December 18, 2014

Mental Abuse Appears Prevalent Across Mental Facilities

by Levin & Perconti

Recently, The Chicago Tribune published multiple articles about the abuse of children in state facilities. If you or a loved one has suffered neglect or abuse in an Illinois facility please contact one of our experienced attorneys. Click here for a list of the types of claims Levin & Perconti handles. Our firm has successfully handled thousands of cases and recovered more than $520 million dollars for our clients.

Children with behavioral and mental issues have been sexually and physically abused at various Illinois facilities. One Chicago Tribune article highlights the abuse that occurs in some state facilities. The residential facilities that the article mentions are tasked with housing state-wards. Though these facilities are supposed to help residents, the article shows that many residents were instead hurt. Illinois residential facilities are often funded with Illinois taxpayers’ dollars. The article detailed the following types of abuse:

Physical / Sexual Abuse

According to DCFS records, the state Department of Children and Family Services received 428 reports alleging a ward was sexually assaulted or abused. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune interviewed several former residents of a particular facility. One young lady recounted memories of peers who were involved in prostitution. Many residents ran away and needed a place to stay while they were on the run. She detailed how some residents gave sexual favors to men in exchange for food or a place to stay. Other former residents recalled sexual abuse they experienced from other residents. Almost all of the former-residents spoke about customary beatings and physical abuse they endured while living at the facility. Many interviewees mentioned the poor treatment they received from the facilities’ staff. Employees of the residential facility often teased residents for being involved in prostitution. Some employees made statements such as, “'I heard you prostituting. You dirty.” Most of the interviewees stated they did not feel safe while living in the facility.

Neglect

The article mentioned various Illinois facilities that improperly handled resident complaints. For example, a worker at a facility in Addison, Illinois caught a 17-year-old boy allegedly sodomizing a 15-year-old boy. However, instead of immediately reporting the incident, the worker waited until the next day. Police reported that a group of residents later chased and beat that same 15-year-old boy outside of the facility. Allegedly, residents beat the boy after a member of the facilities’ staff suggested that residents “handle” the 15-year-old boy.

The Chicago Tribune reported various other accounts of abuse and neglect endured by children in Illinois residential facilities. If you, or someone you know, has been victimized in an Illinois residential facility contact one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys. We at Levin & Perconti have experience in all types of serious injury, medical malpractice, nursing home, and wrongful death litigation. If you would like to discuss a potential case, call us today at 312-332-2872 or toll-free at 877-374-1417 for a free consultation.

See Related Posts:

Part 1 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North

Part 2 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North

December 17, 2014

Nursing Home Quality Assessment Expected to Improve by 2016

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study by Families for Better Care revealed that Illinois ranks as the eighth-worst in the nation for nursing home care, reflecting particularly low levels of staffing per patient. Especially given an expected “silver tsunami” of increased need for elderly care as baby boomers age, individuals affected by nursing home abuse and neglect will increasingly look to federal assessment mechanisms such as on-site inspections and federal reporting to ensure that nursing homes are complying with federal and state requirements. In theory, staffing levels reflect the amount of direct care time provided to a patient, so that inspectors and the general public can evaluate a given nursing home.

However, annual inspections have been decreasing and federal data reporting may be inaccurate. Between 2008 and 2012, state nursing home inspections dropped by 6%. These inspections, which provide data for the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare site, are susceptible to inflation of reported staffing levels. According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, one nursing home executive was reported as admitting that “staffing hours will be a little high this week but will drop the following week.” Even if the self-reported data is not inflated, Nursing Home Compare currently conflates nursing staff directors and direct care nurses, which means that its staffing level estimates may not accurately reflect direct care time.

The Better Approach

Instead, analyzing staff levels using payroll data reported to Medicaid can provide more accurate quarterly reports based on financial data which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has referred to as the “gold standard.” Rather than relying on self-reported statistics with limited inspections, payroll data closely tracks the number of hours worked, and whether the employee is providing direct care to a patient. Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the federal method of recoding nursing home staffing levels was supposed to transition from self-reported data to more accurate payroll data by March of 2012.

