DePuy Hip Recall Update: Stricter Implant Requirements Rejected by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration recently rejected a proposed rule change that sought to ensure the safety of all medical devices. As reported in DrugWatch the proposal would have eliminated the loophole that allows certain medical devices, like hip implants, from undergoing clinical trials. The mandate for more testing of devices before their mass use would catch potentially defective products before they are capable of injuring patients.

The chaos surrounding the DePuy hip implant recall was the impetus for the proposal. As blog readers are aware, over 93,000 implants were recalled at the end of August this year after the metal-on-metal hip implant system was discovered to fail at a much higher rate than usual. The malfunction caused metallic particles to enter the patient’s body, leading to bone and tissue problems. The defect requires a painful and risky revision surgery. As a result, anyone who has had a hip implant with the DePuy ASR XL Acetabular System and ASR Hip Resurfacing Systems may have a legal claim against the company for the problem with the medical device.

However, had the proposed rule been in place, the clinical trials would likely have caught the problem with the DePuy implants before thousands of patients suffered.

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Unsafe Conditions Leads to Illinois Nursing Home Death

The Madison St. Clair Record reported earlier this week on a nursing home lawsuit filed by the family of a resident killed because of unsafe conditions at the Cambridge House of O’Fallon.

The suit alleges that the victim, an elderly female resident, was walking in the facility’s hallway when she tripped on a phone cord. The cord came from a nurse’s station nearby. The dangerous tripping hazard was stretched across the hallway, and it was not secured in any way. Obviously with many elderly residents walking in the area, the danger posed by the loose cord was obvious.

Unfortunately for the victim in this case, the fall caused severe injury—fracturing her spine. Her overall health deteriorated quickly following the incident. Before recovering in any way from the fall, the woman caught pneumonia. In her weakened condition her body had little chance of fighting off the illness. She died shortly afterward

The family of the victim filed this Illinois nursing home lawsuit at the end of December last year. They are seeking to hold the negligent facility accountable for the careless behavior that led to the death.

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Calls for Tort Reform Ignore the Constitution

Lawyer bashing and jury ridicule have been commonplace in the recent public discussion about the civil justice system. Certain special interests continue to propagate the belief that “reforms” need to be enacted to improve the system of justice across the country. Most perplexingly, this call for action is done in the name of the Constitution—a perversion of the document at direct odds with the clear intention of our Founders.

Ken Connor, the President of the Center for Just Society eloquently explained how these political calls for malpractice reform seemingly ignore the 7th Amendment to the Constitution which protects the rights of citizens to jury trials in civil cases. On top of that, the proponents of this “reform” view apparently find little stock in the 9th and 10th Amendment protections that limit federal power and ensure that individual citizen rights and state control are preserved and respected.

Of course the rejection of Constitutional principles is even more disappointing in that it is motivated by efforts to protect wrongdoers from accountability at the expense of the injured victims and their families. Recently introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, known as the HEALTH Act (H.R. 5) is the latest incarnation of this problem.

Ken Connor summarizes the bill as “a federally imposed, top down, one-size-fits-all, special-interest driven emasculation of fundamental constitutional rights, turning victims of medical malpractice and dangerous drugs into constitutional eunuchs.”

The new proposal has a large scope—it applies to nursing home claims, medical malpractice claims, and suits against insurance companies. It includes arbitrary caps on non-economic damages, and shortens the statute of limitations on many acts of negligence. It also eliminates joint and several liability and raises pleading standards. These changes would essentially make it harder for victims to win cases and, even if they are won, harder to collect the entire damage award reached by the jury. Many of these changes preempt state law, overriding the will of state legislators and voters.

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Operation Guard Strikes Again—Enforcing Illinois Nursing Home Laws

WQAD News reported today on the latest surprise Illinois nursing home inspections conducted as part of Operation Guardian. The project, spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Office, is aimed at conducting unannounced visits at these facilities to ensure the safety of nursing home residents and compliance with state and federal laws.

The visits have gained attention both for the poor conditions found at some facilities and the wanted criminals arrested. In every single one of the inspections to date, nursing homes have been found to violate Illinois nursing home law in permitted residents with outstanding arrest warrants to live in the facilities. This conduct puts all residents’ safety at risk. The latest inspections at two northern Illinois facilities—East Moline Nursing and Rehab and East Moline and Galesburg Terrace—led to one arrest, this time of a nursing home employee.

