Nursing Home Investigation Finds Repeated Druggist Errors

The unsavory connection and conflict that exists between pharmacists, drug companies, and nursing home resident prescriptions should give pause to all those who care about the well-being of area seniors. Each Chicago nursing home neglect attorney at our firm has spoken out against the often dangerous medication practices of many long-term care facilities. The New York Times published a story late last week on the prevalence of medication errors in the nursing home context. The problem remains hidden because unlike single events which are clear examples of nursing home neglect, persistent medication problems are harder to identify. Instead they constitute subtle, chronic problems that most often go unnoticed.

The Times story explains how journalists found dozens of cases of problematic prescriptions at these facilities. For example, one woman with a history of seizures was given the antipsychotic Seroquel—even though research shows that antipsychotics increase risk of seizures. Not only that, but not long afterward the woman was put on a second antipsychotic—Risperdal. Combining these drugs has been shown to risk causing irregular heartbeats, a potential life-threatening problem. When the pharmacist charged with monitoring these prescriptions was confronted about these problems, he admitted that he did not note any of these concerns in the patient’s chart.

Unfortunately, the plight of this nursing home resident is not as uncommon as it should be. That is because investigations have repeatedly found that pharmacists routinely fail to catch these problems. The most recent investigation, conducted by The Bay Citizen, found that more than half of all facilities did not catch cases where residents were given powerful antipsychotic drugs inappropriately. Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers remain disappointed (but not surprised) by these findings.

The risks of antipsychotics are well documented. They are drugs intended to be used to treat conditions like schizophrenia. However, instead they are often given to elderly nursing home residents as a way to make them easier to control. Unfortunately, that means that many patients who should have be receiving the drugs—like those with dementia—are still given them unsafely. In addition, other patients are prescribed the medication at unsafe doses or in combination of other drugs that come with a range of unacceptable risks.

A large part of the problem may be conflicts between drug companies and pharmacists that are employed by nursing homes. When pharmacists have financial incentives to approve prescriptions of certain drugs, then the risk of problems is significant. For example, the average pay rate for pharmacists is about $56 per hour. However, certain pharmacists often charge the nursing home rates as low as $11 per hour. How do they justify the cost? Often by reaping financial benefits from drug companies via recommendations regarding what medications residents’ should be taking.

Many advocates working to fight elder neglect and abuse have been working hard to enact legal changes which would prevent these conflicts. There is never an excuse for financial decisions to skew the safety and well-being of residents. That is particularly true when the financial motives are not about the overall available resources but about fattening the wallet of private companies and consultants.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Risks Present with Atypical Antipsychotic Drug Use

Nursing Home Chemical Restraints Part of State AG’s Lawsuit

Criminal Acquittals in Cook County Nursing Home Resident Death

Every Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates that it often confusing for community members to understand the legal distinctions between criminal cases and civil cases. As we’ve discussed before, many individual incidents of Illinois nursing home neglect or abuse can result in both types of cases being filed. When a criminal case is filed it is because the prosecutors in an area decide that an actual crime has been committed. They therefore seek to punish the wrongdoers with either a fine, jail time, or both. Conversely, a civil case is filed when the victim (or their family) wishes to hold those responsible for the situation. Potential jail time is not at issue in these cases, but instead they can result in redress being provided to the victim and sometimes changes being mandated in policy at the facility.

Criminal cases are brought much less frequently in these situations than civil cases. Even when they are brought, often the same incident will result in an acquittal in a criminal case and a liability finding in the civil case. The main reason for this is the different standards of proof required in each case. In a criminal case there has to be no reasonable doubt that the crime was committed by the accused. However, in a civil case the plaintiff must simply prove that the misconduct more likely occurred than did not occur. While these distinctions may not seem all that clear in the abstract, when it comes to presenting evidence and actually proving conduct in court, the difference is significant.

In addition, all nursing home abuse lawyers know that the actual conduct itself must have been of an increased culpability before criminal charges are ever implicated. In other words, most of the time criminal charges are only involved when there is intentional abuse—such as a nurse physically punching a resident. That is different than more passive neglect—like a resident being left alone accidentally which results in a deadly fall. That is not to say the resident fall will never result in a criminal charge, but it is must less likely.

All of these distinctions exist, because the law generally makes it more difficult for one’s liberty to be taken away—such as being put in jail. Conversely, financial penalties for misconduct are deemed less intrusive, and so the standards are more reasonable when it comes to civil suits.

Of course, it is not important for the average community members to understand the specific distinctions between these cases. But it is important for residents not to mistakenly believe that because an acquittal is given in a criminal case for nursing home abuse than that means that the culprits necessarily did not do it or that a civil case will also result in a win for the defendant. That is not at all the case. For example, as reported in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, late last year a Cook County Criminal Court judge found a few nursing home employees not guilty of various counts of criminal neglect. The charges were filed after a resident died at an area nursing home. The resident had been severely burned on her legs while taking a bath. Then, after the burn, she was not seen by a doctor for nearly three weeks. Criminal charges were brought against her caregivers for their role in her death. The judge eventually gave the defendants a directed verdict—acquitting them of all charges. While this means that the individuals will not face jail time, it does not mean that they will be successful in a civil case related to the same incident.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases

Evidentiary Matters Settled in Second Angel of Death Nursing Home Case

CARP Special Report Video on Elder Abuse

Each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm, when talking about elder abuse issues, explains that the biggest challenge to stamping out such neglect is simply getting victims to come forward. For every Illinois nursing home abuse case that is brought, there are likely a hundred similar victims that go without any notice. For a wide range of reasons—many of which we have discussed on this blog—victims often do not come forward and demand redress and accountability. This creates a two-fold problem. On one hand, the individual victims are never able to see any justice, often dying without their family having any idea of the suffering that they endured at the end. Also, the underreporting of such errors means that the wrongdoers are not held accountable and they instead remain free to continue working (and neglecting) others. It is often a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break.

Of course raising awareness is the first step in the process of turning things around. We often share statistics which reveal how many seniors are victimized each and every year. The numbers are stark and indicate the problem of elder abuse has reached, as many advocates explain, “epidemic proportions.” Yet, statistics are often the least effective way of raising awareness and harnessing the real emotional response needed to actually make a difference and spur individuals to step up for the seniors around them.

A more effective strategy is to share individual stories that can more easily be grasped by those hearing them. For example, as we discussed last week, it is shocking to read a story about a senior who was strapped to a bed, left in a trailer, and forced to lay immobile while animals literally ate parts of her body. That elder abuse is so mind-numbingly wrong that it hopefully leads community members to pay a bit more attention to those seniors in particularly vulnerable conditions around them.

Even more powerful than reading about personal stories of neglect is seeing video of those stories. Being able to hear the voices and see the faces of those hurt by these actions goes a long way to engraining the idea that this mistreatment must be stopped in all possible ways. Toward that end, a new CARP Special Report video was created entitled, “Elder Abuse: Does Anyone Care?” The video explores powerful themes of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect that have raged in various locations. For example, the video shares that story of one woman who was left in a garage in the middle of winter, without heat, and forced to sleep on a plywood bed. In addition, the documentary shows video of nursing home abuse. A caregiver is seen physically harming a resident for no apparent reason. A hidden camera caught the abuse of the woman who was confined to a wheelchair. Amazingly the video displayed a caregiver literally punching the woman repeatedly—it remains unclear why the attacks occurred at all.

Please take the time to view the entire video, and share it with others who may be interested.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Abuse Caught on Hidden Camera

Nursing Home Resident Dies After 4 Hours Alone in the Heat

Weighing the Financial and Emotional Costs of Parent Mortality

The process of helping a loved one age with grace has often been thought of as “The Long Goodbye.” There is no way around the fact that dealing with our own mortality and that of our loved ones is perhaps life’s most difficult challenge. Few people enjoy thinking about passing on, and even fewer like talking about it. But growing old and slowing down are inherent parts of the human experience. Dealing with these issues, planning for them, and ensuring that one ages as gracefully is possible is important for all local families. Unfortunately, our Chicago nursing home lawyers are all too aware that so many of our seniors are not afforded the opportunity to age with grace and instead spend their golden years struggling to get by.

Earlier this month The Atlantic published a penetrating story on the many financial, mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional costs involved in the long-term care process for seniors and their family members. The story recounts the “long goodbye” of one man and the struggles that it imposed on his family. The senior first began to deteriorate when he was eighty-two years old in 2001. It was then that he was first diagnosed with a deteriorating spine. A few days later the man fell while trying to get the mail. He hit his head on the pavement and scraped the skin off his knees as he was trying to crawl back to the front steps. This began an eleven year downhill slide for the man, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and been released from two hospices.

The man passed away eleven years later, at the age of ninety three. By the end, all of his life savings had vanished, gone to pay for assisted living services. That did not even include his medical bills which, mercifully were paid for mostly by Medicare and insurance policies included in his retirement. He eventually needed to be spoon-fed, and, according to his son, spent most of his days rolling around in his wheelchair like a child until it was time for him to be fed again. His son wrote, “I cannot imagine that this once-dignified Southern gentleman, who clawed his way out of the grit of a Depression-era tobacco farm in North Carolina and bought a snazzy double-breasted suit with one of his first paychecks, would be anything by humiliated by what is happening to him now.”

The heartfelt story is one that should remind all of us of that each senior has a back story—a life full of interesting, provocative, courageous, and love-filled memories. No matter what condition a senior is in at a facility, that story cannot be forgotten. It is the ultimate injustice for these community members to face nursing home neglect or abuse at the end of their days.

