June 1, 2014

Prevalence of Credit Card Fraud Against Elderly Population

by Levin & Perconti

Various news outlets reported recently on a case of financial predatory behavior which required the involvement of law enforcement. At a Utah assisted living facility, a Certified Nurses Assistant was accused of significant financial fraud against an 88 year old resident patient. The woman was accused of stealing two credit cards from the resident, one of which was used 15 times in mid-May 2014. On that one card the nursing assistant racked up charges of $2,963.14. She also used the second stolen credit card about 9 times just prior to use of the first, racking up $576.29 in charges. Police arrested and charged the nursing assistant on a third degree felony count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, as well as three (3) third degree felony counts for unlawful use of a finance card, as well as a class-A misdemeanor charge of theft.

Police arrested the nursing assistant on evidence from security camera footage that captured her making purchases at local businesses where the two credit cards were used. Police showed this footage to a manager at the nursing home, who positively identified the nursing assistant. When police were able to adequately connect the dots, the jig was up for the allegedly abusive (financially) nursing aide. Her bail was set at $21,943.

Elder Financial Exploitation
This case adds on to the long list where nursing home facility staff members take advantage of their residents. Rather than care for them, they seek to enrich themselves. In Utah, as in many locations, exploitation of a vulnerable adult is a serious crime. In Utah, for example, it is defined as the act of preying on a person who is age 65 years or older, or a person who is 18 years of age or older and is physically or mentally impaired such that they might be unable to protect themselves, take care of their own basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, and are otherwise unable to perform basic tasks of everyday living. Furthermore, it includes an adult that is unable to fully understand the circumstances and implications of an abusive, neglectful or exploitive scenario such that they are unable to remove themselves from the situation. By taking advantage of the resident patient’s situation in which she required care because of her age and inability to take care of herself, the nursing aide grossly violated the law that intends to protect patients like this one.

Such acts are not just restricted to swiping credit cards. They may include stealing cash, or taking control of a resident’s bank account by stealing or coaxing the information out of him or her. When a family puts a loved one in a nursing home or assisted care facility, they entrust the care of that person to professionals who are not just trained in supporting the patient medically, but also entrust that the loved one will not be taken advantage of during their stay. Financial fraud or theft constitutes an egregious violation of a nursing home resident, and cannot be tolerated.

See Other Blog Posts:

New Example of the Importance of Evaluating a Nursing Home in Illinois

Case Study: Theft and Elder Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

May 31, 2014

Reports of Elder Abuse at a Kansas Nursing Home Involving Several Staff Members

by Levin & Perconti

We have previously discussed how both federal and state agencies have a hand in regulating nursing homes where those nursing homes at least in part accept federal money, typically through Medicare of Medicaid. Often these regulatory and enforcement duties will overlap, and authorities on the federal and state levels work together through information sharing to weed out abuse and neglect, and bring nursing home facilities under tight scrutiny to ensure they operate in compliance with laws, rules and regulations, and that patient residents receive the proper care and home environment they need and deserve. Another example of the crossover between federal and state authorities occurred in Kansas, where a nursing home was fined for incidents of neglect and abuse of patient residents. This unfortunate case also served as an example of the importance of unannounced surprise inspections of facilities to properly assess them to ensure they operate appropriately even when no one is watching.

Elder Abuse Allegations
In a very saddening turn of events, a nursing home in Andover, Kansas was recently exposed for allegations based on neglect and abuse residents. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services notified the nursing home of the allegations after a department inspector interviewed more than a third of the patient residents there. The inspector conducted these interviews on a surprise visit to the facility, which is typically how agencies conduct reviews of nursing homes (Illinois is no different). This also came after a report had been made to local police about abuse, as the police report spurred the state agency to act on this particular facility.

Continue reading "Reports of Elder Abuse at a Kansas Nursing Home Involving Several Staff Members" »

May 27, 2014

Abuse at Understaffed and Underperforming Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing home or long-term care facility negligence or abuse can often amount to a significant award of damages to a plaintiff. Such damages awards will often include nominal damages for the actual liability based on negligence or intentional abuse, as well as punitive damages that can punish the facility and make a statement as to how severe the abuse was against the plaintiff. A recent jury decision in Colorado demonstrates this where a plaintiff and his family were awarded $3.3 million in damages, comprising of $300,000 for the actual negligence, and $3 million in punitive damages against the facility. This case was the second in approximately one year that families suing the facility won an award of damages.

The Case Details
In 2013, the family of an 82 year old patient resident of a Colorado nursing home sued the facility alleging that over the course of his three years there, he suffered from many bed sores, skin tears and abrasions, infections (including from E. Coli as well as a urinary tract infection), and he was dehydrated and malnourished. He also significantly lost weight and at one point lost the ability to use his arms and legs. The complaint alleged that this was a result of the facility staff’s failure to give the level of care that the patient needed, particularly given a medical status that heightened his needs. The plaintiff suffered from mild retardation as well as dementia, among other problems. The staff failures to pay him enough attention and to do the very things they were hired to do to keep the plaintiff comfortable and as healthy as possible under the circumstances. The family also alleged violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act by the facility because it advertised itself as a top rate nursing home when it allegedly knew full well that it could not give the proper care and treatment to patients to keep them healthy and well.

Continue reading "Abuse at Understaffed and Underperforming Nursing Homes" »

May 17, 2014

More Claims of Veterans Administration Abuses

by Levin & Perconti

In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Affairs Hospital, more reports of horrendous management that has affected the health and well-being of our veterans have emerged in other places. As discussed in a prior post, the Phoenix scandal involved keeping veterans in need of medical help on a secret waiting list as opposed to an official waiting list because of the serious backlog the facility faced in seeing and treating many of the veteran patients. Because the facility could not meet standards for efficient and timely treatment, rather than have it documented, they kept a secret list to track these veterans and then only transferred the patients to an official list when it was clear that they could be seen within a reasonable time from the moment of placing them on the official list.

