November 21, 2014

State Fails to Adequately Address Nursing Home Complaints

by Levin & Perconti

It can be a very nerve-racking experience to put a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility, particularly knowing of so many horror stories about how residents and patients are treated by staffers at facilities around the country. This is why due diligence of these facilities ahead of time is so vital and can make all the difference. In performing such due diligence, though, we rely on third party consumer groups that investigate and rate homes, but also rely heavily on our own government, both state and federal.

As many know, the Illinois Department of Public Health has a vital role in watching over our state’s nursing homes and facilities. In general state and federal health and/or aging departments and agencies take a tremendous role in implementing and enforcing key rules and regulations as to how nursing homes can operate and the quality of care expected from the workers in those facilities. Government health agencies are responsible for conducting regular audits and inspections, hearing complaints and responding to them with further inspections, and sanctioning homes that do not meet certain standards or that are found to allow for abuse and neglect to persist against their patients. It is scary to think about, but what happens when our government fails at that very job? Unfortunately, according to recent reports, California has failed a recent test as to its regulators’ responsibilities to investigate and address allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Investigation Problems

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November 18, 2014

Important Panel in Chicago Next Spring on Dementia Will Feature Levin & Perconti Attorneys

by Levin & Perconti

The elderly deal with many afflictions as they age, any number of which could require a stay in a nursing home or long-term care facilities. There could be physical reasons, such as recovering from a fall, recovering from a procedure, or just the fact they need assistance because they are physically incapable of helping themselves. And often overlooked is the fact that mental afflictions can also be the reason for needing a nursing home. Many elderly suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This can lead to forgetfulness, a propensity to wander, or incidents of panic or violence where someone becomes so confused, among other types of incidents.

The Scope of the Problem

In the United States, as of 2014 approximately 5.2 million Americans suffer from dementia or specifically Alzheimer’s disease. According to alz.org, every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s in the U.S. and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. About a half million people die from Alzheimer’s including 1 in 3 senior citizens. And more crucial to our purposes here, in the year 2013, 15.5 million medical care providers spent nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care which were estimated at a value of $220 billion, thus representing the crucial need and the substantial expense of paying for healthcare for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

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November 17, 2014

Illinois Attorney General in Favor of Nursing Home Cameras

by Levin & Perconti

A major controversy discussed multiple times here, across the state of Illinois, and across the United States, has been the issue of allowing hidden cameras in nursing homes. The proposition of using hidden cameras to document such abuse and neglect has gained momentum in recent months and years. Some states, like Oklahoma, Washington, Texas, New Mexico and Maryland, actually permit the use of hidden cameras, and others are contemplating legislation to do just that. This trend demonstrates the recognized importance of closely monitoring the behavior of nursing home and long-term care facility doctors, nurses, nursing aides, and other staffers.

Illinois is one such state that is seemingly moving toward explicitly legalizing the use of hidden cameras in nursing homes. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been working on a draft bill that would permit nursing home residents and/or their families to use hidden cameras to capture footage in the patients’ rooms. These rooms can often be the sites of target="_blank"elder abuse, neglect, and theft of property by nursing home workers.

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November 13, 2014

Class Action Filed Against Owner of 57 Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

We have previously covered a number of cases of abuse and neglect at nursing homes that result in civil lawsuits by individuals and/or their families, by the government for penalties and violations of laws, rules and regulations, including the False Claims Act (or state equivalents), and even criminal charges for the grossest of neglect and harshest of abuse by nursing home staffers and aides. Yet we have not had occasion to cover a particularly large type of civil action known as a class action lawsuit. For the uninitiated, a class action lawsuit is one brought by a larger number of people, and typically named for the lead plaintiff in the case. Class action lawsuits are commonly seen in tort cases, namely products liability cases for example where a car part has caused injury, or a toy has caused injury.

The Nursing Home Lawsuit

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November 10, 2014

Extendicare Health Services Inc. Latest to Settle with Uncle Sam and Several States

by Levin & Perconti

An entity owning a chain of nursing homes has become the latest to settle with the United States government over allegations that it fraudulently billed the government for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for what has been described as “substandard” care to those nursing home residents. The entity called Extendicare Health Services Inc., owns the Arbors of Sylvania nursing home in Toledo, Ohio, and others around the country.

It has been written up by health authorities for a variety of alleged violations of regulation in failing to properly care for residents. Among the various allegations, the nursing home was accused of allowing patients to become dehydrated and malnourished, and in at least one case failed to properly take care of a patient in his or her use of a catheter, which for those familiar is a very serious medical device. In other instances, nursing home staff did not give patients their medications. To add to the mess, there were also incidents of patients falling due to allegedly negligent care and poor attention on those patients.

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November 7, 2014

Nursing Home Accused of Negligence that Leads to Maggot Infestation

by Levin & Perconti

In an incredibly disturbing story out of Bangor, Maine, a nursing home resident was found to have had maggots in his chest area. The discovery came after the resident reported feeling itching and burning in the chest area under where he had bandages. The resident lived at the Eastside Center for Health and Rehabilitation, and an anonymous complaint to state health authorities, specifically the Main Department of Health and Human Services, prompted the state’s Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services to conduct an inspection of the nursing home facility. The report explains how when the patient’s bandages were removed from his chest, nursing home staff found larvae in the area, and moved to treat it. Without getting into anything more detailed on the infection itself, which obviously paints a disturbing picture, it is clear that the facility is in a deep amount of trouble.

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November 5, 2014

Inspector General Finds Reporting Rates Lacking

by Levin & Perconti

The United States Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently published a report detailing the rate that nursing home facilities themselves reported incidents of abuse or neglect during the year 2012. The report and its accompanying figures are jarring for anyone living in a nursing home or anyone who has loved ones residing in a nursing home.

