Feds flag 4 local nursing homes with abuse, neglect citations

Plus: College pay data predicts whether your kid will graduate into your basement; Wells criticized for confusing checking accounts; Charlotte-centric Alexa parody includes 'carpetbagger mode'

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Comparison website offers new warnings on nursing homes; Industry says icons are misleading

Also: tips on choosing a nursing home

People in the Charlotte area looking into nursing homes for loved ones now have a little more information to guide them: an icon on a government website that alerts them that a facility has been recently cited for abuse or neglect.

Warning sign: Last month, the government started placing a red warning symbol on its Nursing Home Compare website next to listings of nursing homes where residents experienced harm or potential harm. The site, run by the U.S. Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services, is a clearinghouse of government information on nursing homes and includes star ratings on categories such as staffing, health and overall quality. It also links to a nursing home’s regular health inspections and to inspections performed after complaints.

A search of the site this week showed that of the 42 nursing homes listed in the Charlotte area, four carried the warning symbol — a red circle with a white “stop” hand. The existence of the new icon was reported this week by the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

Red alert icons on a government website indicate that a nursing home has been cited for abuse or neglect in the last year. Industry officials say the icons don’t fully reflect the care they are providing.

The inspection reports on the four Charlotte-area nursing homes flagged for their abuse and neglect citations are a depressing read. Nursing homes are often places where parents and grandparents happily spend their golden years. But the reports show staff sometimes struggle to deal with residents who have cognitive or other health issues and who can be combative or uncooperative.

Fair or not? Nursing home industry executives told the Journal the new icon is misleading because it “could unfairly damage the reputation of affected facilities” and that it fails to reflect the nuances of inconsistent inspection standards and varying degrees of mistreatment. Consumer advocates said the icon is a good first step but an imperfect tool that “fails to capture many cases of abuse.” Nationally, about 5% of facilities in the database received the red icon, the Journal reported.

In the Charlotte area, the four nursing homes flagged for abuse or neglect were:

White Oak Manor on Craig Avenue in Oakhurst:

  • Investigators found that the staff “failed to put into action an effective plan to address and monitor” a male resident who had been making sexually inappropriate comments to staff members. In early January 2019, the resident — who was on antipsychotics and suffered from dementia — was seen in the room of a female resident lying on top of her with his pants undone and trying to have intercourse, according to the report, though there’s no evidence he did. The female resident was “crying for help.” Staff intervened, the man was later removed from the facility, and workers underwent training on abuse.

  • In a response provided to the Ledger, White Oak’s senior administrator, Amanda Pack, wrote: “White Oak Manor of Charlotte was cited for abuse despite the fact that the staff intervened before any abuse actually occurred. There are nearly 1,000 regulatory tags nursing homes can be cited for and most are complex situations that cannot be summed up in one word, such as abuse.” She said the website’s red warning sign is misleading because it alone “is not a reliable indication of the quality of care provided.”

Olde Knox Commons at the Villages of Mecklenburg, Huntersville:

  • A December 2018 inspection found that “the facility failed to protect … residents from staff and/or resident physical abuse.” It says the facility failed to prevent a worker from “forcefully grabbing [a resident’s] left arm which caused a 4-centimeter tunneling skin tear.” The worker said in a written statement in the report that the resident had punched her in the jaw and that the arm injury was an accident.

  • In a separate report from November 2018, “a cognitively impaired resident was slapped by a nursing assistant” after the nursing assistant said she was punched in the chest and face while trying to administer care. The report determined that “the facility failed to protect a resident's right to be free of physical abuse.”

  • The company did not reply to an email from the Ledger.

The Ivy at Gastonia (also known as Meadowwood Nursing Center):

  • A December 2018 report found that “the facility failed to treat one resident with dignity by leaving the resident lying in a large amount of urine and stool.” The resident, who was incontinent but not cognitively impaired, rang for assistance four times during the night, but staff members left each time without cleaning him up, says the report, which was based in part on audio recordings made by the resident.

  • Administrators did not return a call from the Ledger.

Alexandria Place, Gastonia:

  • A report from November 2018 found that “the facility neglected to assess and maintain a clean covered wound and neglected to implement effective interventions to prevent a resident from picking at a wound to prevent maggot infestation.”

  • Administrators did not return a call from the Ledger.

