New Study Finds Serious Deficiencies at For-Profit Nursing Homes

Many advocates working to improve the care of local seniors and eliminate nursing home neglect have questioned the care provided at many for-profit facilities. The consistent conflict between prioritizing patient care and maximizing profit is undeniable. Unfortunately, a new University of California San Francisco study published yesterday by Health Services Research has found that those concerns are likely warranted. The research examined care at the ten largest nursing home chains in the country. It was the first ever study examining this specific group, and the results are depressing. The track-record for all nursing homes was not impressive, but the care provided by for-profit facilities was found to be particularly poor. It should give all those who have a loved one in one of these homes pause. If caregivers themselves are not prioritizing resident well-being, it falls to outside friends, family members, and elder care advocates to ensure that nursing home abuse and neglect does not persist.

The team of researchers found that the poor scores on various quality of care measures were most directly attributed to decreases in nursing staff levels at many of these homes. One of the individuals in charge of the efforts explained her belief that the drive for profits incentivizes these homes to keep labor costs low. That is usually accomplished by shrinking the nursing staff—nurses’ salaries are larger than assistants. However, by prioritizing reduction in costs, quality of care for residents suffers. It does not take detailed analysis to understand that when there are less trained professionals providing close and consistent care to each resident, there is an increased likelihood of health problems going unnoticed. Resident health can suffer when preventable problems are caught too late because nurses are spending less time with these residents that necessary or reasonable.

These findings related to the problematic care at for-profit homes is validation of the fears that many advocates have echoed following the reorganization of many nursing home businesses. In the past, the largest homes were publically traded companies. However, many of them went bankrupt, and lately most of these chains have been bought by private equity companies. These private equity companies pool money from investors who then share in the profits or in the losses. These firm managers therefore have significant pressures to do anything necessary to make money for those investors. Making money requires profit maximization at the homes, which lead to staffing cuts. This is often profitable for those wealthy owners, but it frequently results in nursing home neglect for those vulnerable seniors at the facilities.

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have joined in the call questioning these tactics. Unfortunately, this latest research has validated many of those concerns. These for-profit homes have been found with nearly 50% more serious deficiencies than at comparable non-profit and government-run nursing homes. These discrepancies were likely caused in large part by significant differences in total nursing staff hour between these different types of homes. Many local residents are affected by these problems. The ten chains involved in this study alone account for over 2,000 facilities which includes 13% of the entire national nursing home population. That means tens of thousands of seniors are hurt each and every year because of a failure to prioritize their basic well-being by those charged with that task.

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Advocates Asked to Take Action to Curb Nursing Home Antipsychotic Drug Use

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have long been aware of the “chemical restraint” problem in many local facilities. This refers to the use of certain medications in facilities not because they are necessary for the health of the resident but because they make the senior easier to control. Of course, the drug use has significant detrimental effects on the quality of life of the resident and poses unique health risks to certain seniors. Under no circumstances should local nursing home residents be given these powerful medications unless completely necessary. Overmedication of residents in these ways is clearly a form of elder abuse and it needs to be curbed.

Fortunately, more and more voices are standing up against the dangerous overuse of these drugs. For example, the Consumer Voice recently sent out a call urging local advocates to play a role in ending the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Curbing the drug use is at the top of the organization’s advocacy agenda this week, and they noted how it can result in confusion, falls, loss of independence, and even death. The problem is significant considering that twenty six percent of all nursing home residents in all facilities across the country receive some form of antipsychotic medication. Among those who have cognitive impairments—like dementia—the rate is a shocking forty percent. That number is made is even more stark when one considers that the drug has not be approved by used with dementia patients and actually has a “black box” warning that use among dementia patients may lead to a higher risk of death.

Clearly the situation has gotten out of hand, and it important for all those who care about the lives of this vulnerable community to work to change the situation. There are various efforts being taken at the national level to curb the problem. For example, tomorrow, Wednesday, November 30th, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a hearing on the issue. The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. in Room 562 of the Dirksen senate Office Building. For all those not in the Washington D.C. area, the hearing will be broadcast online. Entitled, “Overprescribed: The Human and Taxpayers’ costs of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes,” the hearing will include a wide range of testimony including that of a member of the Consumer Voice’s Leadership Council—Toby Edelman. In addition, the Consumer Voice’s public policy resolutions on over-prescription will be included in the testimony.

Besides following these federal developments, the Consumer Voice is also encouraging advocates to follow a letter which will begin gathering signatures this week related to the conflict of interest of long-term care pharmacists. The letter will specifically address proposed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid proposals which would issue regulations to end consultant pharmacists’ ability to become affiliated with long-term care pharmacies or companies leading to inappropriate prescribing of those businesses’ drugs. That connection between the pharmacist and company also leads to inappropriate marketing of antipsychotic drugs.

The Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers at Levin & Perconti understand the harm that these overmedications have on so many vulnerable seniors. We urge all local residents to following the committee hearing, sign the Consumer Voice letter, and take a stand against these inappropriate actions. Collective effort is always the best way to enact system-wide change that may improve the lives of millions of these vulnerable friends and family members and put an end to this form of nursing home neglect.

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Governor Quinn Signs Family Medical Records Legislation

Our Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys work with many family members who are seeking legal action on behalf of their deceased senior loved one who died after receiving inadequate care. Legal cases involving a death present a few legal complications that do not exist in cases where the one harmed is alive and named as a plaintiff. Usually cases following a death are actual multiple cases, one filed in the relatives’ own name as a wrongful death lawsuit and another in the name of the victim’s estate.

Beyond these basic procedural differences, cases with the death of a loved have also presented some evidentiary problems. For one thing, it was often time-consuming and needlessly complicated for loved ones to obtain the medical records of their deceased relatives. These records are essential in nursing home neglect lawsuits, because a key factor in the legal case involves issues of harm to the resident, how they died, and for what ailments they were treated. It is incumbent for those involved in these suits to obtain the medical records of their loved one so that these and other medical facts can be understood and conclusively established. Yet, obtaining the records has always presented a red tape hurdle for family members. That is because a separate legal court proceeding had to be initiated to get access to those records.

Fortunately, common sense recently prevailed, and the law has been changed to allow for an easier method for family members to obtain the medical records of a loved one. The official “opening” of an estate is no longer necessary following Pat Quinn’s signature of SB 1694—a Senate bill that changes the medical records process. Per the terms of the new law, the deceased’s executor, administrator, or agent can submit a written request for the records without initiating a separate legal proceeding. If none of those parties exists (and the deceased did not object to disclosure while alive), then a spouse, adult children, parents or siblings of the deceased may obtain the documents after a written request. The legislation which changed the process includes specific language that can be used in the written request by the relatives. It includes a relatively brief few sentences whereby the writer certifies that they are the appropriate relation to the deceased and then formally requested for the documents.

The death of a loved one is perhaps the toughest experience that many residents go through. Our Chicago injury lawyers know that the situation is often made worse when the death was caused in full or part by the misconduct of another. Our lawyers know that the last thing these families need are any more unnecessary legal hurdles that take up time, money, and emotional stress. This bipartisan bill was long overdue, and it represents a simple way that lawmakers can help the lives of community members without any cost. We applaud those involved in this decision, and look forward to helping families take advantage of the new system when it relates to legal matters.

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Nursing Home Abuse Uncovered By Advocacy Group

The Oakland Press reported yesterday on new allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect affecting disabled residents. The state’s Protection & Advocacy service uncovered a string of abuse at area nursing homes, with two severe cases highlighted. Following the discoveries, the organization has made specific recommendations to involved state agencies to prevent future mistreatment at all of these long-term care facilities.

