Common Nursing Home Drugs May Be Unsafe for Elderly Residents

One indicator of a negligent nursing home is the extent to which their employees rely on chemical restraints to manage the residents in their care. As we have often shared, these “restraints” involve the overmedication of residents so that they remain in a dulled state—easier to manage but often incapable of living their lives in meaningful ways. Many Illinois nursing home lawsuits have involved the argument that chemical restraints represent a tragic and unnecessary theft of a nursing home resident’s ability to enjoy their friends, family, and surroundings.

New research published by Medical Page Today adds even more incentive for facilities to crack down on the practice, as these psychotropic drugs are often very dangerous for older patients. 11,000 residents using common antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants were found with dramatically heightened risk of death or serious complications when compared with residents given less common antipsychotic drugs.

Specifically, use of the usual drugs increased risk of death by a staggering 47%. Those same patients also had a 61% increased risk of femur fractures. The rise in risk was evident across virtually all forms of the drugs commonly used in nursing homes today.

The head of the research explains, “Our exploratory study adds to the growing evidence that conventional antipsychotics may be no safer for vulnerable adults than atypical antipsychotics…clinicians considering these medications for their older nursing home patients should weigh these risks…”

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More Illinois Nursing Home Deaths Identified at Alden Village North

The saga involving negligent Illinois nursing home Alden Village North appeared to be drawing to an end as the state moved to close the facility earlier this year. Blog readers will be well aware of the continued, drawn-out, tragic examples of abuse and neglect at the home.
Alden Village North made many headlines in the last few months for negligent care leading to the deaths of several of its young disabled residents. 14 children have died at the facility under questionable circumstances at the facility over the last 10 years.

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.

Now the Chicago Tribune is reporting that a federal watchdog group has identified at least five more deaths at the facility likely attributable to poor nursing home care by staff members. The independent inquiry uncovered more examples of improper treatment of residents, doctor carelessness, ignorance of lab results, and inadequate internal investigations.

The watchdog group which authored the latest report explained, “What we’re seeing here is a culture within a nursing home that tolerated lackadaisical, substandard care for years.”

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Conservative Politician Comes Out Against Unnecessary, Dangerous Tort Reform Law

As we have often mentioned on this blog, tort reform legislation (both at the state and federal levels) is an unnecessary intrusion into the Constitutional powers and rights given to the American people. The efforts to limit the ability of injured victims to seek fairness in the legal system is often nothing more than a power grab by big interests who seek to insulate themselves from the costs of injuring others in their quest for profits.

We have also pointed out that the traditional political subdivisions of conservatives and liberals are inadequate to understand the unique political dynamics at play in the lawsuit reform debacle. The truth remains that all those committed to preserving the balance of power and individual rights guaranteed by our Constitutional founders should stand arm-in-arm against the misguided efforts of those advocating tort reform.

It should therefore come as no surprise that a prominent conservative politician is stepping out in a southern state to oppose these dangerous proposals. Former Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson testified at a state house subcommittee hearing against a state tort reform proposal, according to Knox News.

The former U.S. senator explained that the “problems” sought to be fixed by these proposals are always grossly exaggerated. He likened the legislation to “killing a mouse with a bazooka.” Additionally, he stressed that the focus should be on limiting the egregious examples of death and injury caused by negligence—not tying the hands of those injured.

To make the point, Thompson spoke about various examples of tragic negligence. He mentioned a medical malpractice lawsuit filed after a girl died after being given five times the normal dose of drugs for a tonsil removal. The victim’s rights advocate also spoke about a truck accident lawsuit involving a mother and daughter who were burned to death after the semi crashed into their parked car. Stories of horrific nursing home abuse could also be added to the list of activities that need to be more prominently understood and prevented, instead of silenced.

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Officials Knew of Illinois Nursing Home Abuse At Graywood Homes

The Chicago Tribune reported this weekend on troubling news about the lack of action taken against Illinois nursing home officials. New information has surfaced which indicates that those regulators charged with preventing Illinois nursing home abuse knew of trouble at a series of facilities run by the Graywood Foundation but failed to act quickly.

Specifically, 2009 memo written by a nursing home investigator listed conditions at the homes for the developmentally disabled as “totally unacceptable.” It was a year earlier that a resident was ruthlessly killed after being assaulted by staff members at the facility. The murder at the home obviously drew intense state scrutiny; however, little was done to actually ensure that no future problems arose at the homes.

In fact, resident families were never told about those problems—the death was only one of nearly 20 other allegations of abuse and neglect. The inaction meant that it was only a matter of time before another resident suffered a similar fate. That repeat occurred in January of this year when a 42-year old resident was killed at the facility following an assault by staff members. The victim’s ribs were shattered in thirteen places during the attack, causing his lungs to fill with fluid, leading to his death.

The beating, which lasted 45 minutes, was apparently a punishment for the developmentally disabled man stealing food. Other reports indicate that another common punishment at the home was for residents to be forced to hold their arms out as heavy books were placed in their hands.

Two employees at the facility have been charged with first-degree murder for the latest death. Following that action, the family of the victim filed an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit against Graywood.

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Important Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit Analysis: Questions of Law vs. Questions of Fact

Understanding the importance of the Illinois nursing home case Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc first requires knowing the type of issue involved in the case.

All lawsuits involve two types of questions that a judge or jury is must answer. The first kind is known as a “question of fact” –what actually happened in a certain case? The second is known as a “question of law” –what rules apply to whatever happened in that case?