Most recently, in light of the news about the Phoenix facility, the Chicago Tribune reported that federal auditors investigated allegations at a Veterans Affairs Hospital near Maywood, Illinois in western Cook County that the facility there also kept secret waiting lists to falsely demonstrate that it met VA regulations on timely treatment. Meeting such standards would ensure senior officials could earn bonuses for the hospital’s performance, which are based in part on the speediness of seeing veteran patients. These particular allegations came to light from a social worker, and also filtered through the local union for federal government employees before reaching the media and federal investigators. The investigation is in its nascent stage, as the allegations remain just allegations, and the whistleblower has not yet brought forward documentation to back these claims out of fear that hospital workers could experience retaliation as a result of the disclosures. Hospital leaders have disputed the allegations at the facility that has seen over 54,000 veterans in the last year, stating that any cited evidence cited (although not presented) does not actually consist of separate waiting lists. VA Inspector General investigators may look into it at the behest of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Legal Claims
While investigations into the Phoenix scandal are ongoing, and investigations are only just commencing into the allegations of secret wait lists at the Illinois facility, there will soon come the time for the affected veterans and their families to consider legal action for damages. Plaintiffs would invariably bring these lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) generally allows private citizens to sue the United States in federal courts for injuries sustained as a result of a tort committed by someone acting on behalf of the federal government or in their capacity as an employee of the federal government. This is not universal coverage as there are certain exceptions, such as for law enforcement activity. However, those veterans who have not received adequate care as a result of the absurdly long wait time, and those families of veterans who died as a result of not receiving the necessary care, may have actionable cases against the Department of Veterans Affairs for damages caused by its employees’ negligent handling of wait lists, or in this case intentional cover up of that improper procedure. Those who were injured should strongly consider their rights to claims. No one should be treated this way, not least of all the brave men and women that served our country with honor and distinction, and have asked little else of us.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

May 13, 2014

Secret Lists at the VA

by Levin & Perconti

In recent weeks news broke out of Arizona that a Veterans Affairs Hospital failed to follow up with veterans seeking medical care within a required amount of time, and in many situations ignore veterans who needed an immediate check-up, medication, treatment or other assistance. Many of these veterans suffered worse illnesses and some died as a result of not getting the adequate care they needed. It is awful enough how the VA in general has a backlog on serving our brave veterans, who risk their lives to defend our country and deserve our care and concern when they return home, and for the rest of their lives. It was a recently retired physician from the facility who blew the whistle on this scandal to the Arizona Republic after also attempting to go through Congress as well as the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

What is worse in this current scandal, is how this particular Veterans Affairs Hospital in Phoenix maintained “secret waiting lists” that effectively kept secret that these men and women were awaiting medical care. When the facility could forecast that it would be able to see a veteran patient within a certain time that conformed to VA regulations, it would move that person onto the official waiting list for the first time to make it seem as if his or her wait time was adequate and reasonable. This official list is what is reported to the main agency and any other relevant bodies in Washington, D.C., and the Phoenix facility sought to make things appear as if everything was okay. On top of this, they shredded evidence of the secret lists to cover up the failure to adequately care for veterans.

These veterans waited months on end for the care they not only deserve but to which they are also entitled. According to at least one report, between approximately 1,400 and 1,600 veterans had to wait months for their doctor visit. Many died as a result of not being seen or getting the care they needed, with some reports showing that at least 40 individuals died while waiting for doctor appointments at the Phoenix hospital. Top administrators knew about it and did nothing to correct it. Senior officials at the facility were also left in their positions in spite of congressional knowledge and the agency’s Inspector General investigation.

Adding to the outrage is one recent report based on a review of public records from the VA facility in Phoenix that show its staff earned relatively high salaries bonuses. While not yet reported or corroborated by other outlets, the article details how the hospital apparently spent hundreds of thousands on interior and exterior aesthetics around the facility, and high executive physicians make in the mid-$350,000s with some nursing staff making in the mid-$140,000s.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski has vowed to take action on this problem and will not resign. In the meantime, veterans affected by this issue and their families will likely consider legal action at some point. Such action would appropriately come under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which would grant these victims a private right of action against the federal government – specifically the VA – for their actions that has led to more permanent health problems and even death for veterans. In an era where long-term care facilities and nursing homes have committed egregious negligence and abuse against their patients, it is furthermore disheartening that a facility dedicated to treating veterans has similarly committed such wrongful omissions.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

May 12, 2014

Making Claims Under the Federal Torts Claims Act

by Levin & Perconti

In cases of widespread nursing home and long-term care facility abuses and negligence against patient residents, those patients and their families will often have recourse through tort actions for injury under relevant state laws. As previously discussed, there may also be False Claims Act cases to be made where companies operating nursing homes that receive federal dollars through Medicare and Medicaid fail to follow the law, rules or regulations in implementing those funds into their care of the patient residents. Such misuse or fraud of government funds can result in a recovery for the plaintiff and the government. On top of this, patients of a government operated facility, such as a Veterans Affairs hospital, who suffer injury or death as a result of negligence or abuse may bring a claim for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

The FTCA is the prime law under which private individuals can sue the government for injuries sustained as a result of the government’s actions or inactions, or those of employees or other individuals working on behalf of the government, such as a VA hospital administrator or doctor. In general, those individuals will not be subject to liability; only the government itself will. In light of the recent reports on the secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA facility that led to further injury to veterans as well as the deaths of at least 40 veterans, those veterans and their families may very well have the right to sue for damages under the FTCA.