However, fiscal constraints prevented timely implementation of the improved assessment metrics. For example, a pilot program which attempted to collect the payroll data from 1,000 nursing homes only successfully obtained results from 120 homes. The payroll data obtained as of 2012 revealed more than 700 nursing homes, including 250 facilities in Illinois, that failed to meet the federally- and state-mandated staffing levels.

Successfully shifting to the proposed alternative metric would enable increased federal oversight, and efforts continue to implement the system. In October of 2014, bipartisan legislation authorized $11 million in funding to ensure implementation of the payroll system by 2016. The new system will also provide analysis of a broader spectrum of quality assurance factors, such as percentage of residents on anti-psychotic medication, percentage of residents discharged from the facility, staff turnover, and more personalized data on each individual resident.

These improvements in federal assessment procedures could reveal violations of state or federal staffing level requirements. Nursing homes that are understaffed increase the risk of abuse and neglect. If you or your family members have been affected by nursing home abuse and neglect, please contact your experienced Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to learn more about the role of decreased staffing levels.

See Related Blog Posts:

Neglect Running Rampant in Alden Village North, a Chicago Nursing Home

Nursing Home Lawyers Discuss Study That Shows New Definitions for Malnutrition

December 15, 2014

Holiday Season Reminder: Financial Exploitation of the Elderly

by Levin & Perconti

In addition to the unforgivable incidents of physical, sexual, verbal, psychological and emotional abuse that can be inflicted on the elderly, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, theft and financial exploitation are also unforgiveable offenses that can be committed against the elderly. Theft of money, jewelry and other valuable items is a serious breach of trust in particular when it is a family member, caregiver, medical professional, nursing home staffer, or someone else entrusted with the care and well-being of another.

Recent Case

In a recent, sad case out of Des Moines, Iowa, an 88 year old man, who has since passed away, was the victim of an egregious financial exploitation at the hands of a caregiver who he trusted to take good care of him. The elderly man, as reported in the Des Moines Register newspaper, was a frugal man throughout his life. He served his country in World War II. In his older age he went under the care of a woman who eventually stole, according to the article, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” out of the man’s savings. The allegations have prompted a serious discussion about the protections of the elderly, including those in nursing homes, from financial exploitation in addition to the commonly heard physical and mental abuses.

Continue reading "Holiday Season Reminder: Financial Exploitation of the Elderly" »

December 12, 2014

Part 2 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North

by Levin & Perconti

Over the past 14 years, Alden Village North has repeatedly been in the news in regards to continued allegations of abuse and neglect to the children and young adults that reside at their facility.

Once the abuse and neglect of the residents of Alden Village North was brought to the attention of the state, Illinois lawmakers stepped in to try and rectify this problem, not only in Alden Village, but in facilities across the state. Several safeguards, including stiffer fines for poor care and fewer roadblocks to close non-compliant facilities have been enacted. To address Alden Village specifically, Governor Pat Quinn placed a state monitor in Alden Village and the federally backed company Equip for Equality began an investigation into the suspicious deaths of the residents.

In the Chicago Tribune’s recent follow-up article, it was discovered that regardless of any changes that were made, the facility has been cited for five more deaths that occurred between 2009 and 2013, all being subsequently reduced or the penalties dropped. There have also been at least 11 additional residents that have died since 2008; however no citations were given as a result of those deaths.

Continue reading "Part 2 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North" »

December 10, 2014

Part 1 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North

by Levin & Perconti

Over the past 14 years, Alden Village North has repeatedly been in the news in regards to continued allegations of abuse and neglect to the children and young adults that reside at their facility. After a 2010 investigation, a Chicago Tribune article first brought the severe dismay of the facility to the attention of the public and the state vowed to have the facility shut down, but failed to do so due to a legal technicality. Since then, improvements have been made, but many argue that it is simply not enough. Twenty disability advocate groups joined together this past Monday to continue their fight to have the facility shut down for good.