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers do not believe that there is an easy answer to any of these questions about aging. However, we do know that the law demands that certain basic standards of care be met by those providing long-term care. Those laws are meant to ensure that our elderly community members are not faced with neglect and abuse at the time when they are most dependent on others for basic help. Please do not allow any nursing home abuse or mistreatment to perpetuate without stepping in. The only way to stamp out this problem and bring peace to so many of our family and friends is to demand accountability and improve the standards for all.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Way to Support Nursing Home Laws

Pilot Program Seeks to Improve Troubled Nursing Homes in Illinois

New Study Highlights Neglect Problem at Largest Nursing Home Chains

Another study has come out which has found that nursing home neglect is more frequently found at the largest for-profit nursing home chains than at all other locations. Ask any Chicago nursing home lawyer and they would likely not be at all surprised by the findings. The same goes for blog readers, as we have repeatedly published stories discussing the higher rates of abuse and neglect that pervade some of the largest chains (and for-profit facilities in general). We know that Illinois nursing home neglect can occur anywhere. However, for local families in the process of figuring out the actual best place for their loved one to live, it is very helpful to keep up-to-date with general quality of care indicators like those found in this study.

The research was conducted by the University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing, and it set out to examine basic differences between for-profit and non-profit or government- run facilities. We have previously touched on this report in an earlier blog post. The study examined various quality of care measures at ten of the nation’s largest nursing home chains. What they found, unsurprisingly, that these chains measured quite poorly on wide range of factors. Some of the findings include.

1) For-profit homes had lower staffing hours for registered nurses than public facilities. These staffing levels are one of the most important indicators when it comes to the level of care that is provided to residents. At the end of the day, nursing home neglect results when staff members fail to act as they should. The chance of that occurring is greatly enhanced when there are simply not enough bodies to do all of the work necessary. If families pay attention to nothing else, staffing ratios are vital statistics to gauging overall care at a home.

2) Medicare deficiency rates were 36% higher in private homes than public facilities. Medicare and Medicaid deficiency standards are another good benchmark of overall home quality. Also important is information about whether or not a home has improved from year to year, which indicates whether it is taking steps to actually fix the problems that have been identified.

3) Some for-profit facilities showed deterioration in care quality after they were purchased by larger private equity companies. This should be alarming for those who are at-homes where takeover is possible. Care may be sufficient at one point but then get worse over the years.

4) Bedsore rates were higher at for-profit homes, in large part due to the lower nursing staff levels. One of the main reasons that bedsores develop is because residents with mobility problems are properly repositioned. This repositioning frequently comes down to having enough caregivers around to help in the process each and every day.

All local families should continue to take this information into account when evaluating the best living space for a loved one. The process is never easy, and there is usually no sure-fire way to be guaranteed that neglect and abuse will not occur. But clear trends do exist and prior preparation goes a long way to making the best choice for your family member.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Encourages Promotion of Elderly Quality of Life

Surveillance Cameras Important in Fight Against Elder Abuse

Fall Risks in Nursing Homes Increased By Antidepressant Use

Medline Plus News reported late last week on new concerns being raised about the effects of antipsychotic and antidepressant drug use in nursing homes. Of course, any experienced Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer is well versed in the issues about this medication use in long-term care facilities—it has been a concern for quite some time. New information continues to pour in, however, that reveals even more problems than previously thought are associated with the increased use of these drugs in homes.

This latest report found that resident fall risks are increased when they take antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The researchers which reached this conclusion examined prescription medicine data and falls in about 250 different residents with dementia. The residents were tracked for a two year period. During that time about 683 total falls were experienced, with 61.5% of residents experiencing at least one fall and many residents facing several falls. The overall average represents nearly three falls per resident in the study. Those numbers on their own are not all that encouraging.

Our nursing home neglect lawyers were not surprised to learn that about a third of those falls actually led to injury or death. These accidents are one of the biggest risks faced by vulnerable seniors in these facilities. The most common injuries including hip fractures, other fractures, sprains, swelling, open wounds, and bruises.

In total, the risk of having an injury-causing fall was three times more likely if the resident was taking an SSRI. The 300% risk increase was found in both men and woman and for those residents of different ages. What this means is that it is highly likely that the risk was actually factored into the effects of the drug itself and not some confounding factors.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys know that this latest information about fall risks joins already known problems with antipsychotic and antidepressant drug use in homes. Off-label use of these drugs is high, placing residents at risk of often unacceptable levels of complications. There is even a “black box” warning on most antipsychotic medications which reveal that use by dementia residents comes with an increased risk of death. Obviously that is a risk that cannot be accepted. In addition, these drugs are often nothing more than “chemical straightjackets” which make residents easier to control but actually hurt their quality of life. It is difficult for these seniors to be fully engaged in the world around them and take advantages of all of the activities that they used to enjoy if they are constantly fogged over by the effects of these drugs.

Overall, all community members have more reason than ever to keep a close eye on the medications that their loved one is taking in these facilities. Of course there are many drugs that are actually important to keeping a resident healthy. But that does not mean that all prescriptions are useful and necessary to maximize a resident’s quality of life. Over-prescription of residents remains one of the most common, yet hidden, forms of Illinois nursing home neglect. We must do everything we can to stamp it out.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Studies Published on the Risks of Antidepressants

Alzheimer’s Patient Dies in Nursing Home Fall

CMS Releases New Memo on Smoking Safety in Long Term Care Facilities

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services play a crucial role in regulating the quality of care at most state and local nursing homes. Nursing home care is quite expensive. For that reason, most seniors and their families do not have the financial resources to pay for the care out of their own pocket. As a result, many families rely on Medicaid and Medicare services for help. The program is genuinely a lifesaver for those who count on it.

CMS therefore provides much of the payments that nursing homes receive for their work. This power of the purse, our Chicago nursing home lawyers understand, means that they maintain a particularly influential source of power when it comes to demanding fair treatment of senior residents. CMS can demand that certain actions be met or else the involved nursing home not be able to participate in the CMS programs. Loosing CMS patients is a death knell for most facilities, so they are strongly pressed to abide by their requirements.

Just this week, for instance, CMS issues a “Survey and Certification” memorandum designed to prevent one form of dangerous nursing home neglect that has led to horrific harm to some residents. The new guidelines reemphasize the need for long-term caregivers to monitor residents at all times. Of particular concern was the monitoring of smoking areas for residents. Of course, caregivers were always required to provide appropriate observation anyway. However, the memo acts as a reiteration of these rules in light of a recent tragedy involving a fatal accident caused by unsupervised smoking.

According to the memo, the tragedy which sparked the release involved a resident who was smoking outside of the facility. The resident did not have permission to be outside of the facility, and she had no supervision at the time. She was in a wheelchair and was not wearing a smoking apron. To make matters worse her wheelchair was blocking the only fire extinguisher in the vicinity. Unfortunately, the resident accidentally ignited her clothing. By the time staff members became aware of the incident and tried to help her, it was too late. The woman ultimately died as a result of the incident.

The CMS memo responding to the event explained that “nursing homes with residents who smoke [must] take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of residents to the maximum extent possible.” As the string of errors in this case demonstrates, even seemingly simple missteps can cost a vulnerable resident their life. When it comes to smoking residents, facilities must conduct an assessment of each resident’s abilities to determine whether or not supervision (or other safety precautions) are required. The assessment should likely take into account a resident’s mental capacity, judgment, mobility, dexterity, and similar factors.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys know the risks of nursing home smoking very well. For example, we once settled a case for $1.5 million on behalf of a family whose loved one died at an area home because of just this sort of nursing home neglect. The resident—who was mentally impaired—was not properly supervised while smoking a cigarette. An accident occurred which led the man to suffer severe burns before passing away. These tragedies can and must be prevented at all times.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Nursing Home Resident Dies After Smoking Accident

Nursing Home Negligence Leads to Resident Deaths in Fire

Family Claims Mother Was Sexually Assaulted At Nursing Home

A story this weekend from Channel 6 News Lawrence shared the tragic story of a family that is claiming their loved one was sexually assaulted at a nursing home. Any Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer can tell you that while sexual assaults are not the most common form of abuse at these facilities, they do occur far more frequently than many community members would expect. Of course, sexual assault in any form is repulsive, but there remains something particularly insidious about caregivers taking advantage of the vulnerabilities who depend on them.

In this latest case, a nursing home abuse attorney for the involved family explained that the family was filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit following an assault on their 87-year old mother. The assault allegedly happened in later October a year and a half ago. The elderly woman was assaulted by a nursing home aide, and according to documents filed by the family in the suit, there were some administrators at the facility who apparently tried to cover up the assault from the woman’s family, medical professionals, and law enforcement officers. If true, those are incredibly serious and disturbing charges.

The suit claims that a few days after the assault the woman was taken to the hospital. Once there hospital officials trained in detecting signs of abuse and molestation examined the woman. They found a series of lacerations and abrasions which led them to believe without question that the woman was the victim of a sexual assault perpetrated by one at the facility—a most egregious example of nursing home abuse. What makes it particularly troubling is that the alleged perpetrator has still not faced any punishment. The nursing home, for its part, has denied all allegations and claims that it will fight them in court.

Hopefully more evidence will be uncovered which sheds light on exactly what happened in this case. It seems pretty definitive if medical care providers at the hospital were able to identify abuse based on their analysis of the victim. However, as so frequently happens in these cases, the involved nursing home is not willing to accept any sort of responsibility for the misconduct. It is yet another testament to the need for the civil justice system to provide an avenue for victims and their families to demand accountability.

This case also highlights the fact that much abuse and neglect actually gets swept under the rug and is never uncovered by friends and family. Had this woman not be analyzed by medical professionals, it is likely that the facility would never have come forward and explained the abuse. Therefore, the family would likely never have found out about the situation and no accountability would be had.