While Operation Guardian seeks to root out some potential dangerous residents, the vast majority of potentially harmful nursing home residents will remain hidden. That is why it is imperative for nursing homes to conduct their own screening protocols to keep out particularly dangerous individuals. On top of that, these facilities need to provide careful monitoring of all complaints from one resident against another.

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Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuits May Be Unfairly Limited By New Legislation

Yet again new federal legislation is attempting to “reform” the parts of the legal system in a way that will do nothing but insulate big business at the expense of nursing home victims. The latest attempt takes the form of H.R. 5—legislation identical to a proposed bill from the last Congress. If passed it would have severe consequences on all Illinois nursing home lawsuits.

The same debunked claims about “cost savings” are being put forward by proponents of the legislation. However, as the American Association for Justice pointed out, the money spent on legal defense in nursing home suits is drastically exaggerated. In addition, all reasonable estimates reveal little to no actual savings can be created by limiting victims’ legal rights. Those arguments act as nothing more than a smokescreen, raising false concerns in order to benefit big insurance and nursing home conglomerates at the expense of regular community members.

This latest bill is particularly troubling because of its large scope—it applies to medical malpractice claims, nursing home claims, and suits against insurance companies. It includes arbitrary caps on non-economic damages, and shortens the statute of limitations on many acts of negligence. It also eliminates joint and several liability and raises pleading standards.

These changes would essentially make it harder for victims to win cases and, even once they’ve been won, harder to collect the entire damage award reached by the jury. Many of these changes preempt state law, meaning that the federal government would be overriding the will of many states, forcing these unfair rules upon them.

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Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed for Wrongful Death

A week and a half ago we posted on an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Maple Ridge Care Center in Lincoln, Illinois on behalf of a 63-year old former resident of the facility. The victim in that case was killed shortly after negligent care led to the amputation of their leg. There was a 16 hour delay before staff members noticed problems ultimately diagnosed as deep-vein thrombosis.

However, before that incident, the nursing home was fined by state administrators for their conduct in treatment of another resident. A 32-year old woman with spina bifida died at the facility in March of 2009 when the care workers failed to resuscitate her—leading to the $10,000 state fine. Now, according to Lawsuits and Settlements, the family of that victim has filed a nursing home lawsuit against the facility for its conduct in the case.

The victims’ allege that the young resident had clearly indicated her desire to be resuscitated if necessary. However, after suffering heart failure, the staff members explicitly decided not to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation because they did not want to “break up” what they deemed to be her frail body. Of course, the decision about what medical procedures to use were solely in the hands of the victim and her family—not the workers at the facility. Failure to abide by the patient’s wishes may have cut her life short.

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Levin & Perconti Attorneys Interviewed For Perspective on Nursing Home Liability Case

We have previously discussed the efforts being fought to limit damage awards possible in nursing home liability lawsuits. Another development on that front will come when the Illinois Supreme Court decides the case of Thomas Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc. – determining whether punitive damages are available for suits filed under the state’s Nursing Home Care Act. As explained in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the law allows survivors of victims of willful and wanton nursing home conduct to sue the facilities for the death of their loved one.

Specifically at issues is whether the responsible nursing home can be charged punitive damages for its egregious conduct. Those damages are levied as a form of punishment and deterrence against the offender. Two of our attorneys, Founder Steven Levin & associate Michael F. Bonamarte IV, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association in support of the Plaintiffs in this case. Our position was clear that the Act allowed the jury the option of awarding punitive damage if they deemed it necessary after hearing all of the evidence in the case.

Steven Levin explained that the punitive damage possibility is “a crucial safety rule and it’s an important principle that our most vulnerable citizens need.”

The perverse effect of disallowing the damages would make it cheaper for the nursing home if the resident dies from their poor care instead of being injured.

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Some Nursing Homes Focusing on Quality of Life for Demenia & Alzheimer’s Residents

Stories of tragic neglect and abuse fill the archives of this blog, because it is important to raise awareness of the plight faced by so many victims stuck in bad nursing homes. At the same time, some facilities (though still too few) are taking important steps to improve care for the residents whose lives are dictated by their decisions. Some facilities are reevaluating their approach to consider residents’ overall quality of life.