Both newly discovered cases involved female nursing home residents whose bodies became infested with maggots because of the inadequate care they received by their nursing home providers. It does not take a special advocate to come to the conclusion that if one is paid to provide care to a senior or otherwise disabled individual that it is negligent to prevent maggots from living on wounds on the disable residents’ bodies. In one case, the insects were found living in the woman’s trachea. The infestation required hospitalization, and it is unclear what the long-term ramifications will be, though she is expected to survive. In the second case, the nursing home victim was found with maggots in her catheter while living at the facility. When the problem was uncovered, she was rushed to the hospital as well. Fortunately, she is also expected to survive.

The nursing home neglect did not go without minimal recourse from state officials. One of the negligent facilities was fined $34,000 while the other received a $17,600 fine. The facility also said that there will be increased monitoring and make some personnel changes. While some sanction is better than none, the total punishment faced by the facility is often insufficient to make the facility enact the sweeping changes likely necessary to prevent these horrific cases of neglect. Of course, these fines do nothing to provide any recourse for the harm caused to the victims because of the mistreatment. Advocates are pushing for changes to be made that would require background checks on employees and to require those who observe mistreatment and neglect to report it.

Unfortunately, these two cases of abuse are just the tip of the iceberg. The agency involved explained that there are many other cases of abuse that have been cited in the hundreds of facilities across the state. One spokesman reported that “examples of abuse and neglect range from maggot infestations and dangerous errors in medicine dosing to choking, restraining, burning, and death.” Officials also report that the total number of mistreatment is likely much higher than many suspect, because more cases than not go unreported.

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Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuits Alleges Neglect at VIP Manor

The Madison-St. Clair Record reported this week on a new Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuit brought by the special administrator of a deceased man who may have been killed because of inadequate treatment at his long-term care facility. According to the report, the fifty two year old man was at the VIP Manor facility in Edwardsville when he was taken from the facility to a nearby hospital. Upon his arrival at the medical facility, care workers discovered that he had severe bedsores, infection, and low blood pressure. While at the facility, the man was also diagnosed with a bone infection in his lower spine. During that infection treatment, the victim developed an infection of the colon—colitis. The colitis was caused by bacteria overgrowth. He ultimately died a month after he was first brought to the hospital. The suit that was filed in this case alleges the involved facility violated the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, leading to the harm.

Of course, bed sores (also known as pressure sores) are common indicators of nursing home neglect. These serious skin breakdowns are almost always preventable so long as proper, hydration, nutrition, repositioning, and skin treatment are provided. Nursing home staff members are aware of the risks of pressure sores, and it is incumbent that they be properly trained to prevent their development. Failure to do so is negligence, and victims who suffer harm as a result of the bed sores have legal rights to hold the facility and caregivers accountable.

Many local residents are unsure what legal issues are involved when the actual loved one that they suspect was mistreated has passed away. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have worked with many families in this situation. A variety of legal options are available to these families. An Illinois wrongful death lawsuit can be filed, which is brought by a victim’s children, spouse, or parents (and sometimes siblings). They seek to compensate the victim for the specific losses that they suffered as a result of their family member being taken from this.

In addition, a suit can also be brought on behalf of the losses suffered by the deceased him or herself. In those situations, as here, the suit is technically brought by a “special administrator” of the estate of the victim. These survivorship cases seek compensation for the harm to the individual killed. Any recourse that is awarded is then returned to the victim’s estate. It will then be distributed as other items in the man’s estate

Continue reading "Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuits Alleges Neglect at VIP Manor" »

Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Accusation Involving Withholding Medication at Manor Court Nursing Home

The Republic reported late last week on a particularly troubling allegation of Illinois nursing home neglect. According to the report, a nursing home nurse was recently charged with criminal elder abuse and neglect for her treatment of a resident at the facility where she worked. Specifically, the forty six year old nurse was arrested by Madison County authorities in southwestern Illinois after accusations of medication problems at the Manor Court nursing home.

Prosecutors believe that the nurse consciously decided to withhold medication from an eighty three year old resident of the nursing home. The information that is currently available suggests that the medication withdrawal occurred over a forty five day period from January to February of this year. The victim was eventually hospitalized for a time, but he was then brought back to the nursing home. He later died at the facility. Further analysis is necessary to determine whether or not the medication withholding was specifically a cause of the man’s death. It is also unclear what motivated the nurse to refuse to give the medication to the senior who counted on it. More information will hopefully come out as evidence is collected. The woman is currently charged with criminal neglect of an elderly person with bail set as $75,000.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys are proud to have years of experience working with victims of this nursing home mistreatment throughout the state. We have helped families in the Madison County region who had loved ones suffer injury or death because they did not receive the level of care to which they were entitled. When the mistreatment leads to the death of a loved one (as it may have done in this case), then a wrongful death lawsuit and survivor’s action are usually both filed to hold the wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

If the allegations in this case are true, then the misconduct may be easier to prove. Usually, a significant part of these cases revolves around proving that a nursing home employee or facility was negligent, leading to the harm. Negligence is a lower level of mental culpability than intentional actions. Negligence depends on a reasonableness analysis that requires the presentation of a variety of evidence regarding the actions of the involved parties and comparing those actions against those normally conducted by a reasonable person in the situation. However, when intentional misconduct occurs, much of that analysis essentially proves itself. It takes much less work to show that intentionally withholding medication from a senior patient in need is inappropriate and may lead to harm to the victim.

If you believe that a loved one in a nursing home may have been hurt by the improper actions of the facility, please do not let it go by without notice. Take the time to visit with an Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer, explain the situation, and see what legal options are available. That is the only way that true accountability can be had and changes can be spurred at a facility that may spare the lives of future victims.

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Nursing Home Choking Death Leads to Verdict for Plaintiff

The Macomb Daily reported last week on the end of a new nursing home abuse lawsuit following the death of a resident from a choking accident. According to reports, that estate of the victim was awarded $2.35 million after a jury found the involved nursing facility negligent in allowing the man to choke to death when he was eating at the home. The 56-year old victim was eating at the dining hall in the negligent nursing home eating lunch when the accident struck. The man was wheelchair bound, had type I diabetes, and was in the early stages of dementia. He had suffered a stroke-like condition which necessitated his time in the facility.

When eating lunch, the man had a large, golf ball sized meatball. It was clear that the resident should never have had the food item, because his condition gave him swallowing problems. When he tried to eat it, the meatball became clogged in his throat. He soon became unable to breathe. A single staff member was in the nursing home dining room at the time. The employee did not know the Heimlich maneuver. Therefore, instead of providing life-saving treatment right away, she wheeled the man over 40 feet to a nurse’s station. The movement of the chair only made things worse, forcing the stuck food object deeper into his throat.

A nurse eventually came upon the victim and unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the object. The team then tried to use an “ambu bag” to force air into the man’s lungs. Yet, it was later explained that this action may actually have exacerbated the problem. It wasn’t until 12 minutes later that 911 was called. By the time EMS officials arrived, the workers found few life indicators. The meatball was removed with forceps, but the man had oxygen deprived for too long. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers have worked with local victims in this exact situation. Illinois nursing home choking accidents occur far too frequently in our area, taking the life of residents that should have been prevented. For example, just last year we reported on our involvement in the settlement of two different Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuits. In both cases, the victims were given the incorrect food and were not properly monitored, leading to their passing.

One of the victims died at the Glenshire Nursing Home in Richton Park. The 47-year old man was in the facility for rehab purposes and was expected to be released in a few weeks. He had recently had a few teeth extracted and was put on a soft foods diet by his doctor. However, ignoring orders, he was given a hot dog and left alone. He was eventually unable to properly swallow the item, it became lodged in his throat, and he died. In the second case, the seventy-six year old victim was a resident of the Hickory Nursing Pavilion in Hickory Hills. He was eating dinner in the facility’s dining room when he began choking. The man—who had suffered a brain injury in a car accident years earlier—was supposed to be on a pureed diet. However, he was given solid foods instead, leading to the choking and death.