Unfortunately, while state and federal regulators play an important role in ensuring these facilities abide by proper care standards, there are never enough resources put into regulation to provide anywhere the oversight necessary. At the end of the day demanding proper care comes down to the diligent eyes of loved. We urge all family members to do their part and ensure that proper caregiving standards are met.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Resident Sexually Assaulted By Nursing Assistance at Crystal Pines Rehabilitation Care Center

Police Investigate Potential Rape of Brain Damaged Nursing Home Resident

Belleville Family Hires Nursing Home Lawyer After Father’s Death

Late last week the Belleville News Democrat published a story explaining how a local family had taken steps to contact legal professionals to learn more about their options following the tragic death of their father at a Belleville nursing home. The Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer reiterated that the family is not yet ready to file a nursing home lawsuit. Instead, as is common in these cases, the family simply wants to know more about what happened to their father and better understand whether it should have been prevented.

A common misconception in these situations is that a family should only visit with an elder neglect lawyer when they know exactly what happened and simply want a legal professional to file the right paperwork. Of course, families rarely know exactly what happened after a loved one passes away at a long-term care facility. Instead, they usually have many more questions than answers. Visiting with a legal professional in the area is therefore a first step in getting basic questions answered and having an advocate on your side to pressure the facility into being open and honest. Whether or not a lawsuit is filed depends on information that is uncovered after investigation and analysis, not necessarily as soon as a family decides to visit with a legal professional to learn more. In other words, families should never avoid talking with a lawyer simply because they don’t know how they want to proceed. Instead, talking with an attorney in this area is best done when one is still unsure and simply wanting to learn more about the options in front of them.

For example, in this case, the daughters are hoping to figure out exactly how their 77-year old father died from hypothermia after wandering out of the local rehabilitation and respiratory care center. Their father was suffering from dementia and heart disease. Last week the man walked out of the facility—no doubt confused about where he was headed. It wasn’t until several days later that his body was found in a ravine about a block from the home. He had died from hypothermia due to exposure to the elements. Now the family wants to know how this was allowed to happen.

As the Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer for the family explained, “A long-term resident who suffers from dementia and other life-threatening conditions should not be able to walk out the door to the nursing home unnoticed and unsupervised.”

So far the facility has not explained to the daughters how their father was able to walk out of the front door of the facility without being stopped. The early investigation has revealed that the man had actually tried to walk out of the facility in the past, but was stopped. That would seemingly suggest that the facility should have been on notice that the man was a wandering risk which needed to be guarded against for this own safety. The facility involved, when under different ownership, had previously been listed as one of the worst in the state when it came to federal citations.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Poor Supervision Leads to Nursing Home Fall

Nursing Home Wandering Death Explained By Inside Source

Elder Abuse on the Rise as Seniors Living Longer

Yesterday we discussed the effect of the “Graying of America”—the aging of the nation’s population as the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire. Of course one of the obvious effects of this is that many more seniors will require day-to-day living assistance. Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys are concerned that there is currently a lack of quality caregiving options for this group. The coming pressures may make elder neglect and abuse a more common occurrence. This cannot be tolerated.

An article late this week in KFOX News made the same point, noting a perfect storm for abuse may be brewing with the financial pressures facing so many community members on top of the demographic pressures adding more seniors to the pool of those needing aid. The story noted that not only is there a steadily growing number of seniors, but those seniors are also living longer thanks to important improvements in medicine. All of these factors combine to create a truly volatile situation, which, if not closely monitored, may very well result in a rash of elder abuse.

Unfortunately, we may already have reached the point where elder mistreatment is growing. Our nursing home abuse lawyers know that it is important to reiterate that abuse of this community comes in many forms—it means much more than being physically harmed by another. For example, perhaps the most common form of mistreatment is basic medical neglect. Obviously receiving proper medication, responses to health concerns, and basic aid to help with ailments is a basic component of proper elder caregiving. Many caregivers already fall short of that mark.

The story explains that money is usually at the root of the problem. At the nursing home, many facilities are working to increase profits as much as possible. As a result, they often cut staff levels to the point where it is impossible for caregivers to properly attend to the needs of all those who rely on them. The money problem can also affect those who are not in a long-term care facility. Most seniors survive on fixed incomes—some as low as $700 a month. This presents real problems for those who are in need of oftentimes expensive medical help or medication. For many seniors with an inability to pay, this means that caregivers might simply refuse to provide them with the medication or medical aid that they need.

Beyond medical neglect, other elderly community members face mental, sexual, emotional, and financial mistreatment. It might be hard for those not familiar with these circumstances to understand the extreme power that certain caregivers have over many seniors. One local sheriff familiar with the problems of elder abuse in his community shared what he has observed. For example he explained, “The family members and the caretakers or even friends will scream at the client, using terms such as, ‘I won’t let you see your grandkids. I’ll get you back. When I was younger you mistreated me, now I’m going to mistreat you.’”

No senior should ever have to live their golden years in these conditions. We urge all local advocates to keep a close eye out for any signs of this mistreatment in their neck of the woods.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Advocates Concerned About Inequality in Nursing Home Pressure Sore Rates

Signs & Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Increased Focus on Elder Caregiving As Baby Boomers Retire

Illinois elder neglect and abuse have been public issues for decades. However, the concerns about the prevalence of mistreatment of the elderly may actually be growing, mostly for demographic reasons. Last year marked the first one where the oldest “Baby Boomers” (the generational spike in childbirths after World War II) began to retire. For the next two decades we will see a steady wave of retirees and, eventually, massive increases in the need for long-term care. This trend is often referred to as the “graying” of the American public.

Each Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates that we need to consider and plan for the effect of this demographics shift now. Otherwise we risk sliding into an untenable situation that will no doubt be rife with increased instances of elder abuse and neglect. As a CNN story this week explained, the aging of our community means that increased attention needs to be placed on caregivers—both the good and the bad. Caregivers take many shapes and sizes. Often they are close family members of the senior who either move their relatives in with them or visit the senior’s home on a steady basis. In other cases they might be at-home care workers who travel to ensure that the individual is taken care of and allowed to remain as independent as possible. Still other caregivers are employed by nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for seniors who have particular vulnerabilities and close observation.

While our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers spend most of our time discussing the “bad apples” of the group and the tragic stories of mistreatment, this should not be taken as a sign that we fail to recognize the amazing work done by so many elder caregivers in so many different situations. For example, the CNN story explained how one woman decided to take her father out of a nursing home several years ago and now provides the care he needs at her own home—while still holding down a full-time job. Her father has suffered a serious of health set-backs, having experienced three strokes, a diabetes diagnosis, renal disease, and kidney failure. Of course, with all of these ailments he requires an extensive list of daily medications and dialysis three times a week.

Many adult children are in similar situations. Many more will be there in the years ahead as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggests that the number of Americans in retirement will double by 2030. Many of these individuals will eventually need caregivers. It remains unclear if there will be enough support for those caregivers to avoid chronic cases of maltreatment. A newly released study DHHS suggests that we may be very ill prepared. Not only did the DHHS study find elder care options were lacking, but those who were already providing care were found to face much higher levels of stress than other community members. Those caregivers are of poorer health and are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior to relieve the stress. More than half of caregivers admitted feeling overwhelmed by their task.

It is important for caregivers to themselves remember that they cannot help others unless they first are healthy themselves. As one expert noted, “It’s easy to neglect yourself when you try to be all things to everyone else, but something has to give and it catches up with you.”

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Website Aimed At Helping Families with Illinois Nursing Home Choices

Negligent Illinois Nursing Homes See Little Federal Aid

$200 Million Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Decision After No Defense Mounted

Headlines were made this weekend when a judge handed down an eye-popping $200 million verdict in a nursing home abuse case. The verdict broke many records both in the nursing home neglect lawsuit context and among personal injury cases generally. However, as with most massive awards like this, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. It is unclear if the victim’s family will receive any money, and the case is far from settled.

According to Tampa Bay News Online, the lawsuit was first brought on behalf of a 92-year old woman who died at a nursing home because of the negligence of staff members at the facility. In 2004 the elderly woman was suffering from dementia and was confined to a wheelchair. One afternoon her body was found crumpled at the bottom of a stairwell in the nursing home. She had fallen down an entire story in the building while strapped to her wheelchair. It was later learned that the door leading to the stairwell was suppose to be locked at all times. However, aides at the facility testified that the door was sometimes unlocked (and the warning alarm disabled) so that employees of the facility could use it to smoke inside the building.

This sort of negligence is something with which our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers are quite familiar. Over the years we have represented many nursing home residents who suffered ghastly falls as a result of a facility failing to ensure that their surroundings were safe. It is not surprising that in this case the facility in question apparently had a long track record of safety citations for deficiencies. Former employees admitted that the home was chronically understaffed. Time and again the very same homes are found to be the site of multiple instances of neglect.

Following the tragedy the victim’s family rightly filed a nursing home neglect lawsuit to demand accountability. However, as sometimes happens in these situations, the various companies which had ownership roles in the home desperately tried to shield themselves from paying for the consequences of the misconduct. The main defendant in the case was a management company that had the sole authority to operate the facility. Before the case went to trial that company went defunct. The parent company is now in receivership (meaning that they control the company after it experienced financial problems).