For example, the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on Glenview’s Maryhaven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility has participated in a test-study examining ways to improve the lives of nursing home residents suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The study tested new ways of providing care for these patients with a focus on simply improving the day to day living experience of the sufferers.

One general goal of the care is to get facilities to focus on comfort care rather than standard aggressive treatments that have found to offer little to no medical benefit. In addition, many family members of residents are encouraged to engage more fully in the new care programs. Pain medications are used in better ways under the new treatment programs as well. Care givers are encouraged to ensure that pain is prevented before it spikes, instead of only after the victim wallows for a time. Facilities using the new techniques actually saw a reduction in the need for psychotropic medications.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Rainbow Beach Care Center

Our examination continues of the latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have violated basic resident health, care, and safety laws. Rainbow Beach Car e Center, a nursing home just north of the city in Evanston, recently received several Type “A Violations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and fined $10,000. The violations resulted from the facility’s failure to ensure the proper monitoring of residents with specific mental illnesses and at risk of elopement.

Many residents at the facility have specific care needs and pose specific risks to themselves and others. One group of residents with special mental problems are deemed “elopement risks”—they exhibit behavior that make it more likely that they could attempt to leave the facility unmonitored. These residents are under unique care plans that include special monitoring and check-ins to ensure their safety.

When those policies are not followed severe consequences often result. For example, one mentally ill resident at Rainbow Beach ended up leaving the facility unbeknownst to the caregivers. The resident was gone for over 10 days and traveled over 25 miles. The resident wandered across railroad tracks and burst intersections without supervision. Afterwards the resident was very confused and may have suffered set-backs in his mental health development.

Wandering remains a serious problem at many nursing homes. It is only a matter of luck that the resident did not suffer severe physical harm in this case—others are not that fortunate.

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Broken Hips May Increase Risk of Stroke

Many senior citizens face hip problems. A lifetime of work typically takes its toll on individual bones—joints are particularly susceptible to problems because of the continual movement and stress on the area. It is important for many nursing home residents to take special care that they avoid hip injury caused by slips and falls.

According to MedlinePlus there is even more reason for seniors to pay close attention to their hips—broken hips may increase the risk of stroke. A new study was just released which showed that patients with broken hips were 50% more likely to have a stroke within the next year. More research is to be conducted before the cause of the link is identified. One potential reason for the connection was the psychological distress and inactivity that comes with broken hips, which may increase the stroke potential.

It is information like this that makes the recent DePuy hip recall even more distressing. The consequences suffered by the victims of the defective hip implants may never be fully known.

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Nursing Home Lawsuit Settles for $3.5 Million

It is often very difficult for a family to make the decision to place their elder loved one in a nursing home. However, that challenge is often made unbearable when it is discovered that the nursing home has been failing to provide reasonable care.

Herald Net News shared the story of horrific treatment by one nursing home, sparking a lawsuit that was recently settled out of court. Everett nursing home was sued by the family of a 97-year old resident who died because of the woefully inadequate care provided by the facility. The victim developed penile cancer while at the Everett. As a result of the medical problem, the man’s genitals began disintegrating. However, the care at the facility was so poor that the staff members didn’t notify anyone of the problem—not family members, not doctors.

A staff member had discovered a wound on the man’s penis, but her manager forgot about it. It wasn’t until four months later that the victim was rushed to the emergency room for a different reason that ER doctors discovered that the man’s genitals had disintegrated.

A nursing home lawsuit was filed which was recently settled by the facility for $3.5 million.

Understaffing is the likely culprit say those involved in the case. The operators of the facility cut back on nursing assistants, who are usually responsible for changing diapers and cleaning residents.

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Advocates Explain Problems with Nursing Home Liability Limits

Each day brings news of more nursing home residents harmed and sometimes killed because of poor oversight provided by their caregivers. When that happens, the law provides a method of redress that allows the victims to hold the negligent nursing home accountable for their mistakes. This basic process is one of the most effective ways of ensuring the proper treatment of our vulnerable elders.