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Resident Choking Remains Dangerous Nursing Home Risk

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Investigation Reveals Series of Nursing Home Residents Neglect, Abuse, and Rape

The more cases of nursing home abuse that one reads about, the more certain patterns to the mistreatment become clear. No matter where the home is located, when senior abuse or neglect is at issue it almost always stems from one of two scenarios: an understaffed facility or facilities that hire individuals who pose dangers to residents. Understaffing is likely a more common problem. Most nursing home nurses, assistants, and physicians have the best interests of the residents at heart, but because of time pressures they can make glaring mistakes that lead to resident harm. Yet, individually reckless and intentionally abusive employees also exist. When they are given charge of residents, the damage can be extreme.

This problem of personally abusive nursing home employees exists at more facilities than many community members might suspect. For example, the Spec News discussed a new investigation which uncovered a string of nursing home abuse, including even extreme physical abuse and rape. In one case uncovered by the investigation, a 71-year old dementia resident was raped while lying in her nursing home bed. The perpetrator was a male nurse whom other staff members had suspicions about. They had previously noted that the male nurse regularly disappeared on his shift without any explanation. The rape was only uncovered when other staff members walked into the nurse raping the senior in the middle of the night. It remains unclear how many other residents the attacker also abused. Considering that so many seniors cannot explain their abuse to others, particularly those with advanced mental issues, it may never be known.

Unfortunately, there are times when staff members are not forthright about the abuse and mistreatment that they see existing among their co-workers. For example, in another documented case, a nursing home staff member was seen by at least two co-workers physically assaulting a resident. The attacker told the witnesses not to tell anyone. Instead of prioritizing the well being of the resident and ensuring that other residents were not similarly harmed, the co-workers decided to stay quiet. It is easy to imagine how much mistreatment and neglect occurs without being brought to light when even non-participating employees refuse to demand accountability.

This latest investigation found over a dozens situations where the abuse in question was so serious that the police should have been called. Not only were authorities not called, but no disciplinary action of any kind was taken by the facilities in questions. It is a sad reminder that far too many nursing homes and their administrators prioritize their own positions over those of the seniors who are counting on them for proper care.

No senior should have to endure this damage in their golden years. Far too many elders are forced to spend their golden years in fear of their very caregivers or wondering if they will receive the basic help they need to get by each day. Please do not let this condition persist without stepping in. If you suspect that any senior in your area has being mistreated, get in touch with our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers to share your story and see how we can help.

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New Medicare Website Provides More Resources For Consumers

The elder abuse attorneys at our firm believe strongly that transparency and accountability are the hallmarks of improving care at facilities nationwide. One of the great tragedies of nursing home abuse and neglect is that so much of it flies under the radar screen. That seeming invisibility—at least among those who do not work in this field—is a key reason why the mistreatment perpetuates. Hopefully the silence on the topic soon changes. One of the ways that might happen is with continued advancements like a recent upgrade of the official Medicare “Nursing Home Compare” website.

The official Medicare nursing home website has long been a good resource for families working through the process of finding an appropriate facility for their loved one. Improvements are being unrolled now, however, that offer even more benefit for these families and seniors. The new redesign now allows residents and their families to more easily file complaints against homes where they have experienced mistreatment. Following the changes, consumers can now file complaints directly with state agencies and used standardized complaint forms. Then, following the submission, the complaints will be made available to the public for browsing consumers to have a complete picture of the care provided at the facility.

While these changes offering easier access to complaint forms are simple, they may have significant effects on the way care is provided. Many more families than not consider filing a complaint or taking action against a negligent caregiver than ever actually take steps to do so. The choice between staying silent and speaking out often hinges on a simple nudge in one direction or another. Having the ability to share one’s situation online, directly to the appropriate state agency, without additional steps may be just such a nudge that encourage more sharing. The accountability provided by families who have actually experienced the care is a crucial check on nursing home actions. All efforts that make it very easy to make ones experience known may go a long way to encourage these facilities to take long-needed steps to improve their treatment of residents.

In addition, our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers were happy to learn that beginning next year the CMS website will begin to display the results of new quality measures on nationwide nursing homes. The measures will be based on the new MDS 3.0 nursing home resident assessments. These upgraded measurements will replace currently available assessments. Those familiar with the site should note that the federal officials will not calculate their traditional 5 star rankings based upon this new data until at least April of next year.

We hope that the upgrades to this important federal nursing home site will draw even more searchers to the important resource. Preventing nursing home neglect and mistreatment requires careful research on the part of community members such that they educate themselves enough to steer clear of the consistently underperforming homes. That is why the CMS website can be easily navigated with searches by city, county, zip, or nursing home name.

Continue reading "New Medicare Website Provides More Resources For Consumers" »

Nolo Contendere Plea Following Criminal Charges Filed Against Abusive Nursing Home Nurse

Our Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys were saddened to learn that yet another nursing home professional was arrested and charged with abusing an elderly man in his care. According to the Bristol-Warren Patch, the nurse was arrested last year after local authorities received a complaint from nearby hospital officials. It seems that an eighty year old resident of the facility had entered the hospital with injuries consistent with a physical attack. The resident explained that he was assaulted by a nurse at the facility.

Following the complaint, a formal investigation was conducted and the male nurse was eventually formally accused of abusing the patient. The local prosecutor’s office reviewed the charges and issued a formal indictment—a official criminal charge. Following the progression of the criminal elder abuse case, the nurse eventually entered a plea of nolo contendere (no contest). He was given a two year suspended sentence, two years of probation, and must complete 100 hours of community service.

A “no contest” plea in this criminal matter may have implications on any civil nursing home abuse case down the road. A nolo contendere plea has the same functional effect on the defendant in the criminal case as a guilty plea would. Technically the defendant is not admitting guilt or innocence, but it is treated as a guilty plea for punishment purposes. Usually, these pleas are entered following a plea bargain being reached with the prosecutor’s office. While it is treated as a guilty verdict for the purpose of the criminal case, it is often used defensively such that it cannot be used as a guilty plea could in a subsequent civil case.

Blog readers are well aware that these intentional acts of abuse often lead to both criminal cases and civil cases. Usually, a guilty plea by a defendant in a criminal case can be used as evidence in a later civil case that certain misconduct took place. In other words, it can act as a virtual shortcut whereby certain facts about a situation are essentially proven true from the outset. For example, in the context of nursing home abuse, parties would not have to litigate the issue of whether or not an employee was negligent or reckless if that employee plead guilty in an earlier criminal trial to acting recklessly. However, in most states that is not possible when the criminal defendant pleads nolo contendere. Because it is not a technical admission of guilt, the jury in the subsequent civil trial cannot assume the facts that the misconduct occurred.

Our Chicago injury attorneys know that while the no contest plea cannot be used in a subsequent civil case, the fact that it was made almost always indicates that misconduct did occur and the victims have a strong case. However, alternative evidence must be uncovered and shown to the jury in any case to prove that the misconduct occurred. In many ways it simply means that the civil case will be a bit more costly and time-consuming if actually brought all the way to trial.

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Elder Care Advocates Rally in Washington DC Today

The Consumer Voice is spreading the word about an elder abuse prevention rally that is being held today for all those in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The event is being led by one of the United Senate biggest senior advocates, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders is inviting other Congressional advocates and other advocates to stand together as a sign of unity to ensure that services are not cut for this vulnerable group—an action that would undoubtedly have the effect of increasing nursing home abuse and neglect. The rally is scheduled for today at 10am, in Washington DC at the corner of Constitution and First St. NE. in room 608 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

As blog readers know, the federal “Supercommittee” is currently meeting to discuss ways to trim the federal deficit. The committee is a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers who are expected to release a plan of combining revenue enhancements and programmatic cuts to improve the nation’s long-term fiscal picture. Many different options are on the table, and it is unclear if the group will be able to reach agreement at all on most proposals. Barring agreement certain “nuclear options” will be set into motion that may have catastrophic impacts on many elderly community members and their families.