For example, a nursing home abuse case may have a question of fact like “Did the staff member actually treat the resident’s pressure sore wound in the proper manner?” Medical records, witness testimony, and other evidence would be examined to help answer that question. The same case may have a question of law such as “Can the nursing home company be held responsible for the negligence of the individual staff member?” In essentially all cases, the courts have answered the question in the affirmative.

Juries are only asked to answer the questions of fact. Judges (both at the trial and appellate levels) are the ones who must decide questions of law.

An important distinction is that questions of fact only apply to a single case, whereas questions of law may have implications for many different cases. The scope of the legal holding depends on the level of judge who reached the decision. For example, Illinois has three general levels of courts: circuit courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The state is divided into 5 different appellate courts, and so the ruling of one of those courts only applies in that part of the state. However, a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court applies in the entire state.

The legal issue in the Vincent case was recently heard by the Supreme Court, which means that whatever rule the court decides upon will apply to every single case that is brought in Illinois in the future. In that way it is critically important for all those who care about the rights of nursing home families to step up and seek a proper ruling on this question of law.

The analysis of this Illinois nursing home lawsuit will continue with a closer look at the specific question of law related to types of damages that the Illinois Supreme Court is considering.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Lexington of Orland Park

The latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have violated basic resident health, care, and safety laws was recently released by state officials. Lexington of Orland Park, a nursing home in the Chicago area recently received several Type “A” Violations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and fined $30,000. The violations resulted from the facility’s failure to properly treat pressure sores or prevent Illinois nursing home neglect.

Investigators learned the employees at the facility failed to properly monitor or treat the development of a pressure sore—leading to severe complications for a resident.

The victim was an 82 year old man suffering from dementia among other behavioral disturbances. Upon a visit to the doctor the resident reported pain in his heel. After removing the man’s shoe, the doctor found a large wound on the resident’s heel. The doctor proscribed treatment. However, it wasn’t long before staff members at the nursing home stopped following the orders. Medication application and bandage changing ceased, and the resident’s injury grew unchecked. As a result, the man’s wound deteriorated.

The wound eventually expanded to almost twice the original size. Gangrene eventually developed, spurring even more complications. As a result the man lost most of the circulation in his entire leg. The ultimate consequences of the issue were unresolved when the sanctions were issued, but doctors were debating whether amputation was required.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Moore House

We contintue our look at the latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have violated basic resident health, care, and safety laws was recently released by state officials. Moore House, a nursing home in Chicago recently received several Type “A” Violations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and fined $20,000. The violations resulted from the facility’s failure to monitor the movement of residents boarding a bus and other examples of Illinois nursing home neglect.

The main sanction resulted from a resident who was injured after being pushed from a bus by another resident as the two were exiting the bus following a training-day exercise.

The victim was a 64 year old man who is non-verbal and suffers from profound mental retardation and seizure disorder. He requires close personal care and constant supervision as he has the functional ability of a one year old. Because of that, all staff members are aware that constant observation is required at all times to ensure the resident’s safety. He has a history of falls that have caused him injury.

Last summer the resident suffered another injury as he was attempting to leave a bus. As the man was on one of the bus steps another resident apparently pushed him from behind. Contrary to established protocol, there was no nursing home staff member around to catch the resident as he fell backward. The victim was taken to the local emergency room where it was discovered that he had suffered leg injuries.

Upon further questioning, employees at the facility indicated that they frequently fail to monitor residents as they board and exit the bus.

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Evergreen Healthcare Center

The latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have violated basic resident health, care, and safety laws was recently released by state officials. Evergreen Healthcare Center, a nursing home in the Chicago are 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 follow physician orders, follow hospital transfer protocols, and other examples of Illinois nursing home neglect.

One of the issues related to the transfer of the wrong resident to the hospital.

According to reports, a 78 year old resident of the facility—a fully functioning man—was frightened when fire department paramedics went into his room in the early morning and rushed him off to the hospital. The man had no apparent medical problems. It turns out that the man’s roommate was the one who needed to be taken to the hospital because of tachycardia (a dangerous acceleration of the heart rate).

This all occurred even through the resident repeatedly told the responders that he was in no distress and that some mistake must have been made. His responses were ignored. No nursing home staff members were monitoring the situation in any way to ensure that the correct resident was taken to the hospital. In fact, the paramedics stopped at the front desk with the man in transport to receive transfer documents—no one bothered to notice that the wrong resident was being moved against his will.

The hospital staff reported upon his arrival that the patient had no complaints and believed the transfer to be in error. The resident was concerned that his roommate (the individual who was supposed to receive medical care) was in harm, because he had been complaining about problems all night.

All of this would have been avoided if, according to required protocol, a nurse had been in the room at the time of the transfer.

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Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Shares List of Common Malpractice Events

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers know that most people in our area have heard the words “medical malpractice” or "nursing home abuse." But unless you have ever fallen victim yourself than there is a good chance you are not familiar with the various forms in which the mistakes occur.

The National Quality Forum created an updated list of adverse medical malpractice issues in 2006. The information is culled from adverse medical error summaries, like the comprehensive one issued each year by the state of Minnesota. For example, the most recent list contains serious medical malpractice events as well as examples of nursing home abuse that are easily preventable and have dire consequences. They are divided into general categories and then subdivided by specific type of event.