However, some groups are seeking to erode the rights of nursing home victims. The Journal-Sentinel Online reported this week on proposed legislation that would impose arbitrary caps on jury decisions following nursing home lawsuits. The law would add malpractice cases against nursing homes, hospices, and assisted living facilities to the list of suits that have a cap on the award a jury can reach for certain damages. Many advocates argue that the new law will only insulate bad nursing homes from liability and will serve as a disincentive to necessary improvements.

The mother of a 26-year old nursing home resident who died because of her caregiver’s negligence explained, “The idea that our lawmakers now want to shield nursing homes from full responsibility for their neglect is the worst kind of public policy at the worst of times.”

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For-Profit Nursing Homes May Be Overcharging Medicare

The care provided to residents by nursing homes driven by profit has often been questioned. Many observers wonder about their belief in committing as many resources as possible to ensuring that nursing home residents receive the care they deserve. There remains an inherent tension between spending money on quality care and cutting corners to increase the bottom line to owners and shareholders. We provide close oversight of these for-profit institutions when allegations arise of residents victimized by their inadequate care.

Along the same lines, new reports last week from the New York Times blog share another way in which these for-profit facilities may do anything in their power to maximize their payout. A Department of Health and Human Services report examined the rates at which different types of nursing homes classified the level of care each resident needed. The classification is important, because it determines the amount of funding provided to the facility by Medicare. The “higher” the classification, the more care needing to be provided to the resident and the more money to be sent.

Amazingly, in the years 2006 to 2008, the number of residents classified in the most severe group (demanding the most funding) jumped from 17% of all residents to 28%. Those changes cost Medicare a staggering $5 billion.

When examined further, researchers discovered that the leap had little to do with the changing dynamic of nursing home resident—their average health level remained unchanged. That means that facilities themselves were likely changing the classification to raise more money. In particular, for-profit nursing homes were much more likely to claim the highest classifications. 33% of for-profit resident are in that category, while only 18% of non-profit residents. Even within the group of profit-making facilities, the largest chains had the largest percentage of high classification residents.

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Health Care Law Includes Important Provisions for Nursing Home Residents

Earlier this year we reported on the widely discussed national health care reform law. The landmark legislation provides for a wide array of important, necessary changes in our nation’s healthcare system for all citizens, including many vulnerable elderly Americans.

However, the House of Representatives is planning to vote on repeal the important legislation in business on the house floor today. The Consumer Voice, an advocacy group for long-term care recipients and their families, published a letter this weekend that rejects the misguided repeal effort.

The organization explains the many positive provisions in the bill that must be preserved. For example, the bill ensured that nursing home owners and operators will be publically disclosed so that everyone can make educated choices about where to seek the long-term care they need. The legislation also strengthened the consumer complaint system, assured adequate disclosure of the need for relocation with nursing home closure, guarantees more training for nursing home assistants, ensures national background checks for employees, and many other vital actions.

If the repeal effort passes through the U.S. House it would still require similar action in the Senate and signature of the President before taking effect—both highly unlikely. Yet, all those who stand in support of fair-mindedness and reasonable care for our vulnerable seniors should stand in opposition to this symbolic attack on health care reform. Please contact your representative and urge a No vote.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Illinois Nursing Home

An Illinois nursing home was responsible for the untimely death of a nursing home resident according to allegations in a new lawsuit filed last week.

My Suburban Life recently reported on the circumstances surrounding the nursing home lawsuit. The family of a former resident of the Maple Ridge Care Centre sued the facility following the death of their 63-year old wife, mother, and grandmother. According to the lawsuit, staff members at the facility failed to properly monitor the care of the victim, leading to her death from deep-vein thrombosis.

According to filing, the nursing home staff waited 16 hours before taking action on the symptoms which revealed the medical problem. That failure led to the amputation of the victim’s left leg, spurring her eventual death. The victim had been in the facility to recover from complications incurred during a recent surgery; she was expected to recover and return home.

These are not the first concerns about the care provided at Maple Ridge. The facility was also fined by the state earlier this year for the death of a 32-year old resident. That victim, a spina bifida sufferer, died after staff members failed to revive her with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The resident had clear instructions that the step was to be taken by her caregivers, but they did not follow the command.

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More Funding To Help Improve Illinois Nursing Home Care

Our state legislature was very busy last week as several major policy proposals were heatedly debate in Springfield. Friday marked the official end of the last General Assembly. The last-minute business was the last effort involving many retiring legislators before a swath of new members were sworn into office.