Medicaid cuts are possible, and as the Consumer Voice explains, those cuts would have devastating effects on seniors and the disabled. Of course, Medicaid is currently the single largest source of long-term care nationwide. This includes assistance supporting quality nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but also personalized care that allows many seniors to remain in their own homes.

It goes without saying that in our area Medicaid cuts may lead to increasing instances of Illinois nursing home neglect. Across the country seventy percent of nursing home residents count of Medicaid to pay for their facility costs. Those costs are simply impossible for seniors to pay on their own, as they range from $75,000 up to $150,000 in some areas. Changes to the Medicaid system will likely make it impossible for many seniors to qualify for the care they need. In addition, even when they are able to have long-term care services provided, cuts to those homes could mean fewer employees are around to provide even a basic level of observation and treatment.

The Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers at our firm will be with all of those at the event in spirit. We urge all those available to take the time to attend and show your support at this important time. As everyone knows, the country remains in a perilous financial position. Clearly certain actions will have to be taken to right the troubling economic ship. However, there are fair ways to enact the necessary changes and downright reckless ones. Cutting vital services to already vulnerable communities is both irresponsible and not in the country’s long-term benefit. Besides attending this rally, we continue to urge advocates across the country to do everything in their power to urge local lawmakers not to forget the needs of these important friends and family members.

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It Remains Difficult For Some Victims to Receive Compensation For Their Harm

Respected National Think Tank Criticizes Damage Caps

Special Focus Facilities Warned About Inadequate Care By Federal Officials

Community Press News shared information today about various assisted living and rehab facilities which are under fire from federal officials for inadequate care. The story discussed facilities in the paper’s areas which were labeled some of the nation’s worst because of their track record of nursing home neglect. Specifically, the homes were named to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid lists of “Special Focus Facilities.”

Blog readers are aware of this federal list which includes 136 of the nation’s worst nursing homes as defined by various care standards and according to investigations conducted by state and federal officials. The list is released upon analysis by CMS officials of reported deficiencies at nursing homes across the country. When the facility’s problems reach a certain level, then they are placed on the SFF list and they can then only be removed when caregiving progress is made and documented. Besides having homes on the list, each home is also labeled as either “improving” or “not improving.” This provides insight into whether the named facility is actually working to amp up its caregiving or if it has failed to take action to correct is previous nursing home neglect.

As explained in the story, the facilities in question were cited for a variety of problems. Those concerns range from failing to pay adequate attention to resident complaints about staff misbehavior to overmedicating patients as a form of “chemical restraint.” Failure to correct these problems may have significant consequences for the involved facilities, as they may lose their ability to participate in CMS programs. Considering that the vast majority of nursing homes survive financially because of CMS funding, the homes cannot operate if they lose the ability to receive the federal funds. It is hoped that this incentive will spur the homes owners to doing whatever is necessary to improve the facility’s care.

The Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm are very familiar with this SFF list, as several Illinois nursing homes have been included in the latest list. In total, six homes are on the list, with three homes newly added and three other remaining on the list after continuous problems. The newly added homes are Alden Town Manor Rehab and Healthcare in Cicero, Galesburg Terrace in Galesburg, and Columbia Manor Residential Care Home in Chicago. The Embassy Care Center in Wilmington, Nathan Health Care Center in East St. Louis, and Rockford Nursing and Rehab Rockford remain on the list.

These homes have made it onto the list for a range of reasons. CMS officials note that SFF facilities usually have twice the number of deficiencies than the typical nursing home. Beyond that, the actual deficiencies that are found are more often serious, posing risk of significant injury for residents. Additionally, the SFF list takes into account the persistence of the problem. In other words, facilities that are repeatedly found to be the site of nursing home neglect are more likely to make the list as opposed to facilities that may have temporary problems which are quickly corrected.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

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Community Advocacy Needed to Protect “The People Who Took Care of Us”

Last month we reported that elder abuse lawyer Marie-Therese Connolly received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for her advocacy efforts on behalf of victimized seniors. The award was an encouraging step in the right direction for all those who care about the proper treatment of our area seniors. Far too often elder abuse is an issue that gets pushed under the rug and ignored. The more people are made aware of the problem, its severity, and scope, the greater chance of catching elder abuse before it gets out of hand. Lives can be saved in the process. Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys know that hundreds, if not thousands, of seniors are the victims of serious abuse in nearby homes. All the attention that is brought to the issue to lower that figure is welcome.

This week the News Leader interviewed Ms. Connolly on her work and elder abuse generally. She explained how mistreatment of seniors remains one of the most hidden problems in the country. Physical mistreatment is particularly common and heartbreaking. She explains the tell-tale signs of physical abuse often include bruises on the neck, head, thighs, or soles of the feet. She notes that “If we can help people understand how to tell the difference between an accidental bruise and an inflicted bruise, that’s a beginning.” She believes that advances in forensic knowledge is important in the process to help all those involved in keeping seniors safe—from elder abuse lawyers and social workers to criminal prosecutors.

Ms. Connelly notes that the problem must receive more attention now, because it is likely only to get worse. As the 77 million Baby Boomers retire, the stress on the elder care system will only increase in the years ahead. Elder abuse may rise as a result. The problem is already at shocking levels. According to a recent survey, one out of every ten seniors over sixty years old becomes elder abuse victims. Those abuse percentages are much higher among certain targeted groups. For example, nearly half of all dementia patients are neglected.

The sheer total instances of abuse are troubling. However, even more problematic is the fact that the vast majority of that abuse goes completely unreported. A comprehensive University of California study recently found that a staggering ninety sixty percent of cases are never brought to light. As Ms. Connelly notes, these statistics bespeak a real ignored problem. “I can’t think of another issue that affects more people in this country where less is being done,” she remarked.

Unlike advocacy efforts for other tragic problems, like child abuse and domestic violence, far fewer resources and attention are devoted to senior mistreatment. The potential complexities in understanding when abuse is occurring are part of the problem. Because seniors may bruise easier than others, many observers fail to ask questions to learn more about the injury whereas they might ask if the victim was younger.

Illinois elder abuse must receive more attention. The Chicago injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe that no major improvement in senior care can be had unless those in a position to report mistreatment and demand accountability actually step up and take action. There is no benefit to remaining silent when you suspected that a friend or family member is not receiving the level of care to which they are entitled.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Poor Supervision Leads to Nursing Home Fall

Nursing Home Wandering Death Explained By Inside Source

New Study Finds Elder Financial Abuse Continues to Affect Local Families

In our area (and throughout the country) cases of Illinois elder abuse that involve physical harm usually gain more public attention than other forms of abuse, such as financial exploitation. However, all forms of senior abuse and neglect can have life-altering consequences on the victims. And in all cases, the mistreatment is allowed to occur or perpetrated specifically because of the unique vulnerabilities of the victims. That is why it must be stood up against at all times and in all places.

Recently a new comprehensive report was issued entitled, “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse” that examined all aspects of the elder financial abuse problem. The review included a comprehensive summary of professional literature in the field and related news developments to provide information about the problem of elder financial abuse nationwide. The overall study provides a great primer for those interested in getting a complete picture of the current problem. It also provides handy insights sharing certain aspects of the issues. For example, as demonstrated in the report, current estimates suggest that elder financial abuse costs area seniors nearly $3 billion last year—a staggering sum of stolen money. The perpetrators of the abuse include a wide range of individuals, including supposed friends and family, businesspeople, strangers, caregivers, and others.

There are clear gender differences in the abuse. Elderly women are nearly two times more likely to be victimized than men. This likely represents the criminals’ targeting of those who appear to be the most vulnerable. Seniors in the 80s were the most likely victims, with chances of exploitation rising among those who lived alone and needed some level of health care or home maintenance aid.