Examples of errors include:

Surgical/Invasive Procedure Events
1. Surgery performed on wrong body part
2. Surgery performed on the wrong patient
3. Foreign object left in the body after surgery

Case Management Events
1. Medication errors
2. Use of incompatible blood products
3. Failure to diagnose serious medical problem

Environmental Events
1. A serious burn or electric shock
2. Oxygen or gas contamination
3. Bedrail injury or death

Product of Device Events
1. Use of contaminated drugs
2. Malfunction of medical device (like the installation of a DePuy hip implant)
3. Intravascular air embolism

Patient Protection Events
1. Infant discharge to wrong person
2. Patient disappearance
3. Patient suicide

Criminal Events
1. Impersonation of a health care provider
2. Sexual assault of patient
3. Physical assault on patient

Nursing Home Negligence
1. Fall of a resident
2. Development and failure to treat pressure ulcers
3. Resident wandering or elopement
4. Resident suicide
5. Physical abuse between residents or involving staff
6. Sexual abuse by the same
7. Bed rail injuries
8. Failure to timely seek emergency medical care

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Illinois Nursing Home Violation: Alden Gardens of Waterford

The latest report of Illinois nursing homes that have violated basic resident health, care, and safety laws was recently released by state officials. Alden Gardens of Waterford, a nursing home in Aurora and owned by the Chicago nursing home chain, 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 properly notify a resident’s physician of medical problems and other examples of Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect.

Most of the residents at this particular facility are extremely vulnerable, requiring staff assistance to perform all tasks—85 of the 91 residents function at a profound level of mental retardation.

One resident at the facility is a 16-year old with severe mental retardation who also suffers from cerebral palsy, encephalopathy, and is a quadriplegic. An employee was giving the resident a bath when she discovered blood near the girl’s vaginal area—she soon discovered a cut. The victim was ultimately not sent out to receive evaluation and care at a hospital until late the following day.

While at the hospital, a rape kit was completed on the victim. The doctors there noticed a possible hymen tear. They listed the problem as one with a high suspicion of being caused by sexual abuse.

After the hospital visit, employees at the facility explained that they waited to send the victim to the hospital, because they did not expect anything like sexual abuse or other problem needing immediate emergency care. This lack of action stood in direct contrast to the abuse prevention plan purportedly following by the nursing home.

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It Will Soon Be Easier to Learn About Negligent Illinois Nursing Homes

The Consumer Voice recently explained some changes that will soon begin regarding nursing home comparisons found on the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid website. The changes are currently still fluid, with comments from involved parties still capable of altering the final product. The plan is to have the changes completed by the end of July of this year.

The alterations have been spurred by the Affordable Care Act, which included in its many provisions a requirement that new information be posted comparing nursing home quality.

To meet that requirement three major changes are currently in queue. The first is a feature that allows consumers of nursing home care to more directly file complaints against their facility with the particular state regulatory board. To facilitate this, links to state complaint websites, fax numbers, and phone numbers of the appropriate agencies are all listed. For example, any resident seeking to report Illinois nursing home abuse will find a standardized complaint form on the website which can then be submitted directly to local state officials.

Also, the website now contains a more prominent “consumer rights” section. This area lists the rights of all nursing home residents and more fully explains the options available if one feels that those guarantees are not being fulfilled. In July a comprehensive report sharing information about particular nursing homes will be made available on the website. That report will include the total number of complaints filed against these facilities and number of enforcement actions levied against each.

Lastly, the current quality measurement data and rating system will be temporarily “frozen” while these other changes are put into place. This means that the data used to report overall quality of facilities will not updated as scheduled until October of 2011.

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Horrific Case of Chicago Elder Abuse Reported

Chicago Breaking News reported yesterday on a tragic example of bizarre elder abuse that occurred in a Near North Side Chicago apartment.

The strange occurrence took place at an apparent dinner between apartment neighbors. A 74-year old elderly neighbor had been in a Chicago car accident—breaking both of her feet and requiring use of a wheelchair. Apparently under pretenses of helping the temporarily disabled woman, her 51 year old neighbor invited her over to make dinner. The women lived down the hall from one another at Flannery Apartments—a special Chicago Housing Authority facility for elderly and disabled citizens on the 1500 block of North Clybourn Avenue.

Amazingly, the younger dinner host had more gruesome plans in mind. For reasons that are still unknown, the 51 year old woman boiled water in a five-gallon pot, took it off the stove, carried it over to the elderly woman at the table, and poured it over her head.

The elderly victim was severely burned by the scalding water. Fortunately she was able to wheel herself to the lobby and flag someone down to call 911. She was rushed to a local hospital where she remains in serious condition.

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Chicago Nursing Home Loses Federal Funding—Wincrest Nursing Home

The Chicago Tribune provided an update this weekend on the likely closure of the a north side nursing home, the Wincrest Nursing Center. On Sunday federal authorities officially stopped funding the negligent Chicago nursing home.

The home has an 80-resident capacity that is typically filled with adult suffering from mental illness. The facility has long been seen as a dangerous bastion of inadequate care and systematic negligence. Nearby community members—including officials connected with Loyola University—have complained of residents leaving the facility and engaging in drug use and crime in surrounding neighborhoods.

Inspections by federal and state regulators have repeatedly found examples of the poor treatment and dangerous living conditions long noticed by local advocates. In late 2010, a state investigation revealed that a resident was prostituting herself to earn drug money. The same authorities learned of a resident who threatened another with a foot-long knife—and was allowed to keep a similar weapon in his room after the threat.

In the past Wincrest was shown to have violated Illinois nursing home law by failing to disclose the fact that certain convicted felons were living at the facility.

