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Troubled Nursing Homes Remaining Open

The Detroit Free Press published an extended report on the inadequate care provided to vulnerable seniors in the city’s nursing homes. Tragic instances of nursing home abuse, neglect, and facility mismanagement abound. Yet, despite the widespread condemnation of the conditions at many of these homes, few homes are ever closed down. Instead, residents are left to languish in the facilities with few prospects for the future.

A former nursing director at one of the facilities explained how she knew things at the home were bad during her very first day on the job. She reported that she was actually called in a day early, because the night shift nurses had left early and the day shift nurses were short staffed. Upon walking into the facility she found that the stench of human waste was strong. What she saw shocked her. The nurse reports that residents were sick and malnourished, the staff was so short that it was impossible to accomplish all the necessary tasks, and much of the facility’s equipment was virtually unusable. The nurse saw one 68-year old resident at the home rocking silently on the bed. Weighing only 68 pounds, the woman was struggling to breathe, and her lips and tongue were turning blue. The resident was brought to the hospital and died a few weeks later.

After working at the facility for awhile the nursing head admits that she could no long tolerate being privy to such nursing home abuse and neglect without taking action. She eventually initiated a “whistleblower” lawsuit shining light on the poor conditions at the home and demanding that action be taken. The legal action that ensued ultimately led the large nursing home chain which ran the facility to pay $1.25 million to improve its 36 nursing homes, but it did not technically admit wrongdoing.

All of these actions took place over ten years ago. Considering the court-ordered improvement plan, one would expect that by now the facility in question would have either raised standards or been closed by state officials. Unfortunately, neither is the case. The nursing home remains open, and it remains one of the lowest-performing facilities based on quality care standards. Not surprisingly, many of the facilities owned by the same nursing home chain are ranked as the poorest homes. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have come to appreciate that those businesses which own various nursing homes often have the same (low) levels of care at each of them.

However, it would be unfair to suggest that it is only homes owned by large chains that are deficient. This particular story explained how nearly three out of every four nursing homes in the state received at least one serious violation in the last three years from federal inspectors. Nursing home neglect occurs at many facilities, and the consequences of each can be similarly severe. However, there are certain homes which are found committing violations again and again. But rarely are they closed. Their only punishment is often had if family members of the victims come forward and file suit.

For example, at the facility where the whistleblower action was centered, serious violations were reported again and again, even after the lawsuit. In one instance a resident with dementia somehow wandered out of the facility wearing only pajamas. He was passed by two staff members in the parking lot who did nothing to stop him. The facility was also cited for having an “imposter nurse” work at the home. The facility in question hired the woman as a nurse even though she wasn’t actually a nurse. She was at the facility for a month before it was discovered.

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