Interestingly, the report found that the holiday season was the likely the time of the year when the most abuse occurred. Not only was the abuse higher during this time, but the percentage of exploitation perpetrated by family members increased in November and December. This suggests that the financial pressures of the holiday season have led many to stoop to stealing money from those vulnerable around them. This makes it particular important for those in a position to help area seniors to ensure that they are not targeting over the course of the next two months.

Chicago nursing home abuse is a prevalent problem throughout our area, and our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers are proud to spend each day helping its victims. However, the various forms of abuse and mistreatment that occur inside the nursing home can also occur outside of it. In the case of financial abuse, the mistreatment is actually more likely to occur when a senior lives on their own or with a specific caregiver. That is why it remains vital for all community members to take a moment to ensure that the seniors they interact with on a daily basis are not showing signs of neglect. Far too many observers stay silent when they are faced with indictors of mistreatment, which allows the mistreatment to continue unabated. Please be sure to step in, stop the abuse, and contact proper professionals so that the wrongdoers can be held accountable for their conduct.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Abused Seniors Need More Safe Havens

Nursing Homes Targeted in Nationwide Crime Ring

Nursing Home Resident Rights Bingo – Now Available

There are many ways to support the rights of our senior community members and work to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect. All of those ways are good ones, because the problems of inadequate care are faced by so many seniors each and every day that there are always more victims than there are voices working to help them. Our Chicago nursing home attorneys are driven by the fact that there are many local seniors in need who not receiving the care to which they are entitled.

As we have frequently explained, the rights of nursing home residents are often violated without repercussion because most seniors and their families do not actually know what their rights are.
A large scale advocacy effort remains underway via many groups attempting to share information about those rights and to empower families to take a stand when they are violated. For example, one innovative way that an elder care awareness group is using to spread the word, according to The Legal Center, is through use of “Residents’ Rights Bingo.” The popular game is being sold to raise money for local nursing home advocacy groups and to help share information with seniors, their families, and nursing home employees. Purchase your copy HERE.

Both state and federal laws and regulations require caregivers at assisted living facilities to provide adequate levels of care. In addition, nursing home residents do not give up all of their freedoms because they enter these facilities. There are very clear rules about rights that still extend to seniors in these facilities. For example, facilities must allow residents to wear their own clothing if not harmful, and ft clothing is provided it must be properly fitting. In addition, all complaints about personal property theft in the facility must be promptly investigated. The resident must have convenient access to mailing facilities and telephones. Visitors must be allowed within certain hours and staff members must knock and provide notice before entering a resident’s room (unless there is an emergency) so as to respect the senior’s privacy.

Many rights relate to restraints and confinements. Overall, no restraint or confinement is allowed unless a doctor determines that it is necessary for the senior’s care and safety. Only in the case of emergency can a resident be restrained without their consent. When some form a restraint is necessary, the options used must be the least restrictive possible. On the issue of chemical restraints, facilities can only provide medications for the purposes of treating a medical condition, not to subdue. This is a particularly common problem in area nursing homes that needs to be addressed.

Continue reading "Nursing Home Resident Rights Bingo – Now Available" »

Nursing Home Lawsuit Verdict For Plaintiff After Merri-walker Fall

The Chicago nursing home lawyers at our firm know that nursing home falls present some of the most serious risks to elderly community members at area facilities. Of course these elders are often in frail condition, and their bodies are no longer capable of withstanding the trauma that falls can inflict. Certain bumps and bruises that younger people could jump right back from might be fatal a seniors in a weakened condition. Nursing home employees and administrators are aware of this risk and are required to take reasonable steps to prevent vulnerable seniors from falling.

In our state, it is Illinois nursing home neglect for a facility not to create and follow a fall risk plan upon a new resident’s admission. Yet many facilities across the country continue to fail in this basic obligation to take all reasonable steps to prevent these dangerous falls. For example, the Kentucky Trial Court Record, recently shared information about the end of a nursing home neglect trial initiated by a suit filed by a nursing home resident who suffered serious injury after falling at her facility.

According to the report the accident struck two years ago and involved an eighty eight year old nursing home resident who had lived at the home for about eight months. The victim suffered from Alzheimer’s disease among a variety of other mental issues, necessitating close observation. After all, the very reason that seniors—particularly those with mental deterioration issues—enter these facilities is so they have trained individuals nearby at all times to provide close care and observation. The senior’s age and medical condition made her a fall risk, but she was allowed to move up and down the facility’s hallways using a merri-walker. These are popular walking devices that have two handles and a sturdy base to provide support to disabled walkers. They have now been converted into chairs with wheels. While the walking device helps the resident, it was still important for nursing home staff members to keep a close eye on her.

However, on the date when the accident occurred, nursing home staff members failed to pay as close attention to the woman as she needed. While using the merri-walker, the victim went missing. It was not until later that she was eventually found by nursing home staff members in an unlocked storage room. She had wandered into the room unknowingly and fallen from the merri-walker onto her face. As a result of the fall, the women sustained serious head trauma and facial injuries. The victim was forced to spend three weeks in the hospital after the fall to allow her multiple fractures and cuts to heal. Besides the facial wounds, clear evidence was also presented which showed that the fall had lead to a significant advancement in her Alzheimer’s condition. Before the fall she could recognize family members, share stories, and joke with those around her. Unfortunately, her ability to do those things disappeared after the fall. Fortunately, the family visited with a legal professional following the fall, shared their story, and the case was eventually brought to trial where a jury found in favor of the plaintiff for well over $1 million.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Alzheimer’s Patient Dies in Nursing Home Fall

Nursing Home Lawsuit Alleges Negligence Lead to Resident Fall

Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed Following Abuse Caught on Tape

Every week more and more stories come in regarding nursing home abuse and neglect that is caught on tape. It is understandable that more families are installing these cameras into the rooms of their elder loved ones, because, as our Chicago nursing home attorneys know, the vast majority of misconduct at these homes is never reported. Seniors are often unable to properly explain the quality of the care they receive, and they rarely understand the exact quality to which they are entitled. As a result, deficient care often goes unnoticed unless those outside the home are made aware of it.

In most cases those outside observers—like friends and family members of the residents—are never made fully aware of the care the seniors get on a daily basis. Cameras, though controversial, allow those observers a way to check up on the moment to moment care. In many cases what relatives find when they review those tapes in stomach-turning, often leading to nursing home neglect lawsuits, disciplinary actions, and even criminal arrests.

According to reports in About Lawsuits on this latest case, the family of a 78-year old Alzheimer’s resident placed a camera in the room of their loved ones after having concerns about the care that she was receiving. What the family found was shocking. At least three female nursing home staff members were apparently found on the tapes engaging in a string of abusive and humiliating care. The Alzheimer’s resident was physically abused and the staff members openly mocked her. In addition, the employees apparently forced the woman to walk around for at time topless.

When the family showed the tape to facility officials, they did nothing. Upon the facility management’s ignoring of the clear evidence of abuse, the family went to local authorities. As a result, the three staff members involved in the incident were arrested on charges of abuse and assault. In addition, the facility in question initially lost its license to operate. However, the license was temporarily reinstated pending the facility’s appeal of the state’s decision to terminate the license. Each of the staff members in question pled not guilty and are awaiting trial next month.