In order to demonstrate liability and a claim for damages under the FTCA, a helpful summary of the law outlines the four elements that must be demonstrated. These generally conform to the requirements in all tort law to show a tort occurred:

(1) Injury or property damage by a federal government employee;
(2) Federal government employee at the time performed his or her official duties;
(3) Federal government employee was negligent or wrongful in his or her acts;
(4) The negligent/wrongful act caused the injury or damage

Any veteran who suffers damages as a result of abuse or inadequate care at a government operated facility (a VA hospital, military hospital on or off base, or a federally supported clinic) and who is not on active military duty is eligible to file a claim. It is notable that under Supreme Court precedent, active duty military members are not allowed to make an FTCA claim since injuries are presumed to be a part of their service, although some in Congress has wanted to give active military access to remedies under the law. This also bars claims by veterans for injuries resulting from negligence committed during their active duty, but which were not symptomatic or apparent until after discharge or retirement from service. Family members of active military are permitted to sue under the FTCA for injuries received from treatment at a government-sponsored hospital, clinic or facility. With regard to government funded clinics, victims of negligence may also have a claim under the FTCA even if the treating physician or nurse were not government employees, because by accepting federal money, the clinic’s employees are unofficially considered government employees for the purposes of the FTCA.

Just as a resident patient of a nursing home can bring claims for injury due to negligence, so can patients at government-operated facilities or government-funded clinics. Such claims are more than likely to arise in the recent Veterans Affairs scandal. In filing this claim, it is important to understand what form you must use, where to file, as well as implications for how such recovery may affect any disability claims you make.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

March 24, 2014

Blue Line Trail Derailment at O’Hare - Dozens Injured

by Levin & Perconti

One of the top stories across the country today involves the shocking train derailment at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The photos of the event show what must have been a terrifying experience for all those on the train and in the area at the time. The affected machine looks to have virtually careened off the track and partially up an escalator leading to the airport terminal from underground.

Making matters worse, early reports indicated that just shy of three dozens people were hurt in various forms. Considering that the event just struck, the extent of the injuries remain unclear, but our thoughts are obviously with those harmed and their families.

The Blue Line Accident Details
Riding on the L is a routine, daily event for many Chicagoans. From traveling to work downtown to heading up north to catch a flight at O’Hare. But most of us take for granted the risks that are ever-present when traveling. Train accidents are not as uncommon as you might think, something that the passengers on the ill-fated Blue Line train learned harshly.

Investigations are still underway to determine exactly what went wrong. local authorities are still learning about the details, and the National Transportation Safety Board was informed.

Various possibilities exist, including improper signaling and/or equipment failures. In addition, there is a good chance that some sort of human error was involved, and a Chicago Transportation Authority Spokesperson admitted that speeding may have been involved. The CTA official explained, “It appears as though the train would have been going faster than a train normally birthing at this station would be. Normally a train pulls in at just a couple miles an hour and pulls into the state. Obviously this train did not stop so speed could be a factor here.”

Further inquiry revealed that driver exhaustion may have played a role. A union representative confirmed that the driver was “extremely tired” at the time of the accidents. That suggests that she may have falling asleep, at least momentarily

Legal Liability for Chicago Train Derailment?
It is impossible to predict how this matter will resolve itself in the upcoming weeks and months. However, as most appreciate, the civil law allows those hurt by the negligence of others to recover for their losses. Regardless of the specifics of this particular accidents, it is likely that some form of negligence contributing in whole or part to the derailment. That is obviously true if, for example, the driver fell asleep at the controls. But that is also true if equipment was not maintained properly and malfunctioned.

Needless to say, all those affected by this incident should seek out experienced legal help as soon as feasible. The train injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti are here to help. Feel free to send us a message today to learn more.

March 18, 2014

Horrific Accusations of Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Purposefully Videotaped

by Levin & Perconti

The abuse, neglect, and exploitation of seniors throughout Illinois occurs far more than most residents believe. The reason for the disconnect between perception and reality is likely rooted in the fact that most people cannot fathom ever mistreating a senior. It is natural to imagine that others feel the same way and thus assume that the total instances of mistreatment must be small.

Sadly, study after study shows this not to be the case. As many Chicago nursing homes residents and their families are forced to learn first-hand, much mistreatment is based on neglect. This refers to cut corners and carelessness that place senior residents at higher risk of suffering serious injury.

But neglect is not the whole story. More than you might imagine, seniors are intentionally abused by those who are supposed to be providing care. This outright abuse is a particularly horrific stain on any facility where it occurs. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure full accountability following this mistreatment.

Teen Employees Videotape Physical Abuse
Chicagoland residents received a vivid reminder of the depths to which some caregivers will go following reports of a story out of St. Charles. As discussed late last week by CBS Local, two teenagers from South Elgin were recently arrested after information surfaced about their abuse at the Rosewood Care Center.

Initial reports were minimal. However, it is now believed that the two teens were employees at the facility. At some point while working, the teen girls--both 18 years old--apparently began physically abusing a 98-year old senior resident. It is unclear what form the abuse took. Compounding the sad situation, the girls apparently videotaped the intentional abuse on their cellphones.

Fortunately, information about the attack somehow became known to others at the facility, and authorities were eventually brought in to investigate. Following that investigation the two suspects were arrested by local police and charged with at least two criminal counts: aggravated battery of a person over sixty years old and unlawful videotaping. Under the criminal code, the penalties for various crimes can be enhanced based on ‘aggravating” factors--like victims being seniors.

It is unclear if any other residents of the facility were affected in the same way. However, those capable of intentionally abusing one individual may be likely to do the same to others. That is why authorities are urging anyone with information about similar mistreatment contact them. You can reach the St. Charles Polce Department at 630-377-4435. Alternatively, an anonymous tip line is available at 866-378-4267.

