity of a toddler.

"Even when you do become an adult your parents are still your parents. To switch roles where you see your parent as someone who is helpless, feeble, it's definitely a hard thing," Price said.

Unable to provide the round-the-clock care their mother needed, Brandon and his brother placed Johnna in a skilled nursing facility. They chose Manor Health Care in Summerlin.

"What we do is we just try to be the squeaky wheel. We're always in there, my brother and myself and my brother's wife. We're always in there checking on her, making sure she's good," he said.

Their strategy worked for four years. Issues raised were issues settled until December of 2005. Brandon got a phone call to meet his mom at the emergency room.  "The doctor said your mom is probably not going to live. They actually let us in the room with her to say our goodbyes."

According to her medical records, doctors suspected Johnna suffered another stroke. Until a series of test results confirmed a different diagnosis -- severe dehydration.

Pat Price, who is not a family relation, is a legal nurse consultant with the Nursing Home Justice Center.  "In further looking at the lab studies, it was evident the kidneys had also shut down which tells us this did not just occur, this was something that was taking place over a period of time. For me to tell you exactly what those numbers are, my guess would be anywhere from 5 to 7 days, that's how long it took," Price said.

"For an ER doc to be stunned to have nurses in the emergency room tells us flat out we're surprised your mom lived, just because somebody couldn't give her a glass of water is just appalling to me."

Johnna's recovery put the Price family's "squeaky wheel theory" to the test. After multiple meetings with Manor Health Care, they chose to keep their mom at the facility.  She lasted less than 48 hours.  She was re-admitted to the intensive care unit for a blood disorder caused by a drug she shouldn't have taken.

"We don't kid ourselves to think mom is a healthy person, she's not. She had a massive stroke five years ago. She should've been dead five years ago, we understand that. But she's not gonna check out due to neglect. Not on our watch," Price said.

Convinced sub-standard care caused his mother's health condition, Brandon moved her to a new facility and then filed a complaint against the old one.

"After she's hurt again and hurt again and hurt again. Enough. It's got to be told. The story has got to be told" -- a story that may have a familiar ring to state regulators. Instead of the standard annual survey, Manor Health Care has been reviewed eight times in the last five years. The most recent report found 12 health deficiencies -- about average. The one before it noted 21 deficiencies.

"I believe this is not an isolated case. Not just to the Manor and not to our mom. I believe this happens all over the valley and for these people to be put aside because they're sick. It's not right and that's why we're doing this," said Price.

Manor Health Care declined our request for an interview though an administrator acknowledged she was aware of the Price family's situation.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home the reality is you are their best defense against abuse. Even state regulators admit they are way under-staffed with only 14 surveyors for some 600 facilities.

To prevent abuse, the experts say do your homework, be a regular at the facility and don't be afraid to ask questions and speak up.

Email investigative reporter Colleen McCarty at cmccarty@klastv.com

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