The nursing home lawsuit filed in the aftermath of the incident claims that the facility was negligent by failing to properly train workers to ensure adequate care was received by residents at all times. In addition, the suit cited the negligent nursing home for chronic understaffing—a common problem at these facilities which is at the root of many instances of abuse and neglect. As in this case, these caregiving problems implicate the common law as well as state law (and sometimes federal law). The judiciary and local policymakers have long-recognized that seniors who live in nursing homes and all those who reside in assisted-living facilities are owed a basic duty of care by the ones who are paid to provide them aid. When that care is insufficient, the victims and their families can file suit holding the homes accountable for failing to meet the standards of these various legal requirements.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Encourages Promotion of Elderly Quality of Life

Surveillance Cameras Important in Fight Against Elder Abuse

Negligent Assisted Living Deaths

Yesterday we discussed a new report that highlights troubling caregiving and minimal oversight at one state’s publicly –run homes for the disabled. Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys are well aware of the string of similar problems that have been found in our state in the past. Over the last several years close observation and investigation into home that treat the developmentally disabled—including disabled children—found that Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse was rampant. It is easy to get lost in the big picture and focus only on the overall statistics of harm and noted deficiencies. But at the end of the day mistreatment is an individual problem.

For example, the New York Times expanded on their initial story this weekend, taking a closer look at sixteen individual victims who died in questionable circumstances at state-run facilities. For example, one 35-year old resident died several years ago after aggressive conduct on the part of caregivers. The disabled man got into an argument with another resident at his group home. In order to separate the two quarrelling residents, staff members grabbed the victim in this case and pinned him to the floor. The man began turning blue; he lost consciousness and never recovered. The staff members knew that forcefully pinning him to the ground was dangerous, because he had previously required CPR after a prior restraint. Many other residents have similarly died because of excessive force by staff members. Two years ago a thirty year old woman was held down on the floor by two staff members at her group home. She passed out and died. A panel of examiner’s believed that the woman may have been killed by suffocations from being held down too long. However, the case was closed this year without any disciplinary action being taken.

In another case a twenty three year old man was killed after the van he was riding in crashed. The staff members of the publicly-run home had not buckled the man in and the van’s driver was cited for speeding which caused the crash. In another van accident, the thirty five year old severely disabled man died after another disabled passenger sat on him in the van. The resident that caused the death was a known aggressor and protocol in place at the time of the accident called for a staff member to always sit near the resident for fear of an accident occurring just like the one that ultimately did arise.

It is important to keep the individual victims and their tragic stories in mind. From a legal perspective, our Chicago injury lawyers know that the civil law works to provide justice one individual victim at a time. Every family involved in mistreatment such as the ones described here can make a difference by demanding accountability and fairness. No resident should ever have to experience the level of negligent care described here. It is only when those responsible for ensuring that care is up to a reasonable level that changes are usually made. Please get in touch with our Illinois injury attorneys to learn how we might be able to help.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Many State Nursing Homes Headed in Wrong Direction

Crack Down Needed on Assisted Living Facilities

Report Highlights Death and Troubling Care at State-Run Homes for Disabled

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers recently discussed how privately run nursing homes, on the whole, have been found to have higher total care deficiencies rates than non profit homes. Those statistics should give all caution to consider the way that the profit-motive may distort proper care-giving. That is not to say that no nursing home should be private and in the business of making a profit. However, it is to say that observers should pay close care to services provided at these homes to ensure the incentive to cut corners in order to save money is not taken advantage of by decision makers at the facility

Yet, it is a drastic over-simplification to believe that loved ones will be assured proper care if they are in a public or non-profit facility. Nursing home abuse and neglect can and does occur at public homes. When the body in charge of the care, such as a state or county fails to adequate provide the resources necessary, the care at those homes are often particularly dismal. The New York Times reported last week on a new report in one state which found a rash of unexplained deaths at state run assisted care facilities for the disabled.

Many of the care detailed in the new report is enough to turn one’s stomach. For example, in one case, a quadriplegic was placed in a bath tub and left unattended. The 41-year old man lacked the ability to move much more than his head. Yet his caregiver turned on his bath and left him for over 15 minutes. The water rose over her head and he drowned before anyone returned. Unfortunately, the inadequate care in that case was not a one-time incident. A new report by the publication found, shockingly, that one out of every six deaths at these homes was attributed to either unnatural or unknown causes. That figure was reached after examining over 1,200 deaths at these facilities over the last ten years.

The fact that fifteen percent of residents are dying in strange and accidental deaths would likely give oversight bodies incentive to investigate further. Yet, according to the story, the state involved has done little to track the situation more closely or investigate the situation. As a result of the failure to properly track the situation means that the same mistakes are made over and over. There is little to no accountability. The newspaper’s own investigation found cases of residents who choked after being left alone against policy, who fell down the stairs and who ran away and were found dead.

Unfortunately, even when proper investigations are conducted and misconduct is found, the newspaper found that there is little accountability at the higher levels of the nonprofit homes. In most cases, the lowest level employee were fired or disciplined, but rarely did the executives involved face any repercussions. This is not surprising, considering that the state relies on the investigations of the homes themselves to determine how an individual died.

If you suspect that any mistreatment like this has occurred in our area, please get in touch with our Chicago injury attorneys to share your story. Nursing home abuse cannot be tolerated, no matter who is involved, and accountability is the only way to enact system-wide changes.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Advocates Concerned About Inequality in Nursing Home Pressure Sore Rates

Signs & Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Money Savings Come From Improving Care, Not Eliminating It

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers try to raise awareness of all budget proposals that are brought forward at the state and local level that may affect seniors. Considering that sixty five percent of all nursing home residents rely on Medicaid and Medicare for their care, all policy changes affecting these and similar programs can have very real consequences of the lives of nursing home residents. Nursing home abuse and neglect thrives in areas where corners are cut and resident well-being is not prioritized. All actions that may worsen the treatment of these residents must be opposed.

For example, much news has been made lately as lawmakers on the Joint Select Committee (Super Committee) tasked with cutting more than $1.2 trillion in spending considers a variety of proposals that may affect local seniors. As The Hill reported this weekend, it is vital that those making these financial decisions take the opportunity to enact changes that actually strengthen the long-term care provided to citizens. Considering that many baby boomers are just now beginning to retire, the long-term care industry will soon be seeing a steady stream of increased need. Now is the time to account for those demographic changes.

As the article mentions, the clearest way to both save money and improve care is a radical rethinking of how we look at long-term care. For one thing, there needs to be a shift away from only treating expensive, chronic care when it arises and toward providing proactive, preventative care. As it now stands, two in five seniors have three or more chronic conditions. These conditions have real effects on these individuals quality of life, besides being extremely costly. All serious efforts at reforming long-term care and federal medical costs must focus on preventing those conditions before they arise.

More and more advocates are coming to appreciate that the best way to accomplish that goal is by shifting care to the home where possible. Nearly 90% of seniors admit to wanting to stay in their own home to receive additional care. Yet there remain few options for such care among the majority of seniors who continue to rely on public programs. One of the few exceptions that should be promoted more is the Independence at Home Program—a provision included as part of the new healthcare overhaul. It provides ways for seniors to stay at home while still receiving the care they need to get by each day. From face-time with nurses and monitoring of vital signs to everything in between, services exist to save money and improve senior lives. We need only more utilize them.

Continue reading "Money Savings Come From Improving Care, Not Eliminating It" »

Nursing Home Neglect Reporting System Reveals Problematic Care

Our Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys understand that a key factor in improving the care provided to nursing home residents is accountability. It is one thing to try to improve caregiving by continually discussing the harm certain actions have on seniors. It is another to measure the services provides, take note of deficiencies, and then take action when that care falls below a reasonable standard. True progress demands accountability. On an individual level, each resident and their family can demand accountability by properly monitoring the care their loved ones receives and filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit if necessary. Accountability at the industry level usually requires more systematic measures be in place to quantify overall care at assisted living facilities.

Fortunately, the need for system-wide advocacy reports is growing. In Illinois, local regulators provide some accountability by publishing quarterly violator lists, where facilities’ unreasonable and downright dangerous care is made publically available. In a similar vein, last week a team of university colleagues issued a report measuring nationwide nursing home trend based on On-line Survey and Certification System (OSCAR) reports completed during licensing and certification procedures by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The results are disturbing, acting as yet another reminder that the care received by our seniors throughout the country is consistently problematic and riddled with nursing home neglect and abuse.