Part of the effort involved passage of a plan that will increase state revenues significantly over the next several years. The result will mean that hundreds of millions more dollars will be given to Illinois nursing homes, according to Behavioral Health Central. Few people would question the benefit of devoting more resources to improving the quality of care at local nursing homes. However, it is important to remain aware of the potential pitfalls of the specific legislation passed by state leaders.

Of particular note, there is concern that the funding will provide a windfall to profit-making facilities that typically provide substandard care. It is of the utmost importance that the influx of money provided by the state not be used in a way that provides benefit to poor care-givers and impedes transfers of residents out of poor facilities.

The legislation was motivated in part by efforts to reduce violence and abuse at Illinois nursing homes. Recent investigations have shown the problem to be much more widespread that many imagined.

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Political Interests Seek to Take Away Rights From Nursing Home Victims

The Wisconsin State-Journal reports that the legislature in our neighbor to the north is considering a bill that will make it more difficult for victims of nursing home negligence to seek redress following their loss.

Lawmakers in the state are debating legislation that would change the information that juries would be able to see in cases regarding nursing homes. For example, reviews and reports about health care providers would be deemed inadmissible evidence under the bill’s provisions. What that means, of course, is that a jury’s will have less information to determine exactly what happened in each situation.

Little can be gained from barring valuable information about the care provided to patients at nursing homes charged with committing deadly acts of negligence. One advocate fighting against the legislation is a victim of just such negligence. The man’s mother died following her nursing home’s inability to prevent and treat pressure sores. A jury of his peers heard the evidence and returned a verdict in his favor. Had the victim not be able to use official documents explaining the conduct of the facility, they may have a reached a different result.

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Illinois Agreement Reached To Move Resident Out of Nursing Homes

The Chicago Tribune reported this week on a new agreement that may have long-lasting implications for some developmentally disabled Illinoisans working to move out of nursing homes.

The agreement was reached between state officials and disability rights activists who sought changes in the way certain disabled nursing home members were treated. The group filed a class action lawsuit against the state in 2005 claiming that the state care of these individuals was lacking. The basis of the charge was the then inability of residents to live in an integrated living environment. The claim was rooted in the American with Disabilities Act and its rejection of undue segregation.

An agreement was recently reached between the parties in that original suit. If approved by a judge, the decree will allow much greater flexibility of living conditions for developmentally disabled residents. According to the agreement, all 6,000 residents of these special facilities are able to move out of the nursing home and into a small group home.

The agreement remains flexible in that only those individuals who chose to leave the larger facilities are able—instead of forcing all in the group to move to smaller group homes.

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Chicago DePuy Recall Lawsuit Filed

We have frequently updated readers on the latest news related to the DePuy hip implant recall. The impact of the defective product continues to have effects on many seniors currently living in nursing homes. Recently several Chicago patients filed a lawsuit for their suffering due to the hip device.

According to ABC News, the Chicago DePuy lawsuit includes five patients who are accusing the company of ignoring the clear evidence that the devices being implanted posed too high a risk of failure and complications. Failure to act reasonably led to an unnecessary delay in the recall.

The husband of one of the victim explains of his wife, “She can’t walk. She can’t do anything. [She’s] in deep pain.”

These victims represent only five out of thousands who suffered because of defective DePuy hip implants. Nearly 100,000 of the implants were recalled by the company in August after evidence mounted even higher showing the extreme danger the product presented to patients. Many of the patients who have suffered complications from the product may have suffered irreparable harm to their bodies. Each time a join is redone some bone is lost.

Perhaps even more frustrating is the lack of clear answers on why the product was even defective in the first place and how the company allowed so many patients to face complications. Also concerning is the fact that there is no standardized tracking system in the United States for joint implants—other countries require such tracking. Those nations have seen the rates for revision surgeries drop by as much as ten percent as the lists allow defective devices to be identified much earlier.

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Tort "Reform" Savings Called Into Question

The new Congress that was sworn into office in Washington D.C. last week will soon begin debating a variety of hot button issues. Many of those matters will be of particular interest to all those concerned with proper healthcare for the elderly or fair treatment for all medical patients. In particular, the specter of medical malpractice “reform” will once again rear its head in many committee debates and policy calls.