Facility History

Alden Village North is a facility located in Rogers Park that cares for children and young adults with severe physical and mental disabilities. The facility houses about 90 children and adults at a time with a wide range of medical problems. Over the years, Alden Village has had several owners and several name changes, but was recently acquired in 2008 by the Alden Nursing Home chain.

Continue reading " Part 1 - Protests Continue in the Fight to Shut Down Alden Village North" »

December 8, 2014

Medical Review Panels Could Help Businesses But Harm Residents

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often on the receiving end of allegations and accusations of abuse and neglect. These are often brought not just through complaints to state agencies and state investigations, but through civil lawsuits by victims and/or their loved ones. So naturally, nursing homes and other medical providers will do whatever it takes to avoid these lawsuits and the possibility of owing lots of money through settlements or judgments.

One such ‘out’ for homes could be through the use of medical review panels, which in the past have been used in certain states to ferret out tort claims against doctors and hospitals for negligence or malpractice. Such a panel would be comprised of certain individuals, at least some of which have experience in the relevant field, who will hold a hearing and decide whether or not a claim is meritorious enough to proceed to court, although in most states this is not binding but nevertheless could convince plaintiffs to change their minds, or at least just delay the process of going to court. The negative, however, is the chance that such panels will be more than likely to frown on a case and increase the chances of it not being brought to court. Typically such panel opinions will be admissible as evidence, and thus could be used as expert evidence by one side against another.

Recent Proposals

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there has been a proposal to create medical review panels that would review claims against medical providers including nursing homes, to determine whether they carry merit. Republicans within the state as well as various medical providers and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce all support this law. One reason, in addition to a process to keep frivolous cases out of the courts, is that of the 284 nursing homes across Kentucky, far too many have below-par ratings, which would lead one to believe they are ripe for lawsuits given their poor performances in caring for residents. In the most recent of such medical review panel proposals in Kentucky, malpractice claims would go before a panel comprising three different health care providers that specialize in the relevant medical field and professions involved. This panel would hear a case and decide if the case has merit. This panel opinion would be admissible in court.

Of course parties can contract for arbitration, as typically has happened (although not as easily in at least one jurisdiction lately), or agree to bypass the panel and go to court. But with medical providers serving on these panels, one would assume that the defendants – doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and others – would jump at the chance to present their defense in the hopes their fellow medical providers will see things their way. Such bias could very well tilt things in favor of these defendants, and would have an adverse effect on plaintiffs one way or another.

With the victory of Democrats to keep the Kentucky House of Representatives in the recent election, the effort by Republicans to make these review panels a matter of law will likely be avoided. Yet there will be more elections, and the initiative to create such panels in Kentucky and in other states, it will be interesting to see if this idea retains and even gains traction as more laws are passed to protect the elderly and nursing residents, and more lawsuits are expected to be filed.

See Other Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Deemed Invalid

Various Nursing Homes Hit with Fines

December 3, 2014

CPI Report - Minorities Underserved in Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

In an accompanying post, we covered a recent Center for Public Integrity investigation that revealed how a federal website administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, called Nursing Home Compare, has not been accurately reporting staffing levels at nursing homes across the country. This was due to a reliance on information self-reported by facilities rather than Medicare reports that reflect more accurate staffing levels. In some cases homes were self-reporting more than double their actual staff level, and the problem is particularly pronounced in many southern states.

Such discrepancies thus led to inaccurate reporting on the Nursing Home Compare website, which is meant to provide information on nursing homes such as ratings, investigation-related information, and staffing levels for consumers to use in searching for the right facility. The Center for Public Integrity investigation also revealed that staffing levels were particularly lower in nursing homes that served minority communities of residents.