The Latest Report

According to the OIG report, 53% of allegations and the findings of subsequent investigations into allegations were correctly reported in accordance with federal requirements. Federal law extends over nursing homes and other medical healthcare providers that accept federal money through insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are all administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Nursing facilities certified by the CMS are required under law to report incidents of neglect and incidents of abuse against facility residents. This includes reporting even just plain allegations, as well as the reports and findings produced by investigations into any allegations. In addition to the 53% rate of correct reporting, it was found that approximately 76% of the nursing homes used internal policies based on those reporting requirements. Furthermore, 61% of nursing homes had documentation to show that they properly trained facility employees, as well as contractors, of those requirements to report abuse or neglect, as well as to file complaints in general. The 53% figure above about “correct reporting” is prescient in light of the fact that 85% of nursing homes reported at least a single claim to the OIG.

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November 3, 2014

Various Nurssing Homes Hit with Fines

by Levin & Perconti

The Connecticut state Department of Public Health recently conducted a substantial crackdown on several nursing homes for the terrible negligence and abuse perpetrated upon their residents. Each nursing home’s cases are unrelated, but the sanctions have all been announced together. Six nursing home facilities have been fined by the state agency for a variety of different incidents that adversely impacted the health and well-being of their residents.

These incidents arise out of a variety of maltreatment and negligence. This includes mistakenly giving a patient morphine, having a patient suffer burns from a hot towel, and another patient developing a scab on their foot after having a toe amputated. As if this could not be outdone, another patient jumped out of a window and suffered a fracture to their spine. And while the focus tends to constantly be on the physical abuse or negligence that results in physical injuries or physical ailments, many often forget the toll that verbal abuse can have on patients. Such verbal abuse, as well as the negligence and failure to monitor patients, is particularly troublesome where a particular patient has a mental disorder such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

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October 31, 2014

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Deemed Invalid

by Levin & Perconti

An arbitration agreement is an incredibly common provision contained in all kinds of contracts related to business, employment, and so much more. States across the continent honor arbitration agreements in some way. Such agreements manifest a compact between parties to a contract that if there is a dispute relating to the terms of the contract in any way, and one party seeks to litigate the matter with the other or others, that case will be arbitrated rather than brought in court. Litigation in general can be an incredibly time-consuming event and even more so can be extremely costly.

While arbitration itself incurs costs, it will typically be less expensive than an actual court trial. Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution, which can also include negotiation, mediation, and others. It involves evidence and testimony as to the incident that occurred such as physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or other neglect similar to a trial, but carries its own distinct procedural rules and tends to be more streamlined in avoiding the often stalled calendar of a courthouse. The decision of an arbitrator or an arbitration panel is typically binding on the parties. There has been precedent for courts to invalidate the arbitration agreement provision of a contract, namely where it is against public policy or deemed unconscionable (or in essence, both).

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October 29, 2014

A More Local Case Study of Elder Abuse and Neglect

by Levin & Perconti

In a fairly recent post, we explored a report released from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). That OIG report examined the rate of reporting, including the quality of the reporting, of abuse and neglect at nursing homes by those nursing homes themselves. The report showed how only 53% of allegations and findings from investigations into allegations were properly reported.

Furthermore, the majority, but certainly not an acceptable number, of nursing homes followed federal guidelines prescribed for those receiving money through Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs. The report effectively demonstrated how there is serious underreporting of abuse and neglect across the United States, and how in so many cases (one-fifth!) abuse was reported, but the origins of that abuse were reported as unknown or uncertain, making it more difficult to ferret out the perpetrators and wrongdoers.

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October 27, 2014

Criminal Charges Pending Against Multiple Nursing Home Staffers

by Levin & Perconti

Federal and state authorities, through health departments, departments of aging, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and other relevant agencies are all responsible for enforcing the laws, rules and regulations that govern nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Yet sometimes in the hustle and bustle of investigations, inspections, lengthy reports, sanctions, fines, suspensions, closures, and anything else around and in between, we tend to overlook the more seemingly simple actions that can be taken: criminal.

The abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and any other patients at nursing homes and facilities can often rise to a criminal level, warranting the attention of police and prosecutors. Unfortunate incidents at the Edmonson Center in South Central Kentucky are more recent examples. Edmonson is owned by the company Genesis Healthcare. Three former employees of the nursing home have been criminally charged based on allegations that they physically and mentally abused two women, and furthermore neglected them.

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October 23, 2014

The Debate over Hidden Cameras in Nursing Homes Continues

by Levin & Perconti

There has been a growing debate over the use of hidden cameras in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. We have previously written about the movement of certain states to enable nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare provider facilities to use hidden cameras in nursing home rooms and around the buildings. It has not been so much a call for mandatory use as it has been a call for at least permissive use of cameras. The negative that some have pointed out is the inherent invasion of privacy of residents and others.

Yet many would counter that where the use of hidden cameras is permissive, it would be up to the resident and/or their families as to whether they would like to make use of a camera to record what goes on. Another advantage of using cameras would be that where nursing home nurses, aides and staff are aware that there could be a camera in any room or at the turn of any corner, this could act as more of a deterrent to poor behavior, forcing staffers to think twice about their behavior. And of course, where there is abuse or neglect, those cameras will help catch it and hopefully turn it into a complaint and an investigation so that the appropriate parties are punished and that it never happens again. New York is one of the states that have made use of hidden camera footage to catch wrongdoing by staffers and bring both civil action and criminal charges against appropriate parties. While still somewhat rare, the use of camera footage could increase as more successful prosecutions and claims are brought against nursing homes, staffers, administrators and owners.

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