The nursing home neglect attorneys for the family also argued that the true owners of the facility were private equity investors. It was argued that they shuffled the assets of the management company around to avoid liability. Because of the disagreement about ownership the defendants ultimately did not even try to mount a defense. When a trial is held without a defense, expectedly, the claims made by a plaintiff are taken as true. Considering there was clear evidence of negligence and severe loss, it is not surprising that the verdict was substantial. It is unclear if the verdict will affect the receivership down the road. It is also unclear how the case will progress and whether or not the involved family will actually see and redress for their loved one suffering.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed After Resident Killed By Train

Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed Against Sunny Hill Nursing Home

Nursing Home Care As Real Estate Business Does Not Prioritize Elder Care

Much ado has been made about “vulture capitalism” and the attacks made in the GOP Presidential nomination campaign against Mitt Romney. In a former life, the Massachusetts Governor made literally hundreds of millions of dollars creating and running a private equity firm. There has always been much disagreement about the merits of private equity work, which seeks to increase the value of businesses that are taken over—often with layoffs and similar unsavory budget cuts. However, many argue that such work is at the center of capitalism, where streamlining services and maximizing efficiency are paramount.

However, one need not get into complex financial debates about capitalism in order to see that there are some areas where it clearly is not a good thing to prioritize profits over services. Elder care is a prime example. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have often railed against the dangers posed by for-profit nursing homes. These facilities are consistently shown to harbor more nursing home abuse and neglect than their non-profit counterparts. Unfortunately, the trend toward privatization of elder care is part of the private equity movement, and it something of which that those on all sides of the aisle should rightly take note. Treating nursing homes and elder as simply an investment opportunity or a potential profit center is a dangerous trend to go down. But it is one increasingly found attractive by those who specialize in so-called “vulture capitalism.”

Recently Wall Street financiers have begun entering the nursing home sector, as the aging of the American population suggests that the market is a good one to get into now, because long-term demand will be high. For many involved, running nursing homes is just a business, but many others remain concerned about how this attitude affect the actual care provided to residents and the prevalence of elder abuse at these facilities.

A new article published by the Center for a Just Society suggests this trend toward viewing nursing home ownership as essentially a real estate business has proven incredibly damaging to nursing home residents. It is suggested that poorer quality nursing home care, more nursing home abuse, and increased violations of health and safety regulations are said to result from this shift.

The main concern of each Chicago nursing home attorney at our firm (and shared by most elder care advocates) is the worry these institutions seek to improve profitability by cutting costs—often essential costs. Labor is usually one of the first budget items to get the ax, after all nursing costs always represent the largest discretionary portion of most facility budgets. Inadequate staffing levels perhaps the single biggest reason why residents are neglected, often suffering life-ending injuries in the process. Quite simply, providing proper care necessitates time and manpower. Residents need to be repositioned properly and consistently, certain residents need close careful assistance anytime that they leave a bed, others need to consistently be provided proper fluids to avoid dehydration and malnourishment. There are no shortcuts to these tasks. They must be provided by real people who spend quality time on each tasks. Understaffed facilities cannot do this job properly. The influx of private equity capital in this industry has unfortunate been shown to lead to deadly cuts to nursing home staff levels.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

For-Profit Nursing Homes May Be Overcharging Medicare

Nursing Home Lawsuit Makes Accusations of Resident Cycling for Profit

Criminal Charges for Neglect of Elderly Relative Whose Toes Eaten By Animals

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have seen many cases of absolutely heart wrenching abuse and neglect of the elderly. We have seen this mistreatment occur in a wide range of locations, at private nursing homes, non-profit homes, halfway houses, and the senior’s own home. While some locations are more prone to mistreatment, the risk of facing extreme elder neglect exists virtually everywhere. In general, one would expect that the risk would be lowest when an elderly community member is cared for by their own relatives. However, as a horrific case discussed in the Las Cruces Sun News this week reveals, even relatives are capable of neglect. Considering that a large percentage of seniors are cared for by their relatives, there is actually much more elder abuse at the hands of supposed loved ones than most might expect.

According to the story, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter have been charged with criminal neglect of an 86-year old woman who died of pneumonia last December. According to documents filed with the court, it seems that the senior was essentially left to rot while her step-daughter and granddaughter used money that was supposed to be spent on her care. The senior neglect was brought to the attention of authorities more than a week before the woman’s death. Law enforcement officers went to check on the woman and were amazed and horrified by what they found. The senior was bound into a medical bed that was placed in a living room trailer. The condition of the trailer was apparently filthy with urine and garbage throughout the area.

The senior, who was unable to move, was stuck in the bed in a diaper. There were holes in the trailer, which meant that animals were able to enter and leave the home at will. The family lived near a chicken farm and so rats and stray cats were often found in the location. When authorities investigated the neglect complaint they found that the senior’s toes had been eaten off entirely by those stray animals. By the time authorities got there, all of the victim’s blood had already left her lower extremities. All of this occurred while she was still alive and stuck in the trailer.

Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys remain disgusted that this sort of care can be provided by relatives. When interviewed about the situation afterwards the victim’s daughter-in-law explained that her mother-in-law did not have much feeling in her lower extremities and so she wasn’t sure if she felt the bites. Officials are not so sure and they admit that it is unclear exactly what the woman went through as she was attacked by animals without anyone there to help her.

The two women have been charged with criminal neglect, and they are set to enter a plea on those charges next week. In addition, the woman may face federal fraud charges. The caregivers were supposed to use the victim’s Medicare and Social Security payments for the woman’s care. However, in the three months that the victims lived with them it seems that the two actually used the money to pay for their own bills.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Horrific Starvation Death Leads to Criminal Charges Against Home Care Workers

Ten Year Sentence for Nursing Home Abuse Caught on Tape

Levin & Perconti Reach Settlement in Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit

Most Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuits ultimately end with a settlement being reached between our clients and all parties involved in the suit. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm is always, ready, willing, and fully capable of going all the way to trial and presenting a case to a jury. However, like in many other contexts, the judicial process leading up to a trial is a good way for both sides to get a very clear idea of the available evidence proving what happened. Once a defense team becomes aware of the evidence against them—usually in the form of nursing home reports, depositions, medical records, and similar items—they come to a realization that neglect likely occurred and can be proven. They then begin to reach out to those of us representing the victims of the Illinois nursing home neglect to discuss fair settlement amounts to prevent the need to invest the time and resources taking the case to trial.

Often there are misconceptions about settlements in these and all injury cases. Those to criticize the justice system sometimes paint settlements as a bad thing—as if victims who settle a case are always motivated to simply make a quick buck in their filing of a lawsuit. Of course, these claims are ludicrous. Settlements can actually be a supremely more efficient way of handling disputes than via a jury trial. Obviously a jury is often necessary when the parties simply cannot agree. However, at the end of the day society is always better off when those who have disagreements are able to discuss the available evidence rationally and reach a fair understanding of what occurred and what redress need be provided. The ability to foster these discussions and facilitate these agreements is a strength of the civil justice system, not a weakness. It is for that reason that many judges work hard to put rules in place in their particular courtrooms to help plaintiffs and defendants get past their differences to fairly and logically discuss the available evidence about a situation in order to reach a reasonable settlement with which both sides can be satisfied.

We understand the important role that settlements often play in nursing home abuse and neglect cases. For example, we recently settled a case for a family on behalf of their loved who died at a nursing home in Lincolnwood, Illinois as a result of neglect by those involved in her care. The woman in that case was 84-years old. She was admitted to the facility only because she needed rehabilitation following a recent surgery. As part of that rehabilitation the nursing home was charged with providing blood-thinning medication and monitoring the effects. The senior needed to have frequent lab tests performed to ensure that the blood levels were appropriate to prevent clotting. This is a common task with which all nursing home facilities are accustomed. The facility failed in this duty. They did not properly administer or monitor the medication. As a result, the elderly woman suffered a blood clot induced stroke which caused severe damage that ultimately contributed to her death. We helped the family file a lawsuit after they learned more about the situation. The case was recently settled for just shy of $1 million, the maximum amount available under the insurance policy held by the negligent facility.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Fox River Pavilion Nursing Home Death is Suspicious

Chicago Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers Reach settlement for Bedrail Entrapment Death

Nursing Home Neglect Death Caused By Dramatic Weight Loss

Last week we shared the story of a 14-year old girl with cerebral palsy who died because of neglect by her at-home care providers. The child weighed a shocking 28 pounds at the time of her passing, besides being riddled with bed sores and infections. Considering her condition, it is without question that the last year of her life was filled with longing, confusion, and pain. Our Chicago injury lawyers continue to be completely shocked at the absolutely unacceptable treatment provided by those charged with caring for some of our most vulnerable community members. It remains inconceivable that so many could see a child in such a condition, weighing only 28 pounds!, and do nothing. Several involved in that situation will rightly be facing serious criminal charges as a result of the incident—a testament to the gravity of their wrongdoing.

In that story we mentioned that while such callous treatment of children is particularly troubling, similar misconduct routinely take places at nursing home with elderly victims. For example, last week the Star Tribune reported on a case of nursing home neglect also involving extreme weight loss. The story explained how a State Department investigation found severe neglect led to the death of one nursing home resident. The victim, whose identity has not been released, died earlier this year at a hospital near the long-term care facility. He was brought to the hospital after his severe weight loss was finally uncovered. A medical examiner’s office ruled after his death that while pneumonia was the primary cause of it, a contributing cause was severe dehydration.

In citing the involved nursing home, the State Department investigators noted that the there was a “breakdown in facility systems” which allowed the man’s condition to deteriorate seemingly without notice. Many different staff members were supposedly providing care, but that care was obviously illusory. Health officials explained that the man’s condition must not have been monitored for two months or more. They explained that the caregivers failed to evaluate his solid food intake and liquid intake. For inexplicable reasons they also did not notice his extreme weight loss. Because none of the victim’s problems were identified, the man’s doctor’s were never notified of his change in condition. Lifesaving care was therefore not provided until it was too late.