The Importance of Proper Nursing Home Hiring
This tragic case is a clear example of the critical role that nursing home hiring plays in proper caregiving. It is simply inexcusable for facility owners and operators to hire individuals to work with residents who are capable of such outright abuse and mistreatment. Even in case of intentional conduct--as this appears to be--the problem could usually have been avoided had proper safeguards been in place for staff hiring. Care workers on the front lines working with residents are those best positioned to prevent mistreatment, and, at the same time, those with the best opportunity to commit abuse or allow neglect.

See Other Blog Posts:

Illinois Nursing home Negligence Case Filed As a Result of Leg Amputation

Five Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

March 16, 2014

Don’t Buy the “Illinois is Bad for Business” Lines from Political Candidates

by Levin & Perconti

We recently discussed the questionable claims made by GOP Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, and the need for local residents to be prudent about their choices this election cycle.

Many of the claims made by those seeking office in the state threaten the legal rights of Illinois citizens. It is critical to look past the general rhetoric and understand the risks of pursuing policies advocated by certain candidates.

For example, a common general refrain from some, including many Republican candidates for Governor, is that changes need to be made to “protect businesses.” Unfortunately, while innocuous sounding at first impression, the underlying issues referenced often relate to the civil justice system. Specifically, those seeking more “protection” for businesses usually try to make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for residents hurt by business misconduct to recover for their losses.

Protecting and promoting business in Illinois does not require lowering standards of accountability and allowing companies to get away with harming Illinois residents.

Ensure Protection for Injured Illinoisans
Throughout the primary election season--and undoubtedly during the upcoming general election season--we will hear some claim that our state is not “business friendly.” But what indicators are used to make that claim?

The truth is that Illinois is actually a great place for businesses based on many indicators. The claims made by those to the contrary are usually nothing more than bland talking points used to push an ancillary policy agenda.

For example, Illinois is 4th in the entire nation with 32 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state. Altogether, the state has the 5th largest “gross output” in the entire country, without $670.7 billion annual gross.

We have built up particular attractiveness as a business location in certain niches. For example, we lead the nation in the manufacturing of hardware and construction machinery. In addition, we are a major location for corporations working with electrical equipment, plastics and rubber, metals, and chemicals.

Additionally, Chicago specifically was recently touted by Site Selection magazine as the number one metro area for new corporate facilities and expansion of corporate facilities. In other words, not only is the state doing well, in some ways we are thriving. Of course that is not to say that everything is perfect in the business world or certain policy change might be appropriate. But the claims about the need to sacrifice safety standards and accountability in a desperate attempt to keep businesses here are drastically misleading.

When you step into the booth to vote in the primary election, be sure to keep these issues in mind. Our policymakers must never sacrifice the well-being of the majority of Illinois residents in order to appease already wealthy and powerful corporations. Any candidate who suggests otherwise should not garner your support.

See Other Blog Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

$700,000 Settlement After Resident Dies from Bed Sores and Dehydration at West Suburban Cook County Nursing Home

February 7, 2014

Chicagoland Nursing Home Medication Errors Leading to Hospitalizations and Deaths

by Levin & Perconti

NBC 5 News has revealed that medication errors in nursing homes in the Chicagoland area have led to hospitalizations and even deaths. The NBC 5 News team found in public records that state health inspectors cited 384 nursing home errors since 2011.

One woman, Tanya Karney-Brown, discussed her brother, Joseph, with NBC 5 News. In 2005, Mr. Karney-Brown placed her brother into The Renaissance Park South nursing facility in Roseland. This was in response to his heart attack and stroke. Ms. Karney-Brown inspected the facility, thought it was fine, and placed her brother in The Renaissance Park South location shortly thereafter.

A few years later, Joseph was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, and was prescribed Gleevac. Ms. Karney-Brown said he initially responded well to the medicine.

But after some time his response to the medicine changed and his condition worsened. That is when Ms. Karney-Brown and her family discovered that The Renaissance Park South nursing facility had stopped administering Gleevac to Joseph. In fact, they failed to administer the medicine for a year, and they also did not take him to the oncologist for follow-up visits. As a result, Joseph’s cancer spread, and he passed away in 2010.

Ms. Karney-Brown filed a lawsuit and eventually settled with The Renaissance Park South nursing facility.

These incidents, like the death of Ms. Karney-Brown’s brother, are often the result of negligence, which means that the family has the option of seeking legal recourse for injury, health problems, or the death of a loved one who has been under supervision at a nursing home and suffered from an error in medication treatment.

Ms. Karney offered advice on how to try and prevent something like this happening to someone else’s loved one in a nursing facility. She said it is important to visit a nursing facility frequently and to show up on a whim. In addition, it is always a good idea to keep a list of the medications that a loved one is taking, the doctors they see, and what sort of medical visits they are making and why - staying on top of the game is crucial.

"If something feels off, I think you should ask the question and find out right away," Karney-Brown said to NBC 5 News. "Don't just take yes for an answer or no for an answer."

While it is important to stay committed to a family member’s medication and medical needs, it is also the responsibility of the nursing home facility and that entity’s employees to do their due diligence. After all, that is a significant if not main part of their job, i.e., overseeing the distribution of medications to residents in a nursing home facilitiy. If you think that your loved one has been overmedicated, speak up about it, and seek legal counsel to ensure that your voice, as well as your loved one’s, is heard. If your loved one is still alive, this becomes a matter of life and death. Negligence is a serious, life-threatening matter, especially when it comes to the care of people in nursing home facilities. That is precisely why waiting to address the issue can be fatal.

Related Links:

“Overmedicating Elderly Patients in Nursing Home Facilities”

February 3, 2014

Elderly Drivers and Home Health Care Professionals

by Levin & Perconti

With the large number of elderly people in the United States, chances are, you have probably read a story or two - most likely more - about a tragic car wreck involving an older person behind the wheel of a car. Oftentimes, these stories are not only about severe injuries but fatalities. The risk of fatality for a person over 80 increases dramatically.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. An average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes.” In fact, in 2008 over 5,500 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. As the population continues to age, these statistics will only worsen, and the fatalities of older Americans will - sadly - increase. Most elderly people who drive live at home and are not yet in health care facilities.

