Articles Posted in Ombudsmen Program

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Choosing the right nursing home for a loved one is a difficult task. The potential for mistreatment and abuse of a vulnerable relative is often on family member’s minds. According to McKnight’s Longterm Care News & Assisted Living, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is striving to make this process easier. The government agency responsible for administering Medicare and other programs, as well as providing information to health professionals and the public, is currently in the process of expanding its database to provide more detailed information about nursing home deficiencies.

CMS began posting nursing home deficiency reports last summer, based on information reported to the agency through standard health and complaint surveys. CMS conducts these investigations as part of its role in overseeing that nursing homes comply with health and safety laws. The data currently provides information as far as fifteen months back and one survey cycle, but CMS aims to provide information as far back as three cycles for standard health surveys, and three years for complaint surveys. In addition to the increased time period, CMS also intends to provide indicators as to the severity of each deficiency cited. All in all, the added information will likely give families a greater sense of control and security in the nursing home selection process, and will help to hold deficient nursing homes accountable.

CMS’s pledge to provide greater information to the public couldn’t come earlier. Recently, in Connecticut, a string of nursing homes have been found to have left vulnerable elders in desperate conditions. The CT Post reports that the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), a state agency, found numerous violations of the state’s regulations for nursing homes. In one case, a resident with a leg wound had refused treatment for so long that maggots were found to be festering inside of it. The DPH found that the nursing home responsible had performed a psychiatric evaluation on the resident, but had failed to approve her for psychiatric admission, and had failed to provide an alternative treatment plan. In another case, a resident suffered extreme weight loss due to loss of dentures, a condition to which the responsible facility’s nutritionist was never alerted. In the final case, a resident was moved from a wheelchair to a bed without a mechanical lift, contrary to the patient care plan. The resident was injured from being dropped during the transfer. The DPH administered fines for each deficiency cited.

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The fight to improve the lives of seniors occurs on many fronts. Part of it involves holding facilities and caregivers accountable in the civil law following neglect and mistreatment. Another is the larger public policy fights to push for fair rules and regulations that most benefit seniors generally and nursing home residents specifically. The Consumer Voice is one of the leading organizations advancing the policy goals of the community. Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorney Steven Levin currently serves on the Leadership Council of the Consumer Voice.

Consumer Voice Public Policy Vision

Recently, the organization released a list of goals to flesh out its public policy agenda for the next one to two years. The list is a helpful checklist to follow in the coming months as debate about these issues advances at various levels, including state and local governments. The four most recent goals include:

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The Consumer Voice, the premier national nursing home residents’ advocacy group, recently issued the December issue of its monthly newsletter, The Gazette. In it the group sends out a reminder on the importance of visiting nursing home residents-during the holidays and throughout the year.

It goes without saying that visits help improve resident health and quality of life. As with all of us, residents’ general sense of well-being is improved with more interaction with friends and family. It is vital that nursing homes not feel like locked-down isolation where residents are cut-off from activities outside of the facility.

The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 is very clear in its endorsement and protection of visits. The law requires nursing home staff to provide immediate access to the resident for all relatives with consent. The family is free to determine when to visit and what to do while visiting. There are many options to make the visits interesting and enjoyable. They could include eating meals together at the facility, helping the resident decorate a room, or watching old family movies together. The most important thing is simply taking the effort to be by their side.

In addition, visits from others often ensures that residents receive reasonable care-facilities usually dislike the embarrassment of having visitors see unkempt locations or negligent treatment of residents.
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The Consumer Voice-one of the nation’s foremost organizations devoted to quality long term care at elder facilities-has recently launched a new project to improve the treatment and services provided at nursing homes.

The project, Consumers for Quality Care, No Matter Where, is committed to expanding the organization’s current effort to advocate for health care issues faced by elder nursing home residents as well as seniors in other living situations. The program will build upon previous grassroots efforts to ensure that these vulnerable consumers are given access to the quality, well-coordinated care that they need.

More specifically, the new project will allow development of models to engage consumers in state pilot projects, collaborating with national health reform organizations, ultimately hoping to report policy recommendations to assist policy-makers in providing for the needs of long-term care residents. In addition Consumers for Quality Care, No Matter Where will provide work training and grant opportunities to other advocates of these consumer rights.

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Manor Court of Clinton, a Clinton, Illinois nursing home, has not only been cited for deficiencies but its administrator has been replaced. This comes after many complaints and an inspection by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Pantagraph.com is reporting that the IDPH discovered that the nursing home was not in compliance with several federal regulations. Manor Court will now receive a daily fine of $400 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until it is back in compliance. The IDPH is instrumental in investigating cases of nursing home negligence throughout the state of Illinois.

The home was cited for failure to maintain hot water and failing to relieve residents’ pressure sores. The negligent nursing home was also unable to prevent a resident from falling and was found to have insufficient nursing staffing. These issues may have led to an inability to administer and monitor resident medications. A regional long-term care ombudsmen with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging , Tami Wacker, said her office has investigated many complaints with the Manor Court administrator. They found that when their complaints were voiced, there was an obvious lack of cooperation from the nursing home administration.