To most community members, including our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers, it remains unclear how on earth such extreme weight loss can go without notice. Usually these sorts of extreme body changes are examples of the worse kind of neglect, where staff members provide care that no reasonable group would ever deem acceptable. Unfortunately, while these stories occasionally make newspaper headlines, most of the time similar abuse goes without recourse. It is for that reason that some of the worst offenders feel comfortable treating seniors this way again and again. If every victim (and their family) become aware of the nursing home abuse and actually came forward, then it is likely that those providing the care would actually do more to ensure that quality standards were met.

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

The New Role of Video Cameras In Chicago Nursing Home & Injury Cases

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer John J. Perconti was quoted this week in a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article on the role that video cameras are playing in the courtrooms. The article touched on the effect that the increased use of surveillance cameras might have on the strategies of both plaintiff and defense attorneys. As local residents are aware, Chicago’s use of camera technology to monitor its corners and streets is growing rapidly. It is hard to go anywhere without being recorded by some sort of video device. In fact, while our city has certainly taken advantage of the surveillance tools as of late, we are actually a bit behind the curve. Other large cities (particularly international ones) have been using video cameras in more intrusive ways for years.

Not only is the city itself using these cameras, but many private businesses similarly monitor their surroundings as a safety tool. The captured footage is often crucial evidence when it records the incidents that at the heart of injury lawsuits. For example, our Illinois injury attorney John Perconti discussed a nursing home neglect case of ours involving a resident who fell outside of a senior center, suffering severe injuries that ultimately killed him. Attorney Perconti explained how the video camera mounted by outside an adult day care center caught the entire event.

The recording shows the senior using a walker, walking down a ramp toward a bus. Perconti explained, “He caught the side slope of the ramp and this causes him to fall sideways, striking his head on the pavement.” Perconti went on to report that “The camera was actually right outside the front entrance, primarily for security purposes. The surveillance camera was obviously instrumental in demonstrating how the accident happened.”

Video cameras are playing a role in other cases in which we are involved as well. Many blog readers might remember the horrific Aurora apartment complex fire from last May. Six people were killed in the blaze. A supermarket across the street from the apartment complex actually caught most of the fire on film. Attorney Perconti explained that the video “basically showed the actual time involved, the flames prior to the arrival of fire or police personnel and showed fire and police personnel arriving on the scene.” Obviously when trying to pinpoint times and better understand exactly what happened and when, this evidence is absolutely crucial.

The increased use of videos as evidentiary and explanatory tools in cases is, obviously, part of a larger trend in the role of this sort of technology on all areas of our lives. For example, last week we touched on the installation of video cameras in certain Chicago federal district courtrooms. It remains unclear what the exact effect of the cameras might have on court procedure, or if there will be any impact at all. It is yet another reminder of the ways in which every Illinois injury lawyers must be wary of growing too accustomed to the status quo. The world changes. The law changes. Injury lawyers must be able to adapt with those changes.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Encourages Promotion of Elderly Quality of Life

Surveillance Cameras Important in Fight Against Elder Abuse

Horrific Starvation Death Leads to Criminal Charges Against Home Care Workers

This week the Oxford Press shared an absolutely heart-breaking story of home health care gone awry. It is a sobering reminder that while most home health care workers are fantastic resources that provide great services to their clients, the potential for home care abuse and mistreatment still exists. Most believe that it is preferable for the elderly and disabled to avoid institutional settings when they need extra care. Stories of nursing home abuse and neglect abound, counseling many to seek out every possible alternative before resorting to the institutional facilities.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know that in many ways this advice still holds. Elderly and disabled children continue to experience inadequate care on a routine basis at many of these worst facilities. For example, blog readers are likely familiar with the chronic problems at Alden Village North where dozens of children died mysteriously over the years, often from clear nursing home neglect. For all the consternation about institutional care it is vital not to forget that at the end of the day mistreatment is caused by those providing the care, whether that be in a large facility or at one’s own home.

Nothing hammers home that message more than the story of 14-year old Makayla Norman. The girl suffered from cerebral palsy. She was unable to communicate, walk, or feed herself. She was a participant in a state program that was intended to allow the girl to remain at home with her family instead of put away in a less personal (and more expensive) institutional setting. According to state reports Makayla died recently in horrific conditions. After an investigation her death was ruled a homicide, caused by medical and nutritional neglect. At the time of her death the young girl weighed only 28 pounds. Her entire body was unwashed and she was covered in open bed sores. Some of those sores were packed with her own feces. Those familiar with the situation say it is far and away the worst they have ever seen. For the entire last year of the young girl’s life she was essentially left to rot. Her only nutrition during that time was a few cans of Ensure that she got daily through a feeding tube.

After the circumstances of the death were uncovered, several of the involved parties were indicted on criminal charges. The girl’s at home care provider—who was suppose to spend hours on her care each day—was charged with involuntary manslaughter. She remains in jail on a $250,000 bond. According to the nursing reports that were filed, the woman claims to have spent 48 hours a week caring for the girl. In reality she was only there a few times a month. Also charged with crimes were the caregiver’s supervisor who was supposed to check on the girl’s care monthly. None of the reports written or approved by the two women mention anything about bed sores, weight loss, or other problems. Makayla’s mother was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. She clearly should have stepped in and taken action when it became clear that her daughter was not receiving the care to which any reasonable human was entitled.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Study Reveals Black Nursing Home Residents More Likely to Develop Bedsores

Illinois Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect May Lead to Pressure Sores and Death

Ten Year Sentence for Nursing Home Abuse Caught on Tape

Many local families are resorting to covert tactics in order to confirm their suspicions about the treatment that their loved ones are receiving at area nursing homes. Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys understand the frustration that many families experience when they have concerns about this care but receive denials from caregivers. Hopefully increased use of recording devices—even those left open so as not to surprise the caregiver—will lead to a decrease in Illinois nursing home neglect and mistreatment.

The sad reality is that most nursing home care takes place hidden from view. Many residents at these facilities do not have the ability to adequately describe the type of care they are receiving or to explain to friends, family, and loved ones that they are being mistreated. Unfortunately even when residents are able to communicate clearly, they often fail to mention the harm that they have suffered as a result of unacceptable caregivers. There remains a sense of shame, fear, and embarrassment among victimized nursing home residents. They are often unsure what level of care they are entitled to and worry about the repercussions if they speak up. Consequently many do not speak up.

This circle of silence that surrounds many of these situations makes it vital for involved friends and family members to speak up on the victims behalf. Our Illinois elder abuse lawyers frequently explain to local residents the warning signs of mistreatment, urging follow up and observations whenever ones suspicions are aroused. It is perfectly acceptable for concerned family members to ask nursing homes staff members about their concerns and to receive honest answers about the quality of care provided. More often than not, when actual mistreatment is occurring the facility representatives will not admit it. It is in those situations when certain families members decide that recording the care received is their next best option.

As we’ve explained, some relatives place a camera in their relative’s room openly, letting caregivers know that it is there. At other times, a hidden camera is inserted into the resident’s room without nursing home employee awareness. The law on the acceptability of the hidden camera practice remains unclear, and so family members should be cautious about their conduct when it comes to recording their relatives.

Amazingly, even when caregivers know that there is a camera recording their conduct, some of them continue to provide inadequate treatment. We have shared stories on this blog of nursing home neglect caught on tape in these circumstances. Hidden cameras usually catch even more outlandish conduct. The Associated Press this week reported on the criminal trial of a nurse’s assistant caught on camera abusing a resident. In that case, a 78-year old Alzheimer’s resident was tossed around, thrown into a wheelchair, and forcefully returned to her bed by her caregiver. The victim’s son recorded the abuse on a camera that he had placed in an air purifier.

The forty five year old nursing assistant was ultimately charged with criminal patient abuse. This week the woman pled guilty to seven felony counts of patient abuse. As a result she will face more than ten years behind bars. Another nurse’s assistant also implicated in the conduct had earlier pled guilty to misdemeanor assault. She will likely spend six months in jail.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Chicago Nursing Home Lawyer Encourages Promotion of Elderly Quality of Life

Surveillance Cameras Important in Fight Against Elder Abuse

Official CMS Booklet of Medicare Coverage For Skilled Nursing Care

Placing a loved one in a nursing home is not easy---mentally, emotionally, or financially. On the finances front, there is generally only three ways that most long-term care can be paid for: (1) out of one’s pocket; (2) through use of long-term care insurance; or (3) with Medicare and Medicaid assistance. The monthly costs for these services are usually immensely high. It is rare for families to be able to afford any extended stay on their own. For the same reasons, insurance for this care is always quite expensive—few families are able to swing the premium payments. That is why our Chicago nursing home lawyers are very aware of the fact that federal support in the form of Medicare and Medicaid are the main payers of this long-term care. This is how requirements, inspections, and demands made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must be heeded by long-term care facilities. Otherwise CMS threatens to refuse to send patients to the home. While many facilities could technically still operate without CMS, in reality, loosing access to CMS residents means that the facility is not able to function.

The CMS involvement is one way that nursing home neglect and abuse is sought to be kept in check, because the federal programs will not pay for care that is inept. However, the federal involvement also means that residents and their families are forced to deal with the often confusing bureaucratic mess that is the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For many families who are already emotionally wrought over the idea of having their loved one live in an assisted living facility, figuring out what their loved one qualifies for and how to get the help can seem daunting.

At an introductory level, there are clear differences between the type of nursing home care that Medicare will cover as opposed to Medicaid. In general, Medicare will provide only short-term stays for rehabilitation following hospitalization. Conversely, Medicaid will help pay for longer stays. Yet, the requirements to qualify for each program are not the same. It is very helpful for families going through this process to speak directly with experts in the area to learn what hoops they have to jump through to qualify for what they need.