The CPI Report

The Public Integrity report revealed how majority-white nursing homes have about 34% higher staffing levels than facilities with mainly black residents, and how those same homes had an even more astounding and disturbing 60% higher staffing level than nursing homes mainly comprised of Latino residents. According to the statistics, “[h]undreds of majority-black homes” nationwide reported through Nursing Home Compare that their registered nurses provided on average just over 30 minutes of care time to each resident every day. However, according to the Medicare reports, this figure was really only about 20 minutes per day. In Latino homes in Texas cities, the average time spent on care per day was only a dismal 10 minutes.

As was reported with regard to the general discrepancies in reporting accuracy being most pronounced in southern states, the racial discrepancies in the data for the black nursing home resident community were particularly notable in the Midwestern states. Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin nursing homes had major differences in care time for white residents versus black residents. As far as cities are concerned, Chicago and Houston are among the major metropolitan areas with such differentials (in areas where at least five nursing homes had majorities of black residents). As evidence of a control for the empirical research into the differing care levels, the differentials occurred even in situations where residents between the white, black and Latino homes were “equally sick and poor” and thus all in theory would require the same amount of attention, yet the white residents received far, far more. Even more interesting, the facilities with majority black and Latino populations were almost all for-profit homes, and had higher resident populations than the white homes that still had more staffing and care time.

As the article mentions, cites a history of relevant study and literature, nursing home staffing levels have a correlation with the “quality of care and health outcomes,” and that a lack of care and attention can end up resulting in harsher consequences for residents’ health. It is so far unclear where the law comes into play here. For one, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act bars racial and other discrimination by nursing homes and other providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid funds. As with anything, accepting federal dollars means obeying federal laws and regulations. Yet so far it is unclear, according to CMS, whether this data indicated such unlawful racial discrimination. Furthermore, there is a lack of federal regulations requiring a minimum staffing level at homes receiving federal money, so there is no regulatory structure to lean on. It is no shock that facilities in general reduce staff to reduce overhead and make more money at the expense of its residents’ care, but it is even more egregious where different racial communities receive differing levels of care.

See Other Blog Posts:

Report Shows “Nursing Home Compare” Website Not As Reliable As Thought

Criminal Charges Pending Against Multiple Nursing Home Staffers

December 1, 2014

Possible Medicaid Eligibility Rules on the Way?

by Levin & Perconti

As many know and as we have covered here, nursing homes and long-term care facilities can choose to accept certain insurance from private companies. They can also accept insurance from government programs. Medicare and Medicaid are two such programs, which are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the authority of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

This federal agency can promulgate rules that nursing homes and other medical providers follow if they accept reimbursements from these government programs to cover medical care costs for patients and residents. Medicare and Medicaid have state components as well, though, in that states have offices that largely administer these programs, as the funds are actually provided to the states to then disburse, along with the state’s own funds depending on how much is allocated, to the qualifying and eligible providers and programs. Each state uses a specific formula, including based on federal requirements, to determine who may qualify for Medicaid reimbursement. This takes into account of course income and assets which signify one’s ability to pay.

Continue reading "Possible Medicaid Eligibility Rules on the Way?" »

November 29, 2014

Notifying Residents of Sex Offender Staffers

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities, like all employers, are responsible for the prudent and responsible hiring of doctors, nurses, aides and any other staff members. This includes extensive background checks on prospective employees’ prior experience, education, and of course a criminal record that can encompass anything. Many are also familiar with laws in general as pertains to convicted sex offenders who must register with their states and be on a public list, as well as have their living and working situations restricted geographically, as well as who they are allowed to interact with or be near. Now in the state of Ohio, under a new law, nursing homes will be required to notify its residents if it admits a sex offender to join the community as a resident patient.