How to choose a nursing home

Local freelance writer Michelle Crouch has written for AARP and Reader’s Digest about how to choose a long-term care facility. She compiled the following tips with the help of Cindy Englert, a long-term care ombudsman for the Centralina Area Agency on Aging:

  • Start your search online. Regardless of whether the nursing homes you’re considering have the red icon, it’s still a good idea to check star ratings, inspection reports and other data at the Nursing Homes Compare website

  • Check it out in person. If you have time, make several visits, including at least one on an evening or weekend when staffing is lower. Pay special attention to staff interactions with residents. Does it seem clean and well-maintained? Are staff members responding promptly to alarms? Is there a strong scent of urine? Do the meals look (and taste) appetizing? Ask how many patients are assigned to each nursing aide and if any are from temporary staffing agencies. (It’s preferable to rely on employees for staffing because they are familiar with residents.)

  • Chat with residents and family members. If there are residents in the lobby or hallways, ask how they like living there. Also talk to visiting family members. Possible questions include: What do they like about the facility? What could be improved? Does their family member have the same nurse’s aide on most days? Is the staff responsive to resident requests?

  • Contact your local long-term care ombudsman. Englert and other ombudsmen with the Centralina Area Agency on Aging can’t recommend a specific facility, but they can provide information on recent complaints and indicators of good care. An ombudsman can be particularly helpful if you have to make a quick decision, such as when a family member is being released from the hospital, Englert says. In the Charlotte region, call 800-508-5777.

New data: Biz majors at UNC make big money; Drama at App? Not so much.

The federal Education Department this week released new data on colleges that show for the first time the median starting salaries broken out by school and major.

In other words, you can now compare the salaries of, say, psychology majors graduating from Appalachian State versus UNC-Wilmington. Or within a single school, you can see how biology majors fare compared with linguistics majors.

Of course, college isn’t all about the money, blah blah blah. But the data can provide information to help students and their parents select schools and figure out courses of study once they’re enrolled. There’s nothing wrong with following your passion for dance or drama, but figures on the low expected earnings in those fields should be part of the conversation — particularly for parents footing the bills and disinclined to continue subsidizing their kids for years after graduation.

Looking at schools in North and South Carolina, business, computer science and engineering tended to top the lists of top-earning majors. The lowest-earning majors included drama, dance, media studies and biology.

Here are the top- and bottom-earning median salaries a year after graduation by school:

North Carolina
  • Appalachian State: Computer science ($58,800); drama ($15,000)

  • Belmont Abbey: Business ($45,800); education ($21,400)

  • Davidson: Economics ($64,400); biology ($28,900)

  • Duke: Computer science ($99,600); natural resources conservation ($32,300)

  • East Carolina: Computer science ($62,600); drama ($15,100)

  • Elon: Finance ($59,400); drama ($18,500)

  • Johnson & Wales-Charlotte: Accounting ($44,000); culinary arts (associate’s degree, $25,900)

  • Johnson C. Smith: Business ($31,400); communication/media studies ($16,900)

  • N.C. State: Computer science ($69,800); zoology/animal biology ($19,100)

  • Queens University of Charlotte: Nursing ($56,800); Communication/media studies ($33,000)

  • UNC-Chapel Hill: Business ($71,800); Romance languages/linguistics ($19,800)

  • UNC-Charlotte: Computer engineering ($66,900); dance ($16,900)

  • Wake Forest: Finance ($71,900); health and fitness ($26,300)

  • Wingate: Nursing ($51,400); human services ($26,100)

South Carolina
  • Clemson: Chemical engineering ($72,400); agricultural production ($22,100)

  • University of South Carolina: Chemical engineering ($68,800); anthropology ($14,200)

  • Winthrop: Business ($37,300); drama ($17,300)

  • Wofford: Finance ($47,600); biology ($25,600)

Geek out: If you want to check out the numbers yourself, go to the Education Department’s College Scorecard website. Like many government websites, it can be tricky to use. Do a name search on the school, then click the name of the school, then click on “fields of study” for the breakdown of median earnings and debt by major.

Loves me some internet

Our friends over at The Biscuit have produced a comedy video touting what sounds like a must-have holiday gift for every Charlotte household: a Charlotte-centric digital assistant called “Sharona Royale.”