According to reports, because of these and similar violations (and the facility’s failure to make improvements), federal funding to Wincrest was stopped on Sunday. Technically, the location can attempt to reapply for entry into the Medicaid system or seek to be sold to new ownership. However, considering that 99% of the facility’s funding comes from those federal sources, it is unlikely that the nursing home will have any means of staying open in the interim.

Current residents will receive some support until a new location is found for their transfer.

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Nursing Home Negligence Caused By Overmedication of Residents

Earlier this week we reported on a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a doctor and hospital accused of implementing unnecessary heart stents. Unfortunately, the problem of unnecessary medical care is not isolated to one location or one type of procedure.

Reuters is reporting on new allegations that nursing home doctors unnecessarily prescribe antibiotics to elderly residents for treatment of possible urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are very common in nursing homes, affections virtually half of residents at some point in their stay. However researchers found that a shocking 40% of residents ultimately receive drug prescriptions to combat UTIs that they don’t actually have. As a result, those patients saw an increase in their risk of getting a bacterial infection.

The main problem is that doctors should only prescribe the antibiotics when a patient meets certain criteria—but they have been shown to prescribe it well before a nursing home resident exhibits those symptoms. As a result, future bacteria are more likely to become drug resistant, becoming more lethal to the particular patient in the future. For example, one of the wrongly prescribed residents in this study ultimately developed Clostridium difficile (C.Diff), a dangerous bacterium that can ultimately become life threatening.

One doctor involved in the research explained, “We are creating a massive problem that is going to make life incredibly difficult in the future in terms of drug resistance.”

It is unclear yet if a nursing home lawsuit will be filed in this case to hold the negligent physicians accountable for their misconduct. However, it is vital that steps be taken to ensure this problem is addressed in the future.

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Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc.: Important Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported earlier this year on a pending court decision that is of particular interest to all those concerned with the proper treatment of nursing home residents. The Illinois Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the important Illinois nursing home lawsuit, Thomas Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc.—a ruling is expected soon.

The case involves a vital legal question about the types of damages that a victim’s family is allowed to recover after the death of their loved one from poor nursing home care.

Various form of recovery are possible in any lawsuit. The Supreme Court decision in this case will decide if the Nursing Home Care Act allows one particular kind of recovery—punitive damages—to be be recovered by the surviving family members of a deceased resident. There is no question that residents themselves are capable of seeking this form of recovery if they are injured by the facility. Obviously if the resident does not survive the family of the victim files the lawsuit. The issue is whether the family is similarly capable of seeking the recovery that the resident themselves would have been able to receive if they weren’t killed by negligent conduct.

Two of our Illinois nursing home lawyers, Steven M. Levin and Michael F. Bonamarte IV, filed an amicus brief in support of the legal position of the nursing home victim’s family. The argument advanced was one that best balanced the intention of the statute and the policy effects of the legal decision.

Allowing the family to seek recovery of punitive damage is the most logical decision for the court to reach. Otherwise a nursing home is less liable if their victim is killed than if the resident is merely injured. In other words, it would be financially beneficial for the nursing home’s negligence to cause death instead of an injury. It is a perverse outcome that should not be advanced by the law. The rule should instead reflect the principle that protects the well-being of these community members.

Steve Levin explained that “it’s a crucial safety rule and it’s an important principle that our most vulnerable citizens need.”

Over the next few days we will offer more detailed analysis of the issues involved in this important Illinois nursing home lawsuit. We urge all those interested in the care of our vulnerable community members to closely follow the developments of this decision.

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Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed Against Rosewood Care Center

Many residents enter nursing homes specifically needing 24-hour, around the clock care. For these vulnerable seniors, the only way that they can ensure that professional help is available at a moment’s notice is to move into the facility and live surrounded by those paid to provide that intense care. Unfortunately, far too many seniors enter negligent nursing homes and do not receive the level of care to which they are entitled. That negligence leads to unnecessary suffering and death.

For example, an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed by the family of a victim who died because of inadequate care at the Rosewood Care Center of Swansea. According to the suit, the victim died after a blood clot went untreated by the facility. The clot traveled to her lungs—known as a pulmonary embolism—which led to her death.

The victim’s family pursued the Illinois nursing home lawsuit specifically because they believe their loved one did not have proper supervision at the facility and consequently was not given the necessary medical treatment which could have saved her life. The nursing home resident was supposed to have 24-hour a day care, but they failed in this regard.

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Negligent Illinois Nursing Homes See Little Federal Aid

We recently posted a story explaining the latest information issued by the federal government regarding nursing homes that have been labeled “Special Focus Facilities” (SFF). The SFF initiative released a list that identified the improvement—or lack thereof—of the facilities participating in this program. The list classifies nursing homes into a variety of categories—improving, not improving, and those no longer participating.

Unfortunately, several Illinois nursing homes made the cut for those deemed to have not improved following efforts to minimize their care deficiencies. These include the Alden Wentworth Rehab and Healthcare Center in Chicago, Embassy Healthcare Center in Wilmington, Rockford Nursing and Rehab Center, and the Virgil Calvert Nursing & Rehab Center in East St. Louis.

A recent post by My Elder Advocate questions the federal commitment to the SFF program. It is noted that only $1 million are advocated for the effort across the entire country. With the huge number of facilities in the program and in need of extra care, that means that only $62 dollars have been spend per nursing home under the program—a paltry 66 cents per resident. Obviously, it’s hard to imagine any major initiatives being launched when such measly resources are invested.