As reported, the law until recently, as applied to sex offender situations in general, mandated that anyone who lived in a 1,000 foot radius of a state registered sex offender be notified that a sex offender lived nearby. However for whatever reason, nursing homes were not mentioned in the law, thus seemingly omitting that requirement. Now this loophole has been corrected. Section 3721.22 of the Health and Safety statutes in the state of Ohio now require that “the [nursing] home’s administrator shall search for the individual’s name in the internet-based sex offender and child-victim offender database . . . . If the search results identify the individual as a sex offender and the individual is admitted as a resident to the home, the administrator” must notify all other residents of that nursing home. In addition, the administrator must also “develop a plan of care to protect the other residents” and ensure that the new resident’s address at the nursing home is updated in the public records under sex abuse laws.

Continue reading "Notifying Residents of Sex Offender Staffers" »

November 25, 2014

Report Shows “Nursing Home Compare” Website Not As Reliable As Thought

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing Home Compare is a website run by Medicare.gov under the umbrella of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It is a website intended to make it easier for prospective nursing home residents and their loved ones to research the performance histories of facilities in their area, including investigation information, previous sanctions, and other ratings that can help inform these prospective consumers. (State health and aging agencies also responsible for gathering this type of information.)

Center for Public Integrity Report

The Center for Public Integrity, however, has recently called into question the reliability of information provided by Medicare through the Nursing Home Compare website. It conducted an investigation that has revealed that the Nursing Home Compare information from Medicare does not seem to accurately reflect nursing home staffing levels. One particular problem was that 2005 Medicare cost reports from nursing facilities indicate lower staffing levels than what Nursing Home Compare reported. The inaccuracies were particularly pronounced as to registered nurses among the various other staff titles. Approximately over 80% of facilities reported higher registered nurse staffing levels than was reported directly to Medicare.

Continue reading "Report Shows “Nursing Home Compare” Website Not As Reliable As Thought" »

November 24, 2014

Camera Catches Abuse in Florida Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

As we have repeatedly addressed the issue of cameras in nursing homes remains a hot topic. As earlier noted Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s recently came out in support of legislation permitting nursing home residents and their families to install their own cameras in their own rooms. Stories continue to stream in that suggest a continuing need of using cameras to document abuse and neglect. Even more importantly, they may prevent mistreatment through deterrence of nursing home staffers who would think twice about abusing or neglecting a patient knowing it could all be captured on hidden tape. Several states have already moved to make such permission lawful. While Florida is not one of them, sad and unfortunate news of abuse being caught on tape could spur yet another state to at least consider the possibility.

Criminal Charges after Abuse

As recently reported, two nursing assistants, both certified for the profession, were criminally charged with battery. The abuse was perpetrated on a 76 year old patient who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Thus this case also exemplifies the mix of physical and mental challenges that many nursing home residents face in concert and also shows how vulnerable residents are particularly where they are mentally impaired and so easy to take advantage of in any situation.

Continue reading "Camera Catches Abuse in Florida Nursing Home" »

November 23, 2014

Nursing Home Quality Assessment Expected to Improve by 2016

by Levin & Perconti

A recent study by Families for Better Care revealed that Illinois ranks as the eighth-worst in the nation for nursing home care, reflecting particularly low levels of staffing per patient. Especially given an expected “silver tsunami” of increased need for elderly care as baby boomers age, individuals affected by nursing home abuse and neglect will increasingly look to federal assessment mechanisms such as on-site inspections and federal reporting to ensure that nursing homes are complying with federal and state requirements. In theory, staffing levels reflect the amount of direct care time provided to a patient, so that inspectors and the general public can evaluate a given nursing home.

However, annual inspections have been decreasing and federal data reporting may be inaccurate. Between 2008 and 2012, state nursing home inspections dropped by 6%. These inspections, which provide data for the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare site, are susceptible to inflation of reported staffing levels. According to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, one nursing home executive was reported as admitting that “staffing hours will be a little high this week but will drop the following week.” Even if the self-reported data is not inflated, Nursing Home Compare currently conflates nursing staff directors and direct care nurses, which means that its staffing level estimates may not accurately reflect direct care time.

Continue reading "Nursing Home Quality Assessment Expected to Improve by 2016" »