For example, the report found that the average nursing home was cited at least ten times for serious deficiencies over the past five years. Those citations relate to events where inadequate care actually harmed residents or put them in jeopardy. In 2010 alone, 146,000 care deficiencies were reported. Last year nearly one out of every four homes was cited for inadequate care—clearly this is not a local or isolated problem.

Looking closely at types of deficiencies reveals some trends. These are areas that family members of nursing home residents should be aware of, because they likely constitute risks for loved ones. For example, forty three percent of homes have inadequate infection control procedures in place. A similar percentage failed to ensure adequate safety regulations were in place to prevent accidents—such as falls and wandering. Twenty eight percent of homes also had no care plans in place. Particularly troubling, nearly a quarter of every facility was cited for giving residents unnecessary drugs. We have consistently reported on this over-drugging of nursing home residents in antipsychotic residents.

Besides noting trouble with quality care at many facilities, the report also highlighted important overall trends in the industry. For example, the percentage of for-profit homes increased slightly over the past few years—these facilities now account for about 67.6 percent of all long-term care facilities. Also, nursing home chains are gaining market share, as chains account for nearly 55% of all homes—a four percent increase in the past five years. These trends are important to keep in mind, because our Illinois nursing home lawyers know that there is often a correlation between type of facilities and the care provided. This is usually connected to the profit motive.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Levin & Perconti File New Nursing Home Lawsuit Against Lakeview Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Negligent Illinois Nursing Homes Identified By Federal Regulators

Nursing Home Care Advocates Urging Requiring Pharmacist Conflict of Interest Independence

Yesterday we discussed the recent calls by nursing home neglect prevention advocates for federal efforts to combat the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Having steps taken at important federal agencies—like the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—would go a long way to cracking down on the misuse of these drugs, which have deadly effect of the lives of nursing home residents. However, beyond awareness efforts at these agencies, many working to prevent nursing home abuse are also hoping to push for a federal requirement to change the role played by pharmacists which encourages the misuse of these drugs.

The advocates making this call explain that to ensure proper care, long-term care pharmacists and clinicians must ensure that their medical decisions are not influenced by conflicts of interest. Under current law, a nursing home is required to obtain the services of a licensed pharmacist to review pharmacology issues at the facility. As such they are in a key position to ensure that misuse of drugs at these homes is identified and thwarted. These pharmacists should have increased awareness of the need to look-out for antipsychotic drug issues, because the Office of the Inspector General recently issued a comprehensive report on that very subject. It was noted how there remains a “serious an ongoing problem of residents being given unnecessary, excessive, inappropriate drugs.”

However, much of the drug misuse continues, even with pharmaceutical oversight. Conflicts of interest may be part of the problem. In many cases the financial arrangements between long term care facilities, the pharmaceutical manufacturers that provide drugs to them, and pharmacists themselves make it financially beneficial to encourage the use of antipsychotic drug at these homes. This conflict or potential conflict ultimately may result in a prioritization of profit over proper resident care. It cannot stand.

Advocates—including the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care—are calling for legal changes which would prohibit dangerous conflicts of interest. The group is urging passage of a bill which would prohibit affiliations between long-term care consultant pharmacists and the facility’s pharmacy, drug manufacturers, distributers, and affiliates. Federal agencies should also ensure that there are effective oversight schemes in place to ensure that the law is effective in providing independent, proper pharmaceutical oversight at all long-term care facilities.

The Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers at our firm know that the profit motive lies at the heart of most cases of nursing home neglect. In many cases, seniors have their lives made worse, are injured, and even killed because of lapses in care which could have been avoided if nursing homes had the proper resources available. Instead, most of these facilities continue to engage in actions which help their bottom line, but hurt the very people who are paying them for their services. No senior should be victimized in this way. Our nursing homes needs to be free of undue influence and damaging conflicts of interest, and elders should have the opportunity to live out their golden years in the best way possible.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Steven Levin Interviewed For Story on Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

Widespread Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes

National Long-Term Care Advocacy Group Calls for Review of Antipsychotic Nursing Home Drug Use

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have been vocal advocates against the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Far too many seniors have their well-being significantly reduced and their health adversely affected by the over-prescription of certain kind of drugs in these facilities. As we’ve repeatedly explained, these drugs have been found to increase the risk of death when given to dementia patients. Yet, their use continues, unnecessarily in many contexts, often because they essentially “sedate” the seniors and make them easier to control. Their misuse in our area is simply another form of Illinois nursing home neglect where healthcare provider ease is prioritized over resident well-being.

Fortunately, more and more advocates are speaking up about the problems posed by these drugs. For example, a nursing home advocacy reform group recently called upon the United States Department of Health and Human Services to address the issue. In making the call, the organization explained that more than 26% of all nursing home patients in the country, more than 350,000 seniors, are given antipsychotic drugs. Much of that use is to “chemically restrain” residents, particularly those with dementia. Instead of caring for these residents appropriately, the drugs are often a shortcut that subdues the residents.

This misuse remains an epidemic, because chemical restraints result in loss of independence, confusion, falls, and much untold misery for the senior victims. In addition, there are significant health risks for residents. As we’ve repeatedly shared, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved antipsychotic drugs for treatment of dementia. In fact, there is a block box warning to the effect that use of these drugs increase the risk of death. With the risks and side-effects, there is little reason for the seniors and their families to approve use of these drugs. Yet, far too often, those families are not adequately made aware of these issues. Still on other occasions, no permission is received at all before the drugs are given to unaware seniors.

As a result of all of this, many senior care groups are working to mobilize federal resources to limit the harm. Calls are being made to urge federal agencies—which pay for much of this drug use—to enact stricter standards to limit abuse of these antipsychotics. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also being called on to establish high-profile education campaigns to advise consumers, nursing home employees, and physicians about these dangers in an effort to encourage alternative treatments.

The Chicago injury lawyers at our firm are proud to fight for the right of all victims of others negligence to seek redress in the court system. Over the years we have found that one group especially prone to being victims of neglect and negligence are the vulnerable seniors who live each day depending on the caregiving of others. Yet this group is only rarely vindicated. Most instances of neglect go unreported, which is a key reason why the mistreatment continues unabated. It is time that changed. We hope that all oversight bodies, including the U.S. Health and Human Services Department steps up to combat the pervasive nursing home neglect that occurs in the form of misused antipsychotic drugs.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Steven Levin Interviewed For Story on Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

Widespread Use of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes

New Bill Passes Illinois General Assembly to Improve Access to Medical Records

When a loved one is killed because of Illinois nursing home neglect, family members typically experience a range of emotions. Of course, these losses are extremely difficult for the families involved. Once the dust settles and the relatives of the victims have time to assess the situation, many decide to visit with a Chicago nursing home neglect attorney to get a better idea of how the law might apply in their situation. As we have frequently explained, the system of accountability in the state actually relies upon families of neglect victims coming forward to demand accountability. It is a crucial way that the facilities that provide inadequate care are called out and held responsible.

When an Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuit is filed after the death of a family member, it generally includes a wrongful death claim. This is a specific type of legal claim related to the losses suffered by certain relatives of the victims because of their loved one’s passing. Obviously, when these suits are filed, it is important to obtain information about the specific cause of death of these individuals, which requires access to the victim’s medical records. Yet, under the current law in the state, it remains a drawn out process for surviving members to obtain these records. Right now family members must officially open an estate to obtain those records. This involves going to probate court and asking a judge to allow the record release.