In that discussion a claim will often be made about “savings” to be had if tort reform legislation is passed. The basis for that claim is generally linked to a single Congressional Budget Office analysis from a year and a half ago. That analysis has been shown severely flawed, as with so much of the information used to push the takeaway of legal rights for patients. The Center for Justice and Democracy published a detailed examination of the errors in the CBO analysis.

Overall, the claims of money saved are taken almost solely from a handful of studies that actually contradict one another. One of those studies even goes so far as to claim that changes to the current structure would allow may cause more than 50,000 more people to die from medical errors each year—on top of the almost 98,000 who already do.

The CBO analysis uses an extreme form of tort reform legislation that no single state has ever accepted, including a hard $250,000 limit on non-economic damages and a one year statute of limitations on claims. The group’s own evidence also suggests that these reforms may actually increase costs, not save them. In states with the most widely used type of reform—limits on joint and several liability—the costs of healthcare actually increased following the legislation.

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Alden Village North Cited In Another Child Death

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on yet another death of a disabled young child that led to a citation for a troubled Chicago nursing home.

Alden Village North has made many headlines in the last few months for negligent care leading to the deaths of several of its young residents. 14 children have died at the facility under questionable circumstances at the facility over the last 10 years.

This latest news will raise that number even higher. According to reports the facility staff was aware that test results showed a serious infection in a 14-month old resident. However, the staff failed to act quickly, instead allowing the girl to languish at the home for two days without care. When the girl’s doctor was finally called she was rushed to the hospital. Within hours she had died.

Many of the facilities’ problems stem from its drive for profits, leading to staffing shortages and loose internal regulations. For example, two 4-year olds died in a three week period after suffering breathing problems. Alden Village staff members were supposed to have heard the nursing alert sounds that were activated throughout the facility to warn of the breathing problem, but they didn’t hear anything. Some of the alarms were incorrectly installed; other had the volume turned down so low that they were virtually worthless.

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Tragic Stories At Forefront of Illinois Nursing Home Reform

Lawyers and Settlements published a story last week explaining the recently passed reform measures that will apply to all Illinois nursing homes. The publication particularly focuses on the stories of nursing home abuse and neglect that spurred the new legislation.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the reform laws in late July last year. At the signing ceremony he announced that the legislation was a product of a comprehensive examination of problems with nursing home care in the state. A 2009 Nursing Home Safety Task Force took account of the many allegations of abuse at the facilities in the state.

A large component of the new reforms related to the ability of many nursing homes to force residents to live with other residents suspected of having dangerous backgrounds and dispositions. This problem was exposed in large part by efforts from the Attorney General’s office which has conducted surprise raids on facilities looking for residents with outstanding arrest warrants. Many sex offenders and other criminals have been found living in these homes.

As a result, many residents have been victimized by their fellow residents. For example, one schizophrenic woman living at the Monroe Pavilion Health and Treatment Center strangely became pregnant while at the facility. The facility informed the resident’s daughter that the sexual intercourse leading to the pregnancy was consensual. However, the woman’s mental condition is so severe that she is unable to make decisions for herself and therefore unable to consent to sex.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Searles Group Home

Today we continue our examination of the latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have been found to have violated basic laws concerning resident health, care, and safety. Searles Group Home, a nursing home in Rockford, recently received several Type “A Violations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and fined $10,000. The violations resulted from the facility’s failure to take proper steps after the allegation of physical abuse of a resident by one of its employees.

Earlier this year a resident at the facility with severe mental retardation was discovered with a strange bruise on her wrist. The employee who discovered it found it suspicious and asked her co-workers about it. At first it was assumed that the resident must have bumped into something. However, upon more investigation two employees admitted that the resident told her another direct service worker had hit her, causing the bruise.

As with most facilities, the nursing home has clear policies related to the appropriate contact and force that any employee should use on a resident. It also has plans that need to be followed after abuse is discovered so that other residents are not harmed by the dangerous employee.

Unfortunately, none of those procedures were followed in this case. The staff member involved was not suspended or disciplined in any way. The allegation of abuse went nowhere. The employee remained in her regular duties without any steps taken to protect other residents or punish the abuser.