Of course, much of the burden lies with the negligent facilities themselves. Stories continue to roll out of horrific examples of nursing home abuse and negligent at SFF locations. In New Jersey one resident killed another in a scuffle. Similarly, as reported on this blog, a dementia patient in New York killed his roommate with a door. An investigation in the same state led to the arrest of 22 people for resident neglect at a particular troubled facility. All of those homes were listed on the SFF list—but little has been done to fix what is obviously wrong there.

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Chicago Nursing Home Negligence At Wincrest Nursing Center May Lead to Closure

The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on federal action that indicates big trouble for a local nursing home.

The Wincrest Nursing Center on the city’s north side was found delinquent on many fronts following alarming federal inspections. Investigators uncovered stories of bloody fights between residents and rampant drug use and abuse. An earlier inquiry revealed that the Chicago nursing home had violated Illinois law by failing to notify the state of various individuals living there—the facility includes dozens of residents with felony records. Journalistic reports and complaints by nearby Loyola University officials indicate that illegal drug use and crime around the nursing facility has been a long-running problem.

The latest summary issued by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate that facility staff members were poorly trailed, provided inadequate supervision to risky residents, and failed to provide necessary psychiatric services to prevent the mental deterioration of many residents. The federal investigators learned that some residents were taking psychotropic drugs not prescribed to them. During the examinations several residents were openly found under the influence of drugs and alcohol within the home.

The shocking stories of Illinois nursing home negligence abound at Wincrest—including resident prostitution to support drug habits, violent attacks between residents, threatened knife fights, open drug use, and many similar issues.

As a result of these violations, the federal officials hit the facilities with fines totaling more than $400,000. They also threatened to immediately stop federal funding unless dramatic improvements were made to those patients in immediate jeopardy. The loss of such funding might be the death the knell for the facility as those payments account for nearly 99% of its funding.

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Aide Accused of Nursing Home Abuse with Deprivation of Bed Pad

The Chillicothe Gazette reported last week on disturbing new allegations at a nearby nursing home about poor treatment and elder abuse.

An aide at the facility is under investigation following an incident that occurred earlier this month. According to a report acquiring by the local police, the nursing home victim had trouble getting out of bed to reach the bathroom. Because of that he asked for a bed pan to prevent accidents. The aide who took the request apparently used the occasion to vent her temper. The aide took the bed pan and through it at the resident—it hit in the stomach and left a visible bruise.

Another resident reports the same aide yelling at the victim. When the victim similarly asked for a bed pan, the aide threw it about five feet from the bedridden resident, claimed that she “didn’t have time for this…[and that the victim] can use your diaper all night.”

The nursing home was informed of the allegations before the police investigation. However, it is yet unclear if the facility took any action.

Unfortunately, similar Illinois nursing home abuse occurs with startling frequency at facilities throughout our area. Readers of this blog are well aware of the egregious examples of delayed care, physical abuse, and sexual misconduct perpetrated against vulnerable seniors at many nearby facilities. Some of those local cases ultimately help raise awareness of the problem—usually after a Chicago nursing home lawsuit is filed. However, many other incidents go unreported and the victims continue to suffer in silence.

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Horrific Elder Abuse Case Highlights Need For Change

The Forbes Blog included a post last week that discussed one truly heartbreaking story of elder abuse. The example was shared as part of the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing that was held in Congress last week to discuss issues related to elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The committee is considering ways in which the federal government can become involved in ending these unacceptable problems facing far too many vulnerable seniors. A variety of individuals provided testimony at the hearing to shed light on the issues.

One testimony shared the story of an elderly mother who became bedridden after suffering physical mobility problems, dementia, and isolation. Her son was supposed to be taking care of her, but he did nothing of the sort. Instead, while his mother spent weeks on end without being moved from her bed, her son would cash her pension payments and use the proceeds at his whim.

The elder victim was essentially forced to rot in bed—literally calling out for help to neighbors through open windows. The neighbors ignored her pleas. As a result, the victim developed 8 large pressure sores, some to the bone, eventually dying without a single person coming to her aid.

Shockingly, this abusive treatment is not uncommon. All blog readers are well aware of the continued examples of Illinois nursing home abuse. Even those aging citizens who remain at home have a high chance of suffering maltreatment. A new survey found that a startlingly 47% of people with dementia who are treated by family members are mistreated in some form.

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Corporations Seek Tort Reform To Take Away Rights of Illinois Nursing Home Victims

An article in the Huffington Post last week emphasized a principle that we have discussed often on this blog: the effect tort reform will have on limiting valid Illinois nursing home lawsuits. The story attempted to provide context to the often misleading claims made by proponents of reform.

One tactic used to distort the effect of these reform efforts is to mention large verdicts reached by juries in a few isolated cases that seem unfair out of context. For example, the most high-profile case mentioned is that of the elderly McDonald’s customer who was awarded $3 million following horrific burns she suffered when an employee spilled boiling coffee into her lap. The award was deemed by some as a sign of “what was wrong” with the American civil justice system.

However, a closer look at that particular case provides a more appropriate filter though which to examine the personal injury lawsuit. The 82-year old victim’s burns were only inches from her private area, ultimately requiring a variety of skin grafts. She was certainly not the only person harmed by McDonalds in this way. Over 700 people had already made formal complaints to the company because of the coffee situation. However, those complaints had done nothing to change the McDonalds practice of serving coffee at temperatures up to 205 degrees Fahrenheit—sufficient to peel skin off bones in less than seven seconds.