The probate process is timely and unnecessarily inconvenient for those involved. That is why a new bill on the topic, which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly during its veto session last week, is a step in the right direction. The legislation, which was spearheaded by the Illinois State Bar Association, will allow certain family members to obtain those records in a more efficient way. The bill will allow a spouse of the deceased to file a written record to obtain the records and obtain them. If there is no surviving spouse, then the deceased children, parents, or siblings can also utilize the privilege. There are safeguards built into the legislation such that an individual can protect their medical records if they make a written request otherwise while they are still alive.

Our Illinois personal injury lawyers know that this is common sense bill that should be signed by the Governor. In many cases, family members are unsure about the cause of death of their loved one and other medical details about their care. They often become unnecessarily suspicious. Allowing easy access to these records would be a good step in ensuring transparency. Similarly, when misconduct is at the root of the problem, it is should not be difficult for family members to obtain these records as part of the accountability process. We encourage all those who support open access to this basic information to contact Governor Quinn and urge that he sign the bill. The Governor has two months from the date the measure is officially sent to his office to review it. He can then either sign it (making it law), amendatorily veto it (changing part of the measure), or issue an outright veto.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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Public vs. Private Nursing Homes—Comparing Care

Our Illinois nursing home attorneys know that making the decision to have a loved one enter a long-term care facility is a heart-wrenching process. The vast majority of seniors would prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible. However, life often gets in the way and proper safety demands that the senior live in a place where there are caregivers close by at all times to ensure that assistance is available at a moment’s notice. Yet, even after deciding that a nursing home is the right choice, a family often faces significant difficulties deciding which home is best. Without question, the proximity of the facility to loved ones and services available at the homes are usually the most important considerations. Financial issues may also be involved depending on whether public programs are being used to help support payment.

One general question that families often ask involves comparisons of care between public nursing homes and for-profit homes. In our area, many families are interested in determining which type of homes are the site of more Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse. Obviously ensuring that an elder loved one will not fall victim to the mistreatment that is prevalent at these facilities is a key concern. Fortunately, research on the overall care differences between public and private homes was conducting just this summer by the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The results are instructive to all families deciding which facility to send their loved one. Overall, the GAO report found that private investment firms and for-profit firms were cited for more caregiving deficiencies than their public home/non-profit counterparts. That difference was seen when looking at all types of deficiencies, including those involving the most serious instances of nursing home neglect. Serious harm was defined as caregiving problems that resulted in actual physical or mental problems for the residents beyond a mere increased risk of harm.

The GAO report also provides some data which explains some reasons for the poorer care provided at for-profit home. Our Illinois personal injury attorneys were not surprised to find that those problems stem back to the profit-motive. For example, private investment homes had lower nursing staff ratios when compared with non-profit homes. Having a more robust nursing staff is better for caregiving purposes, but they require more resources. For-profit homes obviously have incentive to keep those expenses as low as possible to increase their own profit margins.

This GAO report and much similar research provide important perspective for all local families making a nursing home decision. While all private homes should not be considered off-limits, it is important to look very closely at a for-profit facility’s caregiving track-record to ensure it provides a level of care that your loved one deserves. No matter where your senior ends up, it will be necessary to provide close and careful observation to the care that they receive. Mistreatment and abuse can occur in virtually all settings, as it only takes one errant employee or one understaffed moment to lead to serious and irreversible harm.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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Healthcare Crisis Hits Minority Seniors Hardest

In These Times recently reported on the troubling reality of senior citizen neglect faced by many aging community members. The problem is particularly severe for those on a fixed income, with minority community being hit harder than most. The article shares the story of one senior who was forced into a poorly run facility in her golden years where she was subject to fierce nursing home neglect. Shortly before her death the woman’s body was severely malnourished, she had a blood infection, and a pressure ulcer had grown on her body that was an unbelievable eleven inches wide. The victim’s family filed a nursing home abuse lawsuit to hold the negligent facility accountable. The case was ultimately settled out of court. However, it garnered attention because it used a civil rights statute as the basis for the suit.

Many observers believe it may set the trend for the future as more and more seniors age, the “gray wave” may place many seniors is situations compromising their well-being. The story explains how in roughly a decade and a half, one in five Americans will be over the age of sixty five. This ratio will be double what it is now. Undoubtedly those seniors will need a wide range of assistance to help with the everyday problems of aging. One study explained that half a million new nursing home beds will be needed by that time. Yet, over the past few years the number of available nursing home beds has actually shrunk by five percent. Things are headed in the wrong direction. The problem could be exacerbated even more is lawmakers enact further cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid systems as some are proposing.

Many worry that the increasing need for senior care and its lack of availability will ultimately lead to significant increases in elder abuse. Certain segments of the population—including minorities—may be hit hardest. This is a concern because statistically minorities are less able to pay for costly senior care, with those seniors often on fixed incomes. One researcher said that there is a “tiered system of nursing home care that concentrates blacks in marginal-quality homes.” There is a concern that the quality of the nursing home where one is sent is influenced, indirectly, by race because of geographic differences.

Living in a poor facility often results in more subtle forms of neglect. One Illinois nursing home neglect victim explained that “the worst thing about living in a nursing home is that you lose your freedom and people don’t think you know your own mind.” To combat the day-to-day challenges faced by those in these facilities, many advocates are calling for alternatives to the traditional nursing homes, such as less-restrictive community based systems. These new formats would focus on quality of life considerations, allowing seniors to keep their pets, celebrate birthdays with families, and eat home-cooked meals. Some steps in this direction have already been taken with projects like PACE—Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. The federal and state program allowed providers to use public assistance to pay for community-based support services as an alternative to regular nursing home care. Trends in that direction should continue.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs--The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog--were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

Please Follow This Link To Vote: Vote for Our Blog. Thanks for your support!

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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Why File an Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit?

Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers have frequently explained that much more nursing home abuse occurs than is ever reported. The disconnect between the mistreatment and the frequency of reporting is alarming, because proper legal accountability is a cornerstone of the system which ensures adequate care is provided to all local seniors in these homes. When abuse is not brought forward, a lawsuit is not filed, and accountability is not had, then much more likely than not another senior will fall victim to Illinois nursing home abuse.

When a loved one is hurt or killed because of events which could have been prevented had proper care been provided, many families remain unsure if a lawsuit should be filed. Few want to make it seem as if they are simply trying to get money from the facility and many others feel like it would be an unnecessary stress to file the suit. But we urge families to remember that the civil justice system is actually an integral part the accountability mechanism in the state. In other words, if families do not hold their wrongdoers legally accountable, then it is as if part of the system specifically designed by legislature to ensure proper care is not functioning.

This principle is best understood by considering the source of law relevant in most Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuits. When families meet with an attorney and ultimately file a suit, they are usually doing so pursuant to both federal or state law and the common law. The common law is the general body of civil rules and regulations built up over the centuries by judges working on specific cases. Conversely federal and state laws are actual statutes passed by Congress and state assemblies addressing certain issues. If an elected body so chooses they can pass a law which essentially “trumps” the common law. Or they can pass a law that essentially “supports” it and provides more avenues for recovery for victims of certain conduct.

When it comes to nursing home neglect, both the common law and statutes specifically call for accountability to be had by those harmed. Regarding the statutory laws, a strong reason why these governing bodies have carved out rules to allow family members to file lawsuits is because these bodies understand that the regulatory system is woefully insufficient to provide accountability on their own. There are only a minimal amount of regulators and far too many homes to check on a consistent basis. The gaps are filled by regular community members using the legal system when mistreatment is provided. When families do not use that system then the accountability schemes envisioned by our lawmakers falls apart.

Our Chicago personal injury attorneys believe that minimizing nursing home abuse and neglect is a goal that all local community members should support. That is exactly why all families who feel that their loved one has been harmed because of mistakes and lapses in care need to come forward and demand accountability. It is only then that these facilities are consistently held to the standard of care to which the law demands and all community members should expect.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

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