Many intrepid readers might wish to learn more on their own. In that case, a good starting point is this CMS guide called, “Medicare Coverage of Skilled Nursing Facility Care.” The booklet acts as a primer explaining exactly what skilled care is provided by Medicare and what rights and protections are guaranteed to those using the services. In addition, the booklet provides a very helpful list of references indicating where families can turn to for more help if they are confused.

Medicare does not cover what is commonly referred to as purely “custodial care.” This includes help with daily activities-like eating, bathing, and dressing. If that sort of day-to-day assistance is what is required, then Medicaid is the program that provides the services instead. Instead Medicare only covers skilled care for a maximum of 100 days so long as certain requirements are met. For the first 20 days, Medicare will cover the costs entirely. Any stay between 20 and 100 days will require a copayment. Even then, the care is only covered so long as a set of requirements are met. Take a look at the booklet for more detailed instructions, but those requirements include things like having had a qualifying hospital stay, having left the hospital within the “benefits period,” the doctor has ordered the skilled care, the care you need is daily, and similar factors

Conveniently, the booklet also shares information about how to choose an appropriate skilled nursing facility. Our nursing home lawyers know that many have heard the horror stories about inadequate care at many of these facilities. Avoiding nursing home abuse and neglect is always a concern, and the guide helps direct families in the best ways to go about choosing an ideal temporary home.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medicaid Fraud Targeting Vulnerable Chicago Senior Citizens

For-Profit Nursing Homes May Be Overcharging Medicare

Defective Hip Implants Have High Costs for All Invovled

The Business Day section of the New York Times late last month had yet another story chronicling the trials and tribulations of those who are dealing with the aftermath of defective artificial hips. Blog readers are well aware of the DePuy hip recall saga, which has affected thousands of patients across the country, including many in our area. As Chicago DePuy hip recall lawyers, we’ve talked frequently about the various legal aspects of this recall.

However, what has received less attention is the day-to-day struggles faced by those who have had to endure the consequences of these faulty medical devices. As the latest article notes, the metal-on-metal hip recall is now quite clearly the largest medical implant failure in the last several decades. The effect on victims has been severe. One Illinois DePuy hip recall victim was profiled. The victim explained how he was forced to essentially go five months without a left hip at all. Obviously his life’s activities during that time were severely curtailed. He reported that he had little to do except sit in a recliner while waiting to regain his mobility.

The financial costs for the victim were high as medical bills mounted quickly. When he finally underwent the operation to replace the defective product he faced another complication—his pelvis had been damaged in the replacement surgery. That was followed by an infection setting in. All told, he has already mounted nearly half a million dollars in hospitalization charges and doctors’ bills. Of course, the medical bills are just one of the “costs” faced by the victim. He noted that he spent months stuck in a La-Z-Boy recliner meant for someone in their eighties. He is only 55-years old. The overall effect on his life cannot truly be comprehended.

It is frustrating enough that any victim is forced to deal with this sort of injury, but it is particularly troubling that thousands may be in the same situation because of medical device errors. Patients were told (and believed) that these devices would last 15 years or more. Part of their calculus in deciding to have the implant was based on that assessment, weighing the potential benefits and potential risks. Yet, when the information on the quality of the devices turned out to be radically inaccurate, they faced significant consequences as a result. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers know that local seniors are far and away the ones most affected by this problem. Obviously, hip implants are more frequently had by those in their golden years—often residing in assisted-living facilities.

What is particularly upsetting about this situation is that involved experts have explained that the vast majority of these metal-on-metal hip replacements were actually not found to be any better than older models. The most recent study in the area (which involved both knee and hip replacements) found that no new device released in the last five years was of any better quality than before. In fact, 30% of the new devices were actually found to be worse than older products. This highlights the unfortunate trend that in the medical device community that “new” is assumed to be better. “New” devices often get pushed on unsuspecting patients before the reliability and benefit of those devices is fully. The result is the current devastation wrought upon thousands by implants that hurt many more recipients than acceptable.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Number of Injuries From DePuy Hip Replacements Continues to Grow

Illinois Hip Implant Recall Shows Problems with Improper Product Testing

Nursing Home Lawsuit Verdict for Plaintiff After Choking Accident

TMJ News 4 reported this weekend on the end of nursing home neglect lawsuit. The case involved a mother who filed suit after her 51 year old daughter died after choking to death at a nursing home. The developmentally disabled woman was supposed to have close supervision at the facility to prevent accidents just like this one. However, it appears that the victim did not receive the care to which she was entitled, resulting in the deadly accident.

Following the ordeal the victim’s family filed the nursing home neglect suit. The complaint in the matter explained that the victim was blind and had difficulty swallowing. Her condition made it important for caregiver to take special care when she was eating. Her care plan required her food to be pureed. Unfortunately, one of the woman’s caregivers failed to follow those guidelines. The victim’s food was not properly prepared and she was not supervised adequately. She started choking, depriving her brain of oxygen. She ultimately suffered significant brain damage before passing away. After hearing all of the evidence in the case the jury returned a verdict for the family. They were awarded $1.5 million for funeral expenses, pain and suffering losses, loss of society, companionship, and punitive damages.

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers have worked on many cases involving residents who died because of choking accidents. Just last year we settled two different cases that were similar to this one. In our cases both nursing home residents have developmental disabilities and brain injuries that made swallowing difficult. Each resident had a care plan in place that mandated they intake only certain foods and be watched closely in case they began having trouble. Yet, those plans were not followed, ultimately taking the lives of each resident. Unlike this latest case, in our two situations last year, both cases settled before needing to go to trial.

When meeting with new clients, our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys often explain the typical course of action for a new case. Many clients have heard that most cases settle before trial, but there is often confusion about what exactly that means. There is often uncertainty about how long the entire process will take. Of course, it is always hard to get specific information to these questions, because every case is a bit different and may present unique circumstances. It is true that most cases settle, but the timing of the settlement is different depending on the circumstances.

Even cases that settle generally take some time for all the evidence to be gathered and for both sides to better understand what an appropriate settlement amount might be. In a typical situation, a lawsuit will be field with the court—that is done with the filing of a document known as a “complaint. After that the opposing party will respond to the charges by filing a document known as an “answer.” Then the long “discovery” process will be initiated where both sides will collect evidence about exactly what happened. It is during this time that depositions are taken, which are interviews with those involved in the situation by both sides of the dispute. Usually after much of this evidence is collected, representatives for both sides with meet and discuss possible settlement options. So long as an amicable agreement can be reached, the parties may then take a settlement to the court for judicial approval. If that approval is given the situation will essentially be resolved and the matter will end. This may take anywhere from a few months to a year or more.

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 Lawsuit Makes Accusations of Resident Cycling for Profit

A new nursing home lawsuit filed last week, and reported by Kaiser Health News, makes some troubling allegations about the work of a national hospice company. According to the complaint, the facility in question engaged in unsavory profit-building tactics including the cycling of patients between nursing homes and hospice care. Those leading the effort hoped to squeeze as much money out of Medicare as possible, with the well-being of the residents seen as a secondary goal. These disturbing allegations of nursing home neglect were made public following a former employee’s filing of a whistleblower lawsuit last week.

According to the report, the federal lawsuit which initiated the matter named a hospice company as defendant for practices it claims were engaged in to take money from Medicare fraudulently. The suit claims that the facility pressured its employees to enroll patients at the facility even though those patients were not actually dying. In addition, the home allegedly resisted discharging residents, even when evidence clearly indicated that they were not deteriorating. For example, in the lawsuit the federal authorities share the story of one patient who was enrolled in the hospice program allegedly from end-state heart disease. Someone in hospice care for that condition would be expected to be totally immobile. However, the resident in this case was healthy enough to go berry-picking and attend his granddaughter’s graduation. Clearly the patient should not have been in hospice care.

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers are aware of the critics who have explained that Medicare’s payment system provides an incentive for abuse. This latest hospice lawsuit provides even more fodder for that argument. The lawsuit is only the latest in a series of hospice lawsuits filed by authorities for fraudulent practices. The hospice company named as a defendant in this suit is owned by a parent company that provides skilled nursing care and other services on top of hospice programs.

The whistleblower in this case explained the modus operandi of the company. Apparently they would recruit patients eligible for twenty day skilled nursing care—of which Medicare would foot the entire bill. Then, when that initially stage was up, the patients would be sent to hospice care. The company then collected a flat payment from Medicare for each day that the patient was enrolled in the program. Had the patient stayed in the regular nursing facility, the patient would have been required to pick up part of the costs. At the end of the day the maximization of profits for the company—and not meeting the needs of patients—was the driving factor behind decisions at the home.

The hospice company has denied all of the charges in the nursing home neglect and Medicare fraud lawsuits. They claim that their practice has evolved in years to treating terminally ill patients whose disease progressions are unpredictable. They allege that the health of certain hospice patients is a product of the fact that some diseases are simply impossible to predict perfectly. While the defense argument is possible, it will be hard to counteract the statistics. In certain branches of the company’s hospice program anywhere from 50% to 80% of hospice patients are eventually discharged while alive. It will be interesting to see how the arguments in this case are fleshed out.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medicaid Fraud Targeting Vulnerable Chicago Senior Citizens

For-Profit Nursing Homes May Be Overcharging Medicare

Nonprofit Nursing Home Staff Members Happier Than For Profit Counterparts

The decision to place a loved one in a nursing facility is often a gut-wrenching process. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers are familiar with the balancing act faced by families in this situation. On one hand, everyone hopes that their loved one will be able to live out their golden years with as a high a quality of life as possible. Usually that means aging in place, in their own home, while still maintaining their physical and mental attributes. However, for many seniors that is simply not an option. Having around-the-clock assistance is often necessary to ensure that medical care is available at a moment’s notice and to guarantee that the senior will have assistance with basic tasks like eating, dressing, and bathing.