The elderly victim in the original case only sought to have her medical bills paid for by the negligent company. Instead, after hearing the evidence, the jury decided that the only way to get the company to change its dangerous practice (because 700 victims apparently had no effect) was to hit the company in the pocketbook. The jury, made up of community members, therefore decided to award the $3 million in that particular case to emphasis the company’s extreme negligence in allowing victims to mount without implementing any changes.

Unfortunately, that back-story is rarely explained, allowing the myth of certain lawsuit oversteps to be perpetuated. The truth remains that tort reform efforts are pushed by big businesses seeking to insulate themselves from the responsibility of paying for the consequences of their behavior. Instead of accepting the duty to compensate victims of their negligence, these large companies, from medical providers to nursing home conglomerates, would rather rig the system so that legal rights are taken away from the people they harm.

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Illinois Lawsuit Affecting Seniors Ends with $68.5 Million Settlement

The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend an agreement reached with the large pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca following a multistate drug lawsuit.

The Illinois drug lawsuit stemmed from apparent “off label” use of the drug Seroquel. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults. However, the drug has been used to treat children and the elderly with those conditions as well as adults with a variety of ailments, anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Doctors are allowed to prescribe medications for “off label” purposes, but drug companies are prohibited from marketing their products for those non-approved uses. However, the marketing issue was not the only problem. The Illinois attorney general, along with investigators from other states, discovered that the large pharmaceutical giant was failing to disclose the drugs’ potential side effects—hyperglycemia, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and weight gain.

The pair of problems placed many seniors at risk of suffering unknown complications from the drug.

According to the settlement reached by the company with 35 states, AstraZeneca agreed to pay $68.5 million. They will also change their marketing format and properly disclose side-effects so as not to violate the law. This latest agreement comes on the heels of a similar settlement reached by the company with the U.S. government. Last April, AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million for its “off label” marketing of Seroquel.

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The Disturbing Truth About Illinois Elder Abuse

Too little awareness is usually raised about the plight faced by senior seniors living in poor conditions or facing daily abuse. As was vividly displayed in the Congressional hearings on elder abuse last week, the vast majority of senior abuse is never reported. The silence is akin to acceptance, meaning that suffering victims are forced to endure unacceptable conditions—often until their death.

To help cut down on those sufferers, King News recently published a quick list of tips that can help all community members better notice the warning signs of elder abuse. For example, all bruising, skin abrasions, or pressure marks may be signs of abuse or neglect. When those physical identifiers are found near the breasts or genital area than sexual abuse may have occurred.

Emotional problems are often at play when a senior suddenly withdraws from normal activities or appears depressed. Observers should watch the relationship between a senior and caregiver closely to determine if there are arguments or indicators of tense interactions.

In nursing homes, the perpetrators of the Illinois nursing home abuse are varied, from nurses and administrators to aides and other residents. No matter who is the direct cause of the conduct, however, it is often difficult for a resident to find justice. In many cases embarrassment and shame prevent seniors from coming forward with information about the problem. For others, they may not be able to physically or mentally do anything to stop the misconduct or report it.

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Some Illinois Nursing Homes on Federal Watch List Not Improving

Many Illinois nursing homes have been deemed in need of quality improvement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). These poor nursing homes are part of a program aimed at improving the care provided to vulnerable residents—a project known as the Special Focus Facility Initiative. The list of delinquent facilities was compiled following CMS inspections indentifying poor care and safety hazards at various locations.

The inspections revealed that there were certain nursing homes that were clearly providing extremely substandard care—these homes had more problems that were more serious and had persisted for a longer period of time than at other locations. The improvement program was targeted at these egregious displays of inadequate nursing home care.

Be sure to check out the CMS website to learn more details about the creation of the program and the specific components of its operation.

Recently, the SFF initiative released a list that identified the improvement—or lack thereof—of the facilities participating in this program. Most usefully, the list classifies nursing homes into a variety of categories—improving, not improving, and those no longer participating.

Unfortunately, several Illinois nursing homes made the cut for those deemed to have not improved following efforts to minimize their care deficiencies. These include the Alden Wentworth Rehab and Healthcare Center in Chicago, Embassy Healthcare Center in Wilmington, Rockford Nursing and Rehab Center, and the Virgil Calvert Nursing & Rehab Center in East St. Louis.

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October Declared Nursing Home Residents Rights Month

The Consumer Voice, one of the nation’s leading advocacy groups for nursing home residents and their families, recently announced that October will be declared “Resident’s Rights Month.” The new initiative, expanded from what was previously a week-long effort, will include a month of raising awareness of the needs and rights of nursing home residents across the country.

Many advocates in this state share in the call to speak out about the issue with the goal of honoring senior community members and assisting victims of Illinois nursing home abuse. The Consumer Voice hopes that the celebration will offer opportunities for all nursing home and long-term care facilities to re-commit themselves to honoring the dignity and respect each elderly resident deserves.

Far too often senior residents are forgotten citizens, relegated to an almost invisible life within the walls of their facility. To help residents break out of that cycle this year’s month-long theme is “Welcome Home: Creating Connections Between Residents and the Community.” It is hoped that individuals outside of the nursing home—resident friends, family, and advocates—will use the opportunity to become more involved with the senior residents at local facilities.

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Most Nursing Homes Employ At Least One Criminal

Last week the New York Times published a summary of a frightening new study that suggests that nursing homes may not be as safe as many suspect.