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Health Care Worker Steals $83,000 From Elderly Man Before His Death

RGJ News reported this week on another sad example of elder financial exploitation. In this case, a 59-year old healthcare worker at the Veteran Affair’s Sierra Nevada Hospital took advantage of a senior patient of the facility.

The scamming worker befriended the elderly man while assisting with his nursing needs. After the victim left the hospital the woman continued to communicate with the man, occasionally doing household chores for him. Eventually she used her influence to gain access to his bank accounts. Once she had that ability it was free reign to exploit his finances for personal gain.

All told she forged checks and withdrew money from ATMs, taking over $83,000 of the victim’s savings. She also used his debit cards to buy personal items. The thief was not apprehended until earlier this week, over 6 months after the victim’s death. She is accused of various frauds centering on her elderly financial exploitation.

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Nursing Homes Being Filled With Younger Residents

CBS News reported today on the details surrounding new data which shows that more and more people under 65 years old are living in our nation’s nursing homes.

About in on in seven nursing home residents in the U.S. is now under the age of 65 according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The younger residents often face unique health challenges and quality of life concerns.

For example, one 26 year old resident interviewed for the story has been living in a nursing home since last year after a gun accident left him paralyzed. The young resident explained that it was very lonely at the facility where the vast majority of residents are elderly retirees. The nursing home presents the lone option for the young man to get care. His father is on the road as a truck driver and his mother is sick with lupus. Medicare payments are the only way he is currently able to survive.

Some facilities that have a larger population of younger residents are able to make improvements that help raise their quality of life. Replacing bingo night with poker games, allowing younger residents to share rooms, and similar changes often have a big impact of resident happiness.

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More Thorough Background Checks Proposed for Illinois Nursing Home Employees

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday on proposed changed to background check requirements in Illinois. The legislation would affect employees at many types of facilities including homes for the disabled and nursing homes for the elderly.

Most employees at these homes are already required to perform criminal background checks before they are hired. The licenses of those applicants must also be verified before they can begin work. Yet, there is more extensive checking that could be conducted to ensure that the employees who serve these most vulnerable community members are willing and capable of providing proper care. Most importantly these facilities are currently not required to check whether the applicant has been cited in the past for any form of abuse. Those past citations most likely would never show up on regular criminal background checks.

Proposed legislations would mandate that additional requirement. One motivation for the new law is the recent revelations made about treatment of many developmentally disabled children at a Chicago nursing facility—Alden Village North.

Much time remains before the bill is up for a final vote. However, many lawmakers are already voicing support for the additional check, with many hoping it applies to both children’s facilities as well as those nursing homes catering to elders.

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Man Steals Thousands of Dollars from Elderly Man in Phone Scam

Financial exploitation of the elderly is perhaps the most prevalent form of elder abuse in the country. For too many criminals the temptation is overwhelming to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of senior community members for their own financial gain. As a result many innocent victims lose thousands and thousands of dollars—money that has often been saved over a lifetime of work.

Elder financial abuse comes in various forms, typically with the same goal: to gain access to the personal financial information of the victim. At nursing homes this often occurs when employees of the facility steal the information found in nursing home records to bilk the unsuspecting resident. It is for that reason that nursing home administrators must be particularly vigilant about all employees that they hire and determining which ones have access to patient records.

Yesterday the Herald Tribune reported on elder financial abuse outside of the nursing home. An 81-year old man was at his home when he received a phone call. The caller claimed to be a “Detective Johnson” and said that he needed to get personal information from the victim as part of his duties as a police officer. Eventually the elderly man became suspicious and hung up on the fake caller. However, the criminal was still able to get enough personal financial information out of the man before the call ended. Over $12,000 was ultimately stolen from the senior’s bank account.

Police arrested the criminal only months later. It is unclear if any of the stolen funds were recovered.

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Alternatives to Overuse of Chemical Restraints

The examples of nursing home abuse and negligence that typically attract the most attention are dramatic stories of poor care that shock the senses. From negligently trapping residents inside cafeteria freezers to allowing ghastly sexual assaults, these major incidents deservedly send ripples of outrage throughout the community.

Yet there also exists more persistent negligence that does not culminate in a single incident but also has debilitating effects on a nursing home resident’s quality of life. A common example of that form of abuse is chemical restraints—the daily dose of drugs given to residents that put them in a perpetual stupor. It makes it easier for nursing home staff to monitor the resident but drastically limits the individual’s ability to enjoy their life.