The Nursing Home Compare website does not give favorable ratings to Manor Court. The overall rating is one out of five stars and they only give the home one star for nursing home staffing. The compare website is a helpful tool in choosing a nursing home. If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home negligence at Manor Court of Clinton, please consult an Illinois nursing home attorney. To read more about the Illinois nursing home inspections, please click the link.

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A New York Times article has laid out many times for helping those dealing with the stressful task of choosing a nursing home. Chief executive of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging states that you can find a nursing home with a safe, engaging and pleasant environment if you “know what to look for and how to search.” The first step is to start with the data by looking at a nursing home’s health inspection data, staffing and quality measures. You may obtain this information by going to the Medicare website and using the “nursing home compare” tool. The next helpful step is to visit the nursing home numerous times. Ask to speak with the executive director, lead physician and head nurse. Take notice as to whether staff members are being friendly with the patients. When speaking with nursing home representatives make sure to ask the nursing homes if they engage in “person-centered care” as well as “consistent assignment” These homes will allow patients to generally manage their own schedules and choose when they wake up. Finally, make sure to inquire about the staff turnover. Countless studies have found that nursing home staffs with high turnover rates are more likely to commit nursing home negligence.

There are many helpful sources for choosing a nursing home in Illinois. The Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti recommend visiting the Illinois Department of Health’s Website to examine information on each nursing home in Illinois. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at the Illinois Department of Aging is another helpful resource for families choosing a nursing home for a loved one. They run a Senior Helpline that you may access by calling 1-800-252-8966.

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The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has issued their September Newsletter. The newsletter discussed the recent budget cuts to Illinois Ombudsmen Programs. On October 1, planned state budget cuts will significantly reduce funding to Illinois’s long-term care ombudsmen program. These budget cuts will place further strain on the program that helps prevent nursing home abuse and neglect. The budget cuts will reduce funding from $2.34 million to 1.9 million. This will inevitably mean a decrease in ombudsmen, who routinely address the questions and concerns of residents. The president of the Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen stated that the regular presence of an ombudsman is vitally important especially for those who do not have family and friends to advocate on their behalf. The decrease of ombudsmen will reduce the amount of help that elderly residents receive in nursing homes. The newsletter also discussed that nursing home executives are excluded from federal health care programs and the fact that the inspector general has released reports on hospice in nursing homes. To read the entire newsletter, please click the link.

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Elderly people across Illinois may suffer when budget cuts are scheduled to take effect October 1. These budget cuts will reduce the number of trained advocates who visit nursing homes to expose and prevent elderly abuse and neglect. The president of the Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen is very worried about the effect that these cuts will have on nursing home care. The 19 percent funding cut will result in layoffs and reductions in staff hours for people who regularly visit facilities. The regular presence of ombudsmen is vitally important to those residents who are unable to speak on their own behalf. Long-term care ombudsmen, who are not state employees, inform residents and families of their rights, resolve care-related problems and help protect residents from financial abuse by relatives. They also assist residents and families in filing complaints with the Illinois Department of Public Health about nursing home care. To read more about the budget cuts, please click the link.

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On June 4, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued a report faulting the nursing home for failing to protect female residents from the molestations of a male resident between January and May. The day after report was released the resident was moved from the home to the mental unit at an Illinois hospital. Following a inspection of the home, the nursing home’s administrator claimed that staff had asked the home’s ombudsman to help develop “interventions” for the male resident. He noted that the ombudsman has a duty to report abuse and neglect and said the ombudsman did not consider the male resident’s behavior to be nursing home abuse and neglect. The ombudsman states that these accusations are false. She states that the home’s staff never asked the ombudsman to help develop interventions and that an ombudsman is prohibited from reporting or sharing information about elder neglect and abuse without permission from the resident in question. The LaSalle County Nursing Home is facing a $20,000 fine from the state and at least a possible $20,000 fine from the federal government for the elderly abuse committed by the male resident. To read more about the nursing home abuse, please click the link.

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The Illinois State Journal Register discussed both the pros and cons of the new nursing home legislation proposed in Illinois, Senate Bill 314. Some, like the executive director of Nursing Home Monitors, believe that the nursing home legislation would weaken an already lax regulatory system by allowing the state to forgive certain fines against nursing homes that promise to use the money for correcting deficiencies. Others, like Wendy Meltzer, the director of Chicago-based Citizens for Better Care, believe that the bill would make it harder for nursing homes to negotiate a reduction in fines. This is due to the work of Meltzer to insert language that made reductions of fines off limits if those fines were connected with harm to residents. The nursing home industry agreed with the changes to the original nursing home legislation because the state was focusing too much on high fines against nursing homes and not enough on helping facilities provide good care. Currently, the bill is awaiting Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s signature. To read more about the nursing home legislation, please click the link.