That said, even if these elderly drivers are at home, if they health care professionals in the home, those individuals, who oversee their care, are fully responsible for their health and well-being. That means they must ensure that the senior is able to operate a car safely. If this is not done appropriately, negligence occurs if this duty is not covered. It is also considered a form of elderly neglect, as the health care professional is responsible for determining whether or not the senior’s behavior is such that enables him or her to drive a vehicle.

The CDC also offers guidelines for senior citizens to stay safe on the roads. Those are the following:

1) Stick to a regular exercise schedule
2) Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the medications you have been prescribed - make sure to ask about the possibility of these medications having negative side-effects on your ability to operate and drive a vehicle
3) Try to avoid bad weather and also drive during the day and not at nighttime
4) Try to remain focused on the road - avoid distractions such as listening to the radio, talking on the telephone, eating food, or texting
5) Carefully plan your route on trips to places that are unfamiliar to you
6) Get your eyes checked on a regular basis
7) If you are feeling nervous about the trip, ask a friend or family member to drive you to your destination or opt for public transportation

While those are the things an individual can tend to in order to be safer on the road, a health care professional’s job requires them to take the extra step to make sure that the person under their care is - as already mentioned - fully competent and able to drive. Unfortunately, there are too many instances in which this is not the case, and the results are absolutely devastating. When tragedy does strike, that is when a bereaved family needs superb counsel to seek damages for their loss. Such tragedy is oftentimes the result of severe and even willful negligence, something a grieving family should not ignore.

Related Links:

Aging Behind the Wheel

December 9, 2013

Aging Behind the Wheel

by Levin & Perconti

It’s an all-too familiar story. In April 2013, police cited an elderly Illinois driver for causing an accident when he failed to yield to oncoming traffic at an intersection near Monmouth. When the 78-year-old man turned onto U.S. Route 34/67 that afternoon, a second driver struck his car. The drivers sustained non-life-threatening injuries. But the elderly man’s wife, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car and killed.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the past decade the number of older drivers, defined as aged 65 and older, has increased from 21 percent to 35 percent. The NHTSA reports a similar spike in car crashes involving older drivers. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of older people injured in car accidents increased by 16 percent. The number of fatalities rose by 3 percent. Fatal crash rates increase per mile traveled starting at age 75, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That fatality rate then increases significantly after age 80.

The Obama administration has made the protection of the country’s elderly population a national priority. In recognition of the growing number of older drivers and subsequent car accidents, the NHTSA recently announced a five-year plan designed to improve safety for elderly drivers and passengers. The plan will focus on vehicle safety, data collection and driver behavior, which will involve educating the public about functional changes such as vision and cognition that put elderly drivers at risk behind the wheel. For more information, see the newly unveiled Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines issued by the NHTSA.

The CDC recommends that older drivers exercise regularly, undergo annual eye exams, and ask their doctor or pharmacist to review medications for side effects and interactions that could impair their ability to drive. Additionally, the CDC suggests that older adults limit driving to daylight hours and in good weather, and that they consider using public transit or other alternative means of transportation. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.

At-Home Caregiver Responsibilities
Health care professionals, including home health caregivers, have a duty to evaluate seniors for the functional changes that affect their ability to operate a car. Illinois law requires that at-home caregivers provide adequate care, which includes monitoring the senior’s behavior. Elder neglect can arise when someone who is aware of a senior’s functional disabilities allows that senior to drive, fails to prevent that senior from getting behind the wheel, or fails to notify a family member of that senior’s inability to safely operate a car.

Illinois law protects against elderly abuse and neglect, no matter the setting. Negligence occurs when it is shown that a duty exists, that the duty has been breached, that the breach of duty directly or proximately caused damages, and that there were damages. For help with any of these issues, contact our legal team today.

December 2, 2013

New Illinois Home Health Care Neglect Lawsuit

by Levin & Perconti

A new elder neglect lawsuit was filed recently in Cook County alleging mistreatment by home health caregivers. The complaint, filed last week, can be viewed online in full.

Several different Chicago home health companies and facilities are named in the complaint, which seeks to hold the entities accountable for the actions of their employees in the scope of their employment.

The plaintiff in the case is a man filing suit on behalf of his now-deceased father. The father was receiving care at his home. However, in mid-November of 2011, the senior was brought to a local hospital for a range of problems, including several bed sores, an infection, diabetes problems, and sepsis. His lower leg was amputated to stave off the infection, but the senior died a few days later as a result of complications.

The lawsuit alleges that the senior’s death was caused by inadequate care by those charged with providing him services at home. The complaint suggests that the defendants provided inadequate care, did not monitor the senior, allowed him deteriorating condition to go unnoticed, and otherwise failed to meet their duty.

Several specific claims are made, including a wrongful death action, survival action, and a claim based on the Nursing Home Care Act. This is common in elder neglect cases, as mistreatment can lead to liability under multiple theories.

The Nursing Home Care Act claim is slightly different than the others as it refers to defendant’s liability as an actual elder care facility required to uphold certain aspects of the Nursing Home Reform Act which was passed as part of the federal Omnibus budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA). The complaint notes that the defendants breached the law in various ways, including failing to inform the senior’s family of his medical condition, providing substandard nutrition and hydration practices, failing to enact a corrective plans to care for the senior, and more.

Home Care Neglect Lawyers
Our legal team at Levin & Perconti are proud to work on behalf on all families throughout Illinois whose loved ones may have been harmed by negligent senior care. That includes abuse in the nursing home, mistreatment by home care aides, and everything in between. If you or a loved one may have been harmed in this way, please contact our team to see how we can help.