It is at those times when families usually realize that perhaps an assisted-living facility is a better living option for their relative, all things considered. Yet, the decision to enter the facility is usually just the first step, because then the family must figure out what exact home is best. As our Illinois nursing home attorneys have often explained on this blog, there are many resources that are available to help compare nursing home quality. The Centers for Medicare and Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website is one of the most well-known of those resources. The database can provide crucial information on what facilities have the highest rates of nursing home abuse and neglect among many other variables.

While close research, questioning, and visits are important in the selection process, as a general matter there is one rule of thumb that might be a helpful starting point: Nonprofit facilities are generally superior to for-profit homes. Study after study has found this to be true. Researchers point to a range of reasons for it. This week the New Old Age Blog suggested yet another facet of the situation. It was explained that staff members at nonprofit facilities are generally much happier than their counterparts at for-profit homes, an important reason why resident care was ultimately superior. This was found to be the case after a survey of nurses at 300 different skilled nursing facilities.

According to the researchers the higher happiness levels can be attributed to a few different factors. Those include:

1) The ability of nonprofit employees to play an active role in policymaking at the facility

2) More supportive managers and nonprofit homes

3) Increased feeling of having adequate resources to help residents properly. This is essentially a component of one of the main differences between nonprofit and for-profit homes: staff levels. Nonprofit homes are much more likely to have adequate levels of nurses and nursing assistants, meaning that each caregiver is not burdened by an unmanageable workload.

Overall, those involved in the study found that the increased happiness levels among nurses, aides, and others resulted in lower turnover levels. It is not difficult to see how less turnover among nursing home caregivers can translate into less instances of nursing home neglect and better overall care. Long-serving nurses are able to understand the needs of each resident and address them in a timely and efficient manner.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Lake County Nursing Home—Winchester House—May Be Privatized

Kickbacks Made with Chicago Nursing Home Operators

Cameras to Record Federal Civil Trials in Chicago

Fellow Chicago injury lawyers and all practitioners who are involved in federal cases in our area will be interested to learn that starting this year cameras will be used in a select few courtrooms at the Dirksen Federal Building. While cameras have been used in some state trials and appellate courtrooms nationwide (never in Illinois), there has been surprisingly little use of the technology at the trial level or in most federal courts.

According to the terms of an approval reached by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the cameras will be placed in fourteen different districts across the country, with Chicago being just one. In all cases there will be three cameras in each room. One will point to the judge’s bench, another will focus on the podium where the advocate speaks, and the third will fix on the witness box. Obviously, because of the clear security, comfort, and potential distorting influence, the jury will never be seen in the tapes. In addition, the federal court judge can chose not to have his or her face shown on the camera.

In other districts participating in the pilot project, the video stream will be beamed live over the Internet for any enterprising member of the public to view. However, that is not the case here. Instead, the tapes will be saved to a local server. It is only later that they will then be uploaded to the Northern District’s website for public viewing. In the interim a judge can order certain parts of the tape edited before reaching the public. It is not exactly clear what sorts of segments of a trial a judge may deem inappropriate for public viewing.

Right now the cameras will only record civil cases. A federal clerk familiar with the matter noted that criminal cases might also be included down the road, depending on how this test run works out.

In many ways it is encouraging that one of our federal Chicago nursing home abuse cases may be viewed by the general public. Any Illinois injury lawyer has likely experienced disconnect between public understanding of the workings of a trial and the reality. Unfortunately, many members of the community only learn about cases via newspaper headlines that rattle off big verdicts. In this way the public often gets the sense the justice system is simply a “get rich quick” scheme and residents often assume that the nursing home did nothing wrong. By opening up an easy platform for members of the public to actually hear the same information in the same format as the jury, many community members may get a better appreciation for what exactly went on and how a decision was reached.

As with most things, it is hard to understand how bad outcomes could come from sharing open and honest information with the public about these processes. The State-Journal Register championed use of cameras in the courtroom in an editorial last month, mostly based on the trial of Governor Rod Blagojevich. The editorial noted that community members throughout the state have a clear interest in following these criminal trials and other high profile personal injury lawsuits. Yet, only a select few are ever capable of actually visiting the courthouse and watching. Cameras will hopefully change that.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Levin & Perconti Filed Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit Against Elm Brook Health Care & Rehab Center

Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit Filed Against Virgil Calvert Nursing Home

Editorial Lambasts Washington for Ignoring Elder Abuse

An editorial in this week’s Huffington Post from the National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, offered a general summary of the sad state of affairs when it comes to elder abuse identification and prevention. Despite the encouraging signs that more focus is slowly being directed at the plight of so many vulnerable seniors, the fact remains that elders suffer every day without anyone doing anything about it. Certain aspects of the problem have reached epidemic proportions. For example, during the holiday season it is estimated that one in ten seniors fell victim to some form of elder financial abuse. Collectively, this amounts to a loss of more than $3 billion each and every year. In some of the most extreme cases, seniors lose savings that they had built up over a lifetime.

Each Chicago elder abuse attorney at our firm knows how most victims of this form of abuse never receive any vindication. The problem remains hidden, accountability is not had, and future abusers feel confident enough to hurt more and more victims in this way. Last year Congress held hearings on the plight of many of these seniors, highlighting the scope of the problem and its various forms. In the past the body has actually worked to enact legislation to tackle the problem—the Elder Justice Act. However, as the editorial points out, for the second year in a row Congress passed a spending bill while failing to fun this piece of legislation—the only federal elder abuse prevention act on the books. The President had asked Congress to authorize $21.5 million in startup funds to get the prevention project off the ground. However, Congress ignored this request and so the measure will remain stalled yet again.

It remains disappointing that so little is being done on a federal level to actually prevent this abuse before it occurs so that victims are spared. Instead, elder abuse lawyers are forced to spearhead the accountability project by seeking to hold wrongdoers accountable after the fact. Ideally steps would be enacted to help stop the problems from arising in the first place.

It is always frustrating when political posturing gets in the way of addressing a real issue. As the editorial notes, going into this election year, it is obvious that politicians on both sides with engage in loud rhetoric in an attempt to attract the vote of older Americans. Seniors are the most reliable voters, and with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, their numbers are increasing. However, all elder rights advocates know that seniors respond to promises kept, not promises made. Promises to ensure quality medical care and prevent instances of elder abuse are worthless if positive steps are not taken to fulfill those promises. Passing an elder prevention bill and then failing to fund it is an example of a promise made but not kept. The author noted that proper funding for elder justice must be made a priority this election season. All those who care about proper treatment of seniors should educate themselves on where each candidate stands on this important issue.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Illinois Nursing Home Care May Be Placed At Risk By Deficit Deal

Steep Budget Cuts Seen for Home Health Services for Seniors

New Government Report Shares Data on Residential Care Facilities

Late last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a new report that provides a detailed summary of residential care facilities throughout the country. It is a helpful document for all those in our area making decisions about long-term care for a loved one and hoping to ensure they remain free of Illinois nursing home neglect or abuse. Each Chicago nursing home abuse attorney at our firm believes that conducting proper research on these facilities ahead of time is usually the best way to avoid problematic homes and ensure quality care. Also, it is necessary to determine if a nursing home is the appropriate place for your loved one at all—a residential care facility may offer a better alternative.

You can view the full report HERE.

The document was produced via a comprehensive data analysis and survey on residential care facilities (RCFs) nationwide. RCFs are considered all assisted living facilities and personal care homes that provide support to those who cannot live independently. They are distinct from nursing homes in that they do not provided as skilled a level of care as those found in regular long-term care institutions. In addition, RCFs are not federally regulated as nursing homes are. That means that reports like this one are particularly important in providing a complete picture of the quality of care provided at all long-term care facilities, both nursing homes and these RCFs.

According to the survey, there are about 31,000 residential care facilities currently in operation in the country. This represents over 970,000 beds. Most of these facilities are small locations, with half of RCFs having fewer than 10 beds. The remaining homes generally had anywhere from 10 to 100 beds. Only a small fraction of RCFs (7%) were larger facilities with more than 100 beds. However, when comparing the total number of facilities and residents they serve, medium –size facilities serve the most residents overall.

The vast majority of RCFs are private, for-profits facilities. They constituted 82% of all RCFs, while the remaining 18% were nonprofit homes or owned by government bodies. RCF chains accounted for more than a 1/3 of all homes and the largest facilities were more likely to be of the chain variety. These are important figures when it comes to quality of care data, as, at least in the nursing home context, chains and for-profit homes consistently have higher rates of mistreatment.

One of the challenges faced by many local families when a loved one is need of extra care is determining what type of facility will provide the needed care without stifling the individual’s freedom. The quality of life of each resident of these facilities cannot be forgotten. The decision is made even more stressful by the stories that are continually shared about nursing home abuse and elder neglect that occur with surprising frequency in many of these locations. The best way to prevent this from happening in your case is to conduct as much research as possible to know about a facility’s track record. It is also important to visit the home, ask questions, and get information from those already living in the establishment.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Abused Seniors Need More Safe Havens

Nursing Homes Targeted in Nationwide Crime Ring

Drug Company Settles Lawsuit Following Nursing Home Death

The Watertown Daily Times reported last week on the conclusion of a nursing home neglect lawsuit. The case stemmed from the death of a 94-year old woman at a county run nursing facility a few years ago. According to reports, the resident was accidentally given the wrong medication. The medication was given to the resident for two weeks straight before she ultimately passed away from complications caused in part by the error. It was only after an autopsy was performed on the woman that those involved learned that she had been receiving matolazone instead of methimazole. The similarity in the drug names was cited as the reason for the mistake. However, obviously the fact that two drugs sound the same is not sufficient justification to avoid liability in a subsequent civil suit requiring them to pay for the consequences of their actions.