The research centered on better understanding bad nursing home employees and was led by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The department obtained the names of 35,000 nursing home employees and then checked those names with the FBI. The results indicate a concern for all those interested in resident safety.

At least 92 percent of nursing homes were found to employee at least one individual with a criminal conviction. Almost 50 percent had five or more employees with those convictions. Perhaps even more shocking, 16 percent of the convictions occurred after the employee began work at the nursing home—suggesting that many may pose a clear and present risk to the residents.

A nursing professor explained the impact of the results, “This sounds like a very important study. It cries out for additional regulation. Residents in these homes are so vulnerable.”

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Alden Village North Nursing Home in Chicago May Be Closed By State Officials

Blog readers are well aware of the continued string of problems facing Alden Village North, an oft negligent Illinois nursing home. Over the past several years, revelations have uncovered shocking misconduct and poor treatment of the mentally disabled children residing at the Chicago nursing home.

Since 2000 at least 13 children have died at the facility because of negligence by caregivers. Last year there were several additional unannounced inspections at Alden Village. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Department of Health may soon revoke the license of the facility, which will have the effect of closing the location.

Reports indicate that state officials are taking action now before another tragedy occurs. New owners took over the nursing home in 2008. However, since that time, more than eight serious violations of Illinois nursing home law have already been uncovered.

For her part, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked the state regulatory board for records of complaints levied against employees at Alden Village North and all others in the Alden Village chain. She hopes to work closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to discipline all caregivers who fail to provide the care to which residents deserve.

The attorney general shared the story of a 14-year old boy who died because of the facility’s negligence. The victim began breathing rapidly, and his doctor was called. However, it took over 19 hours and paging the doctor over six times before he showed up. Far too many other children suffered similar neglect at the Alden Village North over the years.

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Nursing Home Lawsuit Ends in $9.5 Million Wrongful Death Verdict

The Atlanta Journal Constitution passed along news this weekend of the culmination of a nursing home lawsuit.

The wrongful death case stemmed from the passing of a 51-year old woman who died following complications stemming from her untreated pressure sores. The suit was filed against County Crossing Assisted Living, its owner, and Hutcheson Home Health Care. In early 2006, the victim was brought to the Hutcheson Home to receive care which was itself outsourced to County Crossing. It was clear, however, that neither health care provider was giving the victim the care that she needed.

The woman had cerebral palsy and several infected pressure ulcers on her body. However, the facility failed to take appropriate steps to treat the ulcers (also known as bed sores). The family alleges that only one of the many sores was ever treated. Following the victim’s death, the woman’s family filed a lawsuit which ended in a week-long trial last week. The jury ultimately determined that the health care providers had committed serious misconduct. They awarded the family $9.5 million for the wrongful death and pain and suffering.

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Three Employees Charged with Nursing Home Abuse

Many vulnerable nursing home residents often suffer injury and death because of negligent, careless actions by those charged with their safety. When that happens, it may be appropriate that the victims and their families to file a nursing home lawsuit to seek recourse for their losses.

Beyond the poor care provided by some facilities, one form of even more morally bankrupt conduct still occurs with too much frequency—overt nursing home abuse. Beyond mere lack of reasonableness, this constitutes active steps taken by a nursing home employee to physically or emotionally harm a senior in their care. It constitutes an egregious affront to the basic standards of decency that our society expects in all interactions.

Mercury News recently reported on an example of nursing home abuse. Last week three nursing home employees were arrested on suspicion of elder abuse. According to reports, one of the employees, a 27-year old male nursing aide, physically grabbed a resident’ genitalia and pulled on them. Apparently the resident had made a complaint to the employee right before the conduct. The abuse occurred as a result of the complaint, and the abuser made crude comments to the resident during the incident.

Further investigation revealed that the employee had reported attack the resident in the same way in the past. He apparently threatened to “touch” him often in an effort to torment the vulnerable victim. Two other employees knew that the abuse was occurring but did nothing to stop it—violating state law requirements to report this abuse.

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DePuy Hip Recall Lawsuits Continue To Mount

As we’ve previously reported, the problem with the DePuy hip implants was uncovered last year, prompting the official recall in August of 2010. Many victims of the recall are senior citizens and nursing home residents. Complaints about the devices go back to 2005. Nearly 100,000 patients received the specific metal-on-metal implant in question in the six years it was used. At least 12,000 of those patients will likely face severe complications as the device fails, requiring corrective surgery. Many of those patients may not be aware of their risk.

The failure of the devices caused metallic particles to be released in patient bodies. The particles then may enter the bloodstream ultimately risking a range of problems from deafness and dementia to heart failure. The consequences cannot be overstated.

Just this week WHEC News reported on even more DePuy hip recall lawsuits. Seven people have recently filed suit against the manufacturer of the defective hip implants, DePuy Orthopaedics. One of the victims had the cobalt and chromium implant that began dispelling metal shaving into his body. Those shavings eventually made their way into the man’s bloodstream, causing extreme inflammation. Only a year and a half later, he needed replacement surgery.

His story is the same one faced by many other victims. One attorney explained the conduct of the business responsible for the problem, “this company had basically wanted to continue to make money off of these implants as long as they could, and as a result a lot of people have been. [will]…have multiple surgeries.”

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Congress Consider Issues Affecting Illinois Nursing Home Abuse

This week the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to discuss issues related to elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. The committee is considering ways in which the federal government can become involved in ending these unacceptable problems facing far too many vulnerable seniors. A variety of individuals provided testimony at the hearing to shed light on the issues.