The Alexa-like contraption is “perfectly calibrated to help you navigate life in the Queen City” and includes real-time information on Charlotte news, traffic and entertainment. “Order now and enjoy the premium edition with ‘OGClt’ and ‘Carpetbagger’ modes”:

(It’s a parody video produced by Charlotte Is Creative and Charlotte Star Room.)

In brief

  • Confusing Wells checking? A Democratic member of Congress is asking Wells Fargo to disclose the extent of a potential issue with two checking accounts that might have confused customers and caused them to pay unexpected fees. “The bank’s Everyday Checking and Opportunity Checking accounts both include a $10 monthly charge except if the customer meets one of several conditions, including making 10 transactions a month. But some customers may not have realized ATM withdrawals didn’t count toward those transactions, the bank has acknowledged.” (Washington Post)

  • Aid for Microsoft: The City Council is expected to approve a $664,000 business investment grant for Microsoft, which announced last month that it plans to invest $24M and hire 430 workers at pay averaging $96,250 a year. The company employs 1,148 workers off Arrowood Road in southwest Charlotte. The county is expected to kick in $816,000.

  • Reverse discrimination lawsuit: Novant Health’s former senior vice president of marketing and communications has filed a federal lawsuit against the health system, alleging that the company fired him last year because he is a white male. The former executive, David Duvall, said in court papers that his firing fits a pattern of replacing white men: “The Chief Legal Officer was replaced by a black male; the Medical Group President was replaced by a black female; the Chief Information Officer was replaced by a white female; the Patient Experience Officer was replaced by a white female.” Novant told the Observer it cannot comment on legal matters but will “defend itself vigorously.” (Observer)

  • New movie theater: Studio Movie Grill is opening its second location next month, a 10-screen theater near the intersection of I-485 and Prosperity Church Road in the Highland Creek/Mallard Creek area. Its other Charlotte location is at the Epicentre. (Biz Journal)

  • No more Belk in Belk Bowl: Belk is discontinuing its sponsorship of the college football Belk Bowl after this year’s game. The Charlotte Sports Foundation, which runs the bowl game, is on the hunt for a new title sponsor. (Biz Journal)

  • LoSo sale: White Point Partners has sold Bowers, an adaptive re-use development that’s home to Artisanal Brewing Ventures and Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, the company said in a news release. It’s at the corner of Yancey and Old Pineville roads.

  • Higher profits: Lowe’s beat analysts’ expectations for 3Q earnings but also plans to close 34 underperforming stores in Canada, the company said Thursday. In addition, the Mooresville-based retailer pulled images of kitchen scales from its website on Thursday after people on the internet suggested that the scales looked as though they were weighing marijuana. (Business Insider):

Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Fully vegan in NoDa: A South African couple plans to open a vegan restaurant in NoDa in December called Oh My Soul. They noticed “there were vegan options in the neighborhood but no spot with 100 percent dedication to veganism.” Menu items could include “vegan ribs, an extensive selection of waffles and food seasoned with herbs from their onsite garden.” (CharlotteFive)

  • Chicken restaurant opens: Bossy Beulah’s Chicken Shack opened for lunch this week on Freedom Drive. It’s the latest from chef Jim Noble, who’s behind Noble Smoke, Rooster’s and The King’s Kitchen. (Team coverage: Biz Journal, Agenda, Unpretentious Palate/paywall). Counterpoint from new dining and culture publication The Penguin: “Bossy Beulah is an over-hyped, under-seasoned, disappointment of a sandwich. … [It] thinks getting the media hype machine to reprint the ‘best Charlotte chicken sandwich’ claim is all they have to do to get us idiots to eat there.”

  • Pizza in Optimist Hall: Ava Pizzeria is scheduled to open today in Optimist Hall. “The menu features pizzas such as the Funghi — think cremini and shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onion, mozzarella, pecorino and balsamic — or La Bestia with San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, spicy nduja sausage and arugula.” (Biz Journal)

  • Seasonal shake: Chick-fil-A is now serving peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes, the Ledger has learned.

  • Italian restaurant planned: The chef behind The Stanley in Elizabeth plans to open an Italian restaurant in NoDa in April called Orto. (Team coverage: Unpretentious Palate/paywall, Agenda, CharlotteFive)

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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.