Both the county which managed the facility as well as the drug company which filled the prescription were named as defendants in the lawsuit. The county agreed to pay nearly $90,000 for the death. In addition, the drug company will pay the family about $47,000 for their role in the mistake and death.

This case represents a few basic principles of negligence law which our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know can be a bit confusing for new clients trying to understand the process. One concept that many Illinois nursing home neglect victims and their families don’t initially understand is: who should we sue? Naming defendants in a lawsuit is never a straightforward or automatic process. As this case demonstrates, there are often many different involved parties to a single incident of negligence.

It is perhaps easiest to explain by discussing the two common theories of liability under which any party may be added to a lawsuit.

1) Independent Act of Negligence: Many parties are named as defendants in a case because they engaged in a specific act of negligence. This is what most residents think of when they image why a party would be attached to a lawsuit. For example, the individual who incorrectly read the form and filled the prescription wrongly engaged in an individual act of negligence. In addition, the nurses at the facility may have been independently negligent in not catching the error or checking to ensure that the medication they were giving the woman was appropriate.

2) Vicarious Liability: Beyond independent acts of negligence, many parties are added to a lawsuit and named as defendants under theories of vicarious liability. This involves agency law rules. In short, the law will demand that some individuals and entities be held responsible for the actions of those who act inappropriately in furtherance of a goal of the individual or entity. This is most commonly seen in the employee/employer relationship. Companies can be sued for the conduct of their employees. Nursing homes can be sued for the actions of their nurses and nurses’ assistants.

When each Illinois nursing home lawyer at our firm takes on a new case and prepares for filing a new suit, he or she will closely considered these theories of liability. All of the questions that a lawyer asks a new client is geared toward better identifying issues such as this, determining who played a role in the harm and who is legally obligated to provide redress and accountability.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Advocates Concerned About Inequality in Nursing Home Pressure Sore Rates

Signs & Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

United Way Helping to Fight Illinois Nursing Home Abuse

There is no magic bullet for stamping out Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect. Obviously, as Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys, we strongly believe in the power of individual citizens to use the justice system to demand redress and accountability when caregivers fail to provide reasonable care. When private citizens file nursing home lawsuits they are both receiving fair redress for their losses and acting as an accountability measure incentivizing care improvements at the involved facility. Many settlements in these situations also include demands that the nursing homes take certain steps to ensure that future caregiving lapses are prevented.

However, private citizens standing up for their rights are just one part of what must be a multifaceted effort to eliminate mistreatment at these homes. Proper public oversight is also absolutely essential. Government inspectors, when given proper authority, can usually conduct thorough reviews of these homes, ensuring that all reasonable standards are being met. These inspections have the added benefit of helping to identify problems before they actually cause harm to a resident. They are the ideal proactive approach to addressing these issues. Conversely, filing an Illinois nursing home abuse lawsuit is by its nature reactionary—a legal claim only arises once the harm has been experienced.

Complimenting public oversight bodies and civil suits by private citizens are various nonprofit organizations that work in a range of ways to improve the lives of senior citizens and provide avenues to eliminate elder abuse. For example, the Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care is one of the nation’s leading organizations protecting the rights of nursing home residents and their families. One of our firm’s founders, Chicago nursing home lawyer Steve Levin, currently serves on the groups Leadership Council.

Many other fantastic nonprofit groups work in whole or in part on these issues. This week the Pekin Times discussed a recent fundraising drive in Tazewell County, Illinois in support of the United Way. In an effort to help the organization raise the funds it needs to maintain its current services, the article discussed the programs in which the nonprofit is engaged. Part of their mission is supporting efforts that make sure nursing home residents’ rights in our state are protected and that instances of abuse and mistreatment do not go unnoticed. The organization helps seniors in all settings, from voiceless residents in long-term care facilities to those who live at home but are mistreated by friends and family members.

As we have frequently mentioned, most elder abuse is never actually noticed. For all those cases where a nursing home or caregiver is held accountable, ten other wrongdoers go unpunished. There simply are not enough individuals spending time keeping abreast of seniors and ensuring that they are not being victimized. That is why private and public advocacy groups are so crucial. Individuals at the United Way, Consumer Voice, and many similar groups take the time to reach out to seniors, help those who have been hurt, and follow up to make sure that victims are never again threatened. Without these groups, the seniors involved are left to their own devices and further taken advantage of. For our part, our lawyers also participate in nonprofit efforts to help seniors, but the legal side of our work is involved only when mistreatment has already occurred, not before.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed After “Granny Cam” Catches Abuse

Pair Accused of Illinois Elder Abuse Will Remain in Jail

Nursing Home Residents More Likely to Die Following Surgery

EIN News shared the results of an interesting new study this week regarding surgical risks for nursing homes residents. The study was published in the latest edition of the Annals of Surgery. It involved comparisons of surgical outcomes, complications, and long-term recovery between elderly residents who live in nursing homes and elderly patients who live on their own. The results, disturbingly, found that nursing home residents have more trouble during and after surgery than their same-age counterparts who live independently. Some observers believe that the differences may be a lingering effect of chronic nursing home neglect.

Of course, it would be logical for seniors to experience more complications after surgery and risks during surgery when compared with younger individuals. As the body ages its ability to recover and handle intrusions becomes weaker. Therefore, merely reporting that nursing home residents have more surgery risks is not all that surprising. What is surprising, however, is that two senior community members, all other things being equal, would have different risks based solely on whether one lived in their own dwelling or lived in a nursing home. But that is exactly what the latest research has found.

Experts analyzed records of more than 70,000 nursing home residents and one million, non-institutionalized seniors on Medicare. Those records where then compared on a wide range of issues. Of particular interest they examined the long-term consequences for seniors who had abdominal surgery, appendix removal, colon removal, gall bladder removal, and surgical treatments for bleeding ulcers. Our Chicago nursing home lawyers were sad to learn that, across the board, nursing home residents were much more likely to die from these surgeries when compared with their generational counterparts who did not live in a long-term care facility.

In many cases, the nursing home residents were 200% to 300% more likely to die after the surgery. More specifically, researchers found that following operations to treat bleeding ulcers, 42% of nursing home residents died compared to just 26% of those not in these facilities. The difference was even starker for colon operations. Only 13% of Medicare recipients died following the procedure, but the risk was nearly three times higher for nursing home residents-- 32% of whom died after the colon operation.

Some involved in the project believe that the aggressive recommendations to have surgery by medical professionals treating nursing home patients constitute a subtle form of nursing home neglect. In other words, many nursing home residents do not receive the closest, individual care and assessment. Instead of closely evaluating the residents’ frailty level and balancing the risks, a one-size-fits-all blanket approach is applied. In that way, many residents who are not strong enough to have surgery still receive it, leading to their death. Not accounting for the unique risks that a patient may be exposed to is unacceptable, particularly when the consequences can end a life. One surgeon involved in this investigation believes that the finding should be shared with all nursing home residents and their families. Our Illinois nursing home lawyers agree. If medical personnel at these homes systematically send more nursing home residents into risky surgery, the involved families should at least be made fully aware of the increased risks so that they can jointly decide the best course of treatment in their own case.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Study Reveals Black Nursing Home Residents More Likely to Develop Bedsores

Illinois Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect May Lead to Pressure Sores and Death

Nursing Home Operator Receives State Funds Even After Care Lapses

The New York Times shed light on a troubling issue last week related to the funneling of public funds to long-term care institutions which have a track record of nursing home abuse and neglect. It should seem logical for public bodies to demand that those who receive taxpayer dollars to care for those with developmental disabilities and seniors to provide a reasonable level of care free of abuse and neglect. If mistreatment is continually provided it should have consequences that affect their bottom line. Yet, that is often not the case.

The New York Times story discussed one organization that provides care to the developmentally disabled which has remained on the state payroll after years of care lapses and shocking mismanagement. The facility provides care to vulnerable children, including those with autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. Over the past several decades the organization had more citations for nursing home neglect than any other facility in the state. The citations were of the most serious variety—those which risked severe harm to the residents. Inspection data from the last six years found that the home was cited dozens of times for problems which resulted in harm to the young residents or could have. The total number of citation rate was literally 2000% higher than that of most facilities of the same size in the state. Clearly there are severe problems at this home.

Not only was the caregiving problematic, but the internal management f the facility seemed to be in disarray. The facility filed for bankruptcy twice in the 1990s. At one point it owed the IR $3 million in back taxes. Its executive officer was once charged criminally for embezzling over $2 million from the home—money which ultimately came from taxpayers. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer know that that the situation at this facility is akin to those elsewhere: nursing home administrators prioritizing money in their own pocket over care provided to those who rely on them.

Logical observers would likely argue that state officials, after learning of the financial problems and caregiving lapses, would do everything in their power to ensure taxpayer funds were not wasted in this way again. Yet, records indicate that the state never once sought to remove itself from the troubled facility. It continues to pay the home more than $20 million every year in Medicaid funds.

Analysts explain that the problem is rooted in a failure on the state’s part to provide proper oversight of these largest facilities. The Illinois nursing home attorneys at our firms have frequently explained that nonprofit facilities usually provide better care on average than for profit nursing home chains. However, that does not mean all nonprofit homes provide perfect care or that state officials do not need to work hard on accountability measures to keep the level of care high at nonprofit homes. In particular, when a nonprofit grows quickly into large multi-million dollar enterprises, it is important that they be tracked so that they do not fall back on practices which are seen in nursing home conglomerates—maximizing profits no matter what the cost.

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