Actor and senior advocate Mickey Rooney opened the hearing with discussions about the elder financial abuse that he suffered at the hands of a close relative. He urged Congress to take a variety of measure to help prevent abuses like the one he suffered, as well as other forms of elder abuse. Mr. Rooney also encouraged seniors to come forward and share their stories, as silence is one of the main reasons why bad conduct continues without punishment. His advice remains apt to all those suffering from Illinois nursing home abuse.

A variety of other advocates and experts in the area also testified to the committee in an attempt to shed more specific light on the problems facing many seniors, including nursing home residents. For example, Dr. Mark Lachs explained his own research which indicates that for every case of abuse that is actually identified, there are 24 cases that are never brought to light.

Overall, the witnesses recommended that leadership on the issue of elder abuse needed to come at the federal level. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Herb Kohl, mentioned that he planned on introducing legislation to address the issue in the near future.

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Examining the Cost of the DePuy Hip Recall

Last month Lawyers & Settlements took a look at the effect that the DePuy hip recall might have on the parent company responsible for defect in the product, Johnson & Johnson.

Blog readers are aware that nearly 100,000 of the implants were recalled by the company in August after evidence mounted quickly showing the extreme danger the product presented to patients. Many of the patients included Illinois nursing home residents who have suffered complications from the product, including irreparable harm to their bodies. Each time a joint is redone some bone is lost in the patient’s body.

As a result, a large number of DePuy recall lawsuits have been filed by victims seeking to recover for their losses. To help account for the expected payouts, the company has already set aside $922 million in its 4th quarter financial report from last year. Some experts expect the costs to rise much higher than that as literally thousands of victims continue to step forward after suffering the dangerous consequences of the problematic medical device.

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Effect of the Recession on Illinois Nursing Home Residents

Most consumers of long-term care services, like nursing homes, are aware of the role that public funding has on many of these facilities. In particular, state resources are generally provided in various ways to these facilities, with the effects of that aid, regulation, and support felt each day by many Illinois nursing home residents.

Of course, the now lingering economic recession has affected state budgets across the country—Illinois is no exception. Recently the AARP has compiled a report that helps the average senior better understand the effect that this recession has had on the resources provided to state programs affecting seniors and adults with physical disabilities.

For example, the Illinois profile in the report explains how the decrease in Illinois revenue this year will affect seniors. The analysts indicate that they expect waiting lists for certain programs to increase and for certain services normally provided to seniors to be cut. In general, the percentage of Illinois senior citizen who receives some sort of assistance from the state will decrease this year due to the cuts. Please take a look at the full-length report to get a more detailed analysis of the way these changes will affect Illinois nursing homes.

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Illinois Senior Citizens Should Remain On Lookout For Scams

Last week we reported on a pair of con artists that were targeting senior citizens. In those cases, the victims received knocks on their door following heavy rains. They were then confronted about the dangerous conditions of their roof. The con artists would ask to be let inside to examine the condition and would steal valuables while distracting the victim during the fake home inspection.

Another case of elderly financial exploitation is being reported in the Wilton Patch. In this latest case, the victim was ultimately bilked out of a staggering sum of money, totaling over $1 million. This example is particularly egregious because it involves lies and deceptions to an elderly woman made by her own financial advisor.

According to reports, the victim was an 89 year old widow who was taken advantage of by her financial advisor and the advisor’s husband. The husband-wife team reportedly convinced the woman to write check after check to an account set up by the husband to benefit local firefighters. However, the money the victim wrote to benefit that charitable account went directly into the couple’s pockets.

Records indicate that the two thieves used the woman’s funds to pay off their own credit card debts, made thousands of dollars in new purchases, and furnish a new home.

Fortunately the family of the elderly victim eventually uncovered the ruse after closely scrutinizing the woman’s finances. They have filed a lawsuit against the husband and wife as well as the financial services business where the wife was employed while the fraud was occurring.

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Illinois Nursing Home May Be Unprepared to Handle Young Mentally Ill Residents

Each month the Consumer Voice and National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center produce a monthly newsletter dealing with many nursing home issues. The publication is useful for all those interesting in keeping up with the important information about Illinois nursing home law, policy, and care.

For example, this February issue included an article discussing a new challenge facing many nursing homes—the care of young mentally disabled residents. The stereotype of most long-care care facilities is that they are filled with elderly residents who move-in when they need close assistance that they cannot receive while living in their own home. To be sure, most nursing homes continue to work with a majority of elderly residents. However, facilities are now also often filled with younger residents possessing a variety of different needs.

Of the over 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes nationwide, nine percent are younger individuals with mental illnesses. In 2002, those residents accounted for only six percent of the total, indicating a 40% increase in the number of younger residents throughout the nursing home system. Some specific parts of the country have witnessed even larger population shifts, with younger residents accounting for up to 16% of residents in a few places.

It is unclear what effect the shifting demographic will have on the care provided at many of these facilities. One report explained that many nursing homes may be unprepared to handle the changes, explaining that “a national trend toward placing younger, physically able people with mental illness in nursing homes…poses a risk to older, frailer residents.”

One problem is that many workers at nursing homes are trained to deal with elderly residents but have little knowledge of working with younger individuals in need of specialized assistance. Many care workers are also untrained in handling residents with substance abuse and mental health problems, which is a growing trend among the new residents.

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