Not only can legal accountability ensure redress in your own case, but it can spur changes on a system-wide level that improve care for many others. Far too many seniors spend their golden years suffering in silence. Take a stand today and help those unable to help themselves.

While nursing home neglect receives more attention, mistreatment of seniors occurs in many settings. That includes inside senior’s own homes where they receive support from traveling medical aides. In fact, considering there is a general trend away from institutionalized care, we can expect more and more cases of neglect in other settings. Be assured, no matter where it happens, elder abuse is unacceptable, and there are legal avenues to pursue to demand accountability.

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November 20, 2013

Closing of Forest Hill Nursing Home in Quad Cities

by Levin & Perconti

Many Quad Cities residents have a plethora of unanswered questions in the wake of the closing of a local nursing home. As WQAD reported on Tuesday, Forest Hill Health & Rehab Center closed out of nowhere, surprising even the facility employees. A letter was sent to all workers claiming that the home would be closing immediately as a result of “loss financial losses.”

In a bizarre move, many residents were moved to a nearby facility over a two week period. Employees were told that the move was to allow the facility to undergo renovations. That is until they received the letter this week claiming that the home was closing and paychecks to employees would be delayed. A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health--the state agency that regulates Illinois homes--claimed that the office was informed of the closure at the same time as the employees.

Residents Affected
Advocates have already pointed out the hardship experienced by those residents forced to move facilities on short notice. For one thing, the move is taking come resident far away from their family members, who will find it harder to visit on a regular basis.

Discussing the toll the move has taken on her 76-year grandmother, one woman explained, “It's horrible to watch. Just horrible to watch. Watching her decline was hard enough then watching what he has to go through, too, to not even be able to see her - I mean, it's something you never think you're going to have to experience."

This sudden move is just one of many problems faced by residents of Forest Hill. Advocates for nursing home residents in the area explain that the quality of long-term care facilities vary greatly. While many homes consistently provide reasonable care, many others do not. Forest Hill was frequently regarded as a poor facility. It only has one out of five stars on the federal nursing home compare rankings website.

Past Problems
Forest Hill is a home with a troubled history. According to information available on the IDPH website, the facility has faced citations for nursing home violations in the past, and has been sued for providing substandard care to residents. For example, a few years ago our team of attorneys at Levin & Perconti worked with the family of a former resident at Forest Hill. The resident in that case suffered from dementia and was prone to wandering.

However, the complaint which initiated the lawsuit alleges that the senior did not receive the care to which she was entitled at the home. The senior suffered several falls within a few months at the home. But that was not all. In addition, the complaint alleged that she did not receive proper day to day care, leading to malnourishment and dehydration. Eventually, the resident’s condition deteriorated to the point that she had to be admitted to the hospital. The senior only lasted a week in the hospital before succumbing to renal failure caused by the dehydration.

For help with neglect issues at Forest Hill or any other long-term care facility in Illinois, please contact our nursing home attorneys today.

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November 8, 2013

Fine for Nursing Home Administrator After Sexual Abuse

by Levin & Perconti

Nursing homes are supposed to keep residents safe. That is their first duty. When considering that charge, most immediately envision providing basic support to account for particular ailments (preventing falls, ensuring proper nutrition, and similar tasks). However, there is actually an even more basic task that seems so obvious it is almost forgotten: preventing seniors from being hurt by others.

Unfortunately, time and again seniors are harmed by those around them, from fellow residents to others who enter the facility. When a resident is harmed in this way, then the facility can often be held responsible for negligently failing to provide proper protection.

Sex Offender in the Nursing Home
For example, The Des Moines Register reported recently on a nursing home administrator hit with a fine after failing to act appropriately to protect seniors in the home from a fellow resident that was a convicted sex offender.

According to reports, the attacking resident previously lived in “civil commitment unit for sex offenders.” The man was in the sex offender unit for eight years as a result of convictions in at least four different sex offense cases. After his release from the unit he was admitted directly to the nursing home. But less than a year later the man was caught engaging in the same conduct at the long-term care facility. Specifically, the report claims that an 8-year old girl at the home witnessed the man fondling a 95-year old female resident. The victim in the case was trying to call for help during the assault.

The attacking resident was not officially prosecuted, but he was instead transferred to a correctional facility. He admitted that he assaulted the senior resident.

Protecting Residents
The article reports that the administrator of the facility at first told other employees not to mention the incident to anyone. However, investigations were eventually conducted by local regulatory bodies. The facility itself was fined $10,000 and the individual administrator was eventually fined $500 for her failure to protect residents.

In addition, the family of the 95-year old victim (who has since passed away) filed a civil lawsuit against those involved to seek accountability and redress. That civil suit is pending.

Senior Sex Crimes
This recent is example is not an outlier. Sexual assault are far too common in long-term care facilities, perpetrated by fellow residents, caregivers, or even assailants to sneak into the facility. When it comes to resident-on-resident attacks, facility administrators have a responsibility to understand risks ahead of time, particularly when it comes to convicted sexual offenders given free reign in the home. It is unacceptable to simply admit these residents without telling anyone, properly training caregivers on the risks, or taking any other steps to prevent attacks.

The attorneys at our firm have worked with many families over the years whose loved ones have been harmed in resident-on-resident attacks. In almost all cases, close analysis of the situation shows that the facility operators committed errors and oversights which contributed to the attack. This is never acceptable. Be sure to protect the rights of your friends and loved ones.

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October 28, 2013

Overmedication of the Elderly: Restraint without Straps

by Levin & Perconti

In nursing homes all over the country, the elderly are being restrained from moving freely. Often there are legitimate reasons to restrain someone, like if they pose a risk to the safety of themselves or others. However, physical restraints on residents of a nursing home are used only when necessary, and for good reason. For one thing, using physical restraint for discipline or convenience is a violation of federal and Illinois law. Another reason is the appearance physical restraint takes. Physical restraint is often accomplished using straps, confining the nursing home resident to a bed or chair. The behavior of a resident restrained against their will can be unsightly and disturbing.