The Star Tribune reported on recent attempts to end the overuse of drugs to control residents. The story explains how many residents are constantly lethargic with little interest in interacting with their surroundings. One nurse explained, “You see that in just about any nursing home. But that kind of quality of life is that?”

To help fight the problem the nurse began a program that is replacing drugs with alternatives, including aromatherapy, massages, exercise, and other activities involving giving personal attention to the resident. The results have been impressive. Antipsychotic drugs have been completed eliminated from rotations and antidepressants are now used only half as much as the facility.

Not only is the program working to improve the lives of residents, it is also eliminating the risk posed by overuse of drugs. Many drugs are used “off label” or for reasons other than their intended use. Instead of treating symptoms, the drugs are used to cover up other symptoms. It is a dangerous cycle that claims far too many lives.

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State Taking Steps To Improve Nursing Home Regulation

One state is taking new steps to better inform the public of nursing home violations It is hoped that the effort will help consumers make informed choices about what facilities to use when extra care is needed for their loved one.

The Kentucky Lexington Herald-Leader reports on the new steps being taken by state officials to better report and respond to allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect. Specifically the regulatory body has adopted a more rigorous meeting schedule to track the claims of abuse at state nursing homes. Additionally, they are increasing the training for the employees who conduct the on-site nursing home investigations. Standardized forms for abuse reporting are also in the works

For the first time the issuance of the most serious citations will be put online, allowing easy access to those interested in keeping tabs on negligent and abusive facilities. All of this will likely increase the flow of information about the quality of nursing home care to the general public.

The new steps are being undertaken following a series of investigative reports by the publication that exposed the lax follow-up of most of these claims of problematic care. Last year there were 107 Type A citations but only 7 were ever prosecuted by the Attorney General’s office. Several of those citations were never even given to the legal office to explore possible criminal ramifications.

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DePuy Hip Implants May Fail More Frequently in Women

Since the official August recall of certain DePuy hip implants, thousands of patients have taken steps to check the safety of their own devices. In the Chicago area many individuals who had hip implants in the last several years have discovered that their device was defective and in need of replacement. The problems with the device vary, with some patients suffering extreme complications shortly after their surgery and others experiencing difficulties only much later. In all cases, however, the cause of the hip concerns lie squarely at the feet of the DePuy officials who made the defective product and continued to push for its use after concerns about it arose.

Senior citizens in nursing homes make up a large part of the victims of this medical device error. Also, new data from the National Joint Registry and republished in Drug Watch suggests that woman are more likely than men to suffer problems with their DePuy hip implant. Specifically, patients with small hips (those with femoral heads below 50mm in diameter) were more likely to need revision surgery. Women have hips more frequently smaller than men, leading them to suffer more complications from the defective hips.

Over 93,000 patients have undergone surgery using the problematic implants since 2004. The recall was issued in August after much higher than average failure rates. Patients suffered a variety of maladies including bone fractures near the implant sight, implant dislocation, and metallosis. Metallosis is caused when fragment of metal break from the device and enter the body.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Pine Terrace

Our look at the latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have been found to have violated basic laws concerning resident health, care, and safety continues today. A Chicago-area nursing home, Pine Terrace, located in Waukegan recently received several Type “A Violations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and fined $40,000. The violations resulted in part from the facility’s poor treatment of several residents suffering from pneumonia.

Specifically, investigators of the facility reported that there was inadequate care given to residents with pneumonia in the small sample of residents examined, placing over a dozen at risk for severe illness or death.

Overall, the Illinois nursing home failed to ensure that nurses completed an on-going assessment of the sick individuals after the diagnosis, including basic lapses like no monitoring of vital signs, temperature, and lung sounds. The facility did not abide by general hospital guidelines regarding the activity of residents with the illness including ensuring proper rest and drinking milk.

The staff involved in treating the residents were not trained in recognizing any signs or symptoms of pneumonia. That inadequate training likely affected the poor care given to the residents suffering from the potentially life threatening complication. The immune systems of many residents are particularly vulnerable. It is therefore unconscionable that staff members and medical personnel at a nursing home would be untrained and ill-equipment to provide even the most basic pneumonia-related care to help save these residents’ lives.

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