Contrast this with chemical restraint. Chemical restraint is the use of drugs to restrict the movement of a nursing home resident. The desired result of chemical restraint is the same as that of physical restraint: prevent the resident from moving. However, chemical restraint is dangerous for reasons that physical restraint is not.

Invisible Straps
When physically restraining a resident, the restraint is apparent to anyone nearby. One can see the resident straining against the straps, or hear the resident complaining of the restraint. However, when a resident is chemically restrained, there is no movement or vocalization. There is often just sleep. If there is no sleep, the resident lives in a drug-induced stupor that, while convenient for the nursing home employees, is harmful and in violation of the resident’s human rights.

Drugs: Use and Abuse
Another reason chemical restraint has become the problem it has is the insidious way it can become a part of a nursing home’s modus operandi. Under Illinois law, chemical restraints are not to be used at all unless authorized by a doctor, nor can medication be administered to a resident unless agreed to by the resident or the resident’s legal representative. However, it is simple for a nursing home employee to increase the dosage to a patient who already takes the drug. It is even simpler to fail to reduce the dosage when the symptoms the drug treats have become less frequent. In 2013, four different Illinois nursing homes were cited by the Department of Health and Human Services for failing to maintain the drug regimens of residents for their maximum well-being. (See the reports here, here, here, and here.)

Why It Matters
Consumers need to be aware of the dangers inherent in improper administration of drugs to the elderly in nursing homes. Apart from the obvious human rights and legal violations, unauthorized chemical restraint can be hazardous to the health of the resident.

According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, drugs used for chemical restraint (specifically antipsychotics) can increase confusion, decrease cognitive function, and create a situation where injury is more likely to occur. They also create a stupor in the resident, perhaps preventing communication of a serious problem to the employee of the nursing facility.

Medications are also expensive. The cost of those medications is often passed on to the consumer and, through Medicare and Medicaid, to the taxpayer. By preventing the misuse of chemical restraint, billions of dollars can be saved.

What You Can Do
If you believe that you or someone you know has been the victim of improper use of chemical restraint, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.


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October 25, 2013

Abuse of Residents with Dementia Continues

by Levin & Perconti

All nursing home residents are at risk of having their vulnerabilities exploited. If an individual did not have some mental or physical ailments, then they would not be in the facility to begin with. However, that is not to say that all nursing home residents are alike or face the same risks. There is much diversity within homes. Some seniors have relatively fewer challenges, often able to do most things on their own. At the other end of the spectrum there are seniors who are virtually bedridden, unable to perform anything without assistance.

Obviously, those with more severe challenges can more readily be neglected or abused. Residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s also fall into that category. Those with cognitive problems do not necessarily have immediate physical challenges, but their memory issues can cause confusion--sometimes leading to combativeness, wandering, and more. As a result, these residents may be harder for caregivers to manage, requiring more specialized support.

Unfortunately, the increased “challenge” of providing proper support for this group of residents leads to increase risk of abuse and mistreatment. Instead of doing what needs to be done, far too many caregivers resort to neglect and horrendous conduct when dealing with these seniors

Recent Examples
A glance at recent news stories on the topic offers some sad examples of this abuse. For example, a local FOX News report shared information on the arrest of a former caregiver this month. The man was arrested for an incident that happened this summer and was witnessed by a colleague. According to the story, the man physically forced a washcloth into the mouth of a 90-year old dementia resident. Then, while another employee held her arms back, the senior was doused with cold water in a shower. According to documents filed by authorities, the caregiver allegedly told the senior, “You need your mouth washed out.”

As discussed in a separate NBC story this week, another former nursing home caregiver was found guilty of abusing a senior in a criminal trial. The woman was a certified nursing assistant at the long-term care facility and worked with seniors with dementia. The story explains that for some reason she placed a trash bag over one senior with dementia as she sat in her wheelchair.

In acknowledging the verdict, the state’s attorney general explained, “We have a special obligation to look out for the most vulnerable members of our community, including residents of nursing homes and patients in health care facilities who often can’t speak up and speak out,”

Speak Up
No one can say for certain what leads caregivers to physically abuse residents with dementia. Perhaps some get a perverse pleasure out of exercising extreme control over another. Or maybe the caregiver has personal challenges that they take out on those at the home. No matter what the case, there is simply zero excuse for engaging in this behavior. Exploitation of the most vulnerable among us must be stamped out at all times. If you suspect elder abuse or mistreatment, please do not stay silent. Give our attorneys a call a see how we can help.

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October 21, 2013

Tour Guide Accused of Bilking Seniors Out of Money

by Levin & Perconti

In honor of Resident’s Rights Month it is worth emphasizing the scope of mistreatment that affects seniors. Of course, attorneys at our firm work every day on behalf of nursing home residents who are hurt in falls, develop bed sores, and harmed in a myriad of other common ways. The root of all of this harm is vulnerability and the exploitation by those in positions of power or influence.

Of course taking advantage of elderly individuals is not perpetrated only by those working in the long-term care field. The exploitation can affect anyone, making it critical for trusted friends and family members to remain vigilant about the many ways that seniors can be mistreated and abused.

Tour Bus Scam
We often point out that financial scammers see seniors as a prime target, specifically because of their vulnerability. Even those who do not set out specifically to scam seniors may find themselves bilking them when convenient.

For example, the Merced Sun-Star reported last week on felony criminal charges filed against a former tour company owner after she apparently took thousands of dollars from seniors who purchased bus tours that never took place. According to prosecutors in the area, the tour guide is accused of taking more than $14,500 from about 30 local residents, mostly seniors. The story notes that many of the victims were members of a senior citizen clubs and the Red Hat Ladies.

Apparently, over a two month period, the seniors paid the tour guide for various trips, including one to a local horse racing facility and another to a casino. In one case, even though their ticket was supposed to include admission to the facility, their entrance was never paid--they had to pay out of pocket for the ticket. In another case, a bus trip was cancelled because the bus was claimed to have broken down. Yet, rescheduling never took place the seniors never received a refund.

All told, the guide now faces over two dozen misdemeanor counts of “theft from a senior or dependent adult.” This criminal charge specifically carves out financial exploitation of a senior as a unique harm. On top of that, she faces an additional five felony charges for her conduct. An arraignment date has yet to be set, but the potential consequences are steep--up to five years in jail.

Financial Exploitation
It is easy to brush off these types of incidents as less important than exploitation that causes physical harm. But there is often a interconnectivity between financial harm and physical, mental, and emotional damage for a senior. Many seniors have lost thousands of dollars, forcing them to sell a home or receive less than quality care from “bargain” caregivers. The consequences of such exploitation can destroy a senior’s health and well-being.

For this reason, preventing elder abuse must be viewed holistically--preventing mistreatment in all its forms and all settings. There is no excuse for using a senior’s real or perceived vulnerability against them--even in that means charging them more for services or failing to provide a refund.

If you suspect elder abuse; do not stay silent. Contact our attorneys today to see how we can help.

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September 23, 2013

More Illinois Nursing Homes Not Fully Meeting Sprinkler Requirements

by Levin & Perconti

Late last week we shared information on the Consumer Voice’s “Hall of Flame.” The dubious list includes names of nursing homes throughout the country, including many in Illinois, that have yet to comply with rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Specifically, the rules relate to fire safety and the installation of sprinklers.

Nursing homes residents are incredibly vulnerable to serious injury and even death in the event of fire, mostly because of their mobility issues. Unlike adults are those without physical and mental frailties, many senior residents need close assistance just to get out of bed, let alone escape a fire.

The List
All nursing homes who participate in CMS programs (the majority) were required to have fully working sprinkler systems by August 13th of this year. Unfortunately, over 1,2000 facilities nationwide have yet to comply, and Illinois is near the top of the list of total number of homes not meeting the rules.

Last week we shared the names of Illinois nursing homes that zero working sprinklers. But there are many more facilities that have partial compliance. It is worthwhile to check out this list and see if a home that you or a loved one is considering is on it. If so, contact those at the facility and demand answers. The risks are too high.

Illinois homes with only partial compliance...

FAIR ACRES NURSING HOME
DU PAGE CONVALESCENT CENTER
MEMORIAL CARE CENTER
ALDEN ALMA NELSON MANOR
CONCORD NURSING & REHAB CENTER
BURGESS SQUARE HEALTHCARE CTR
FREEPORT REHAB & HEALTH CARE CENTER
REGENCY REHABILITATION CENTER

Long list continued after that jump...

Continue reading "More Illinois Nursing Homes Not Fully Meeting Sprinkler Requirements" »

September 20, 2013

Illinois Nursing Homes Listed in the Consumer Voice’s “Hall of Flame”

by Levin & Perconti

It’s a nightmare scenario for many of us--out of nowhere you see drifting smoke, smell burning, and hear the screeching of an alarm. There is a fire. What do you do? It has been drilled in us since we were children. Find the nearest safe exit and get out as soon as possible. Sometimes a window may be your only choice. If you happen to get aflame yourself, we all know the manta “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

But what if you don’t know where the exit is? What if you cannot pull yourself through a window. What if you cannot stop, drop, or roll? What if you are unable to even get out of your own bed without help?

For many seniors in nursing homes, those disabilities are real. For that reason, a nursing home fire is an absolutely terrifying prospect. One need only look back to 2003 when a blaze broke out in a long-term care facility in Connecticut. The result was sixteen killed residents and many others injured. We cannot let similar atrocities strike again.

Nursing Home Fire Safety
Considering the risks, it is no wonder that state and federal officials place requirements on these facilities to keep residents safe in the event of fire. As the Consumer Voice explains, five years ago the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required all nursing homes to install automatic sprinkler systems. The facilities were given five years to meet the requirement, with the compliance mandated by mid-August of this year.

Sadly, despite clear CMS rules, as of today, nearly 1200 facilities have not fully met the requirements. On top of that, senior care advocates are dismayed that CMS officials have yet to take any forceful action to ensure these rogue facilities actually comply.

To help raise awareness of the situation and push for change, the Consumer Voice recently crafted a list referred to as the “Hall of Flame.” It includes the names of all facilities which have apparently not yet met their obligations under the CMS fire safety rules.

Unfortunately, the number of Illinois nursing homes of the list is quite extensive. The specifics:

Illinois Homes with NO Sprinklers

COURTYARD HEALTHCARE CENTER
CROSSROADS CARE CTR WOODSTOCK
RIVERSHORES HLTH & REHAB CTR
EMBASSY HEALTH CARE CENTER
SNYDERS-VAUGHN HAVEN
EFFINGHAM REHAB & HEALTH CARE CTR
METHODIST HOSPITAL OF CHICAGO
SYMPHONY OF CRESTWOOD
NEWTON REST HAVEN
HEIGHTS HLTHCARE & REHAB CTR
GROVE OF SKOKIE L & R
WINDMILL NURSING PAVILION
SHAWNEE ROSE CARE CENTER
TRANSITIONS NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER
ANNA REHAB & NURSING CENTER
TWIN WILLOWS NURSING CENTER
LA HARPE DAVIER HLTH CARE CENTER
CRAWFORD COUNTY CONVALESCENT

We urge all community members to ask those in charge of these homes why they have yet to comply with the rules. Demand to know when changes will be made to keep residents. safe.

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