Articles Posted in Useful publications

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If elder abuse and neglect strikes you or someone you love, it is important to ensure there is full, legal accountability. But how is that done? The accountability can take different forms, both under the civil law and criminal law.

If the misconduct is intentional or particularly abhorrent, then criminal charges may be filed against those involved. Prosecutors make the determination as to whether the situation involves the breaking of a law in the state criminal code. Potential penalties in these cases may include jail time, probation, fines, or various other punishments.

Alternatively, those individuals directly harmed by the mistreatment (or their families) decide to pursue accountability under the civil law. In civil lawsuits alleging elder neglect, the potential outcome is usually not a “punishment” for the wrongdoer but instead compensation to help the one harmed.

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The total number of elderly Illinois residents rises on a daily basis. Coinciding with the demographic change is a rise in instances of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Cognitive decline in seniors is a striking problem. One of the main reasons that local families help their loved ones into nursing homes is specifically because of these issues which make it impossible for the senior to live on their own.

Understanding that these dementia issues are on the rise, it is incumbent upon long-term care facilities to take steps to provide the absolute best memory care possible to this community. It is well known that a one size fits all approach to this treatment is unacceptable. Each resident has different needs, struggles, vulnerabilities, and limitations. It is critical for caregivers to provide individualized care both to prevent harm as well as maximize the senior’s well-being.

New Dementia Care Program

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Senior care is a complex issue. When discussing lawsuits related to nursing home neglect, elder financial exploitation, or other matters, it is easy to over-simplify the larger problem. Obviously, all community members deserve reasonable care that is free of mistreatment and allows them the best chance to thrive in their golden years. But it is an error to assume that anyone has a magic formula that will automatically ensure that the widespread problem disappears overnight.

Elder care includes a combination of family support, aid from professional caregivers, long-term care providers, health insurance companies, public policy-makers, and more. There are many different pieces to the puzzle, and those working on the problem appreciate that much work needs to be done in each sphere.

Self-Neglect

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A news release issued by the National Community Pharmacy Association notes that a new law has been proposed which would aid Medicare beneficiaries to get diabetic testing supplies that are residents of assisted living facilities and who are homebound. The Diabetic Testing Supply Access Act (H.R. 2845), allows community pharmacies to provide same-day delivery services of diabetes testing supplies to residents of assisted living facilities or those who receive long-term care.

The new law was put forward in response to a ban on diabetic testing supply deliveries by community pharmacies which went into effect on July 1, 2013. This ban was created when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a national mail order program which prevented senior citizens who live at assisted living facilities from getting diabetic testing supplies from community pharmacies. CMS instituted the new policy in order to prevent large drug suppliers from getting around the mail order process for shipping the supplies in order to receive high reimbursements. The ban incorporated uniform payment rates for both retail and mail-order pharmacies.

Widespread criticism of the ban centered on concern that elderly people with diabetes living in assisted living facilities would no longer be able to get the benefits of face-to-face counseling and adherence services that are offered by community pharmacies that deliver diabetic testing supplies. There were also concerns expressed by many people in the healthcare industry that the ban would leave diabetic residents in assisted living facilities without the means for self-monitoring of glucose. Many small pharmacies expressed concern that because of the ban, many diabetic patients would be forced to switch to lower-quality products in order to monitor their diabetes. The ban put the health of many diabetic residents of assisted living facilities in jeopardy because they rely on small pharmacies to provide face-to-face consultation to make sure that are using their blood glucose monitoring devices correctly and that the results that the devices give are being interpreted correctly.

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Bed rails have been a hot topic among elder care advocates in recent years. Yet for all the discussion and mounting evidence about the dangers of these pieces of equipment, there has yet to be any far-reaching federal actions targeted at this safety risk.

That may change soon.

That is because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is exploring the issue and may created updated rules. Different options are on the table, from editing safety warning labels and mandating only certain designs be used to banning the products in some locations all together. The CPSC recently had a public hearing on the matter, where all of the “priorities” for the next two fiscal years were discussed. Bed rails were on the agenda.

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Seniors in nursing home are in a fragile state of health. Sometimes nursing home providers will use that to argue that subsequent injuries or illness that residents contract are expected and unpreventable. In most cases that is nothing more than an excuse. The truth is that the resident’s medical vulnerabilities are the very reason why they are in the home to begin with, and the reason why care providers need to be incredibly vigilant about controlling all of the risk factors to allow the senior to remain in as good a condition as possible.

When proper care is not provided, it may be a sign of nursing home neglect, and residents and their families may be able to seek legal accountability. In many cases, the root neglect is in the action (or inaction) of care providers–like failing to monitor a change in condition or not providing supervision which leads to a fall. In other cases, the underlying issue is more complex, perhaps involving use of defective or dangerous products in resident care.

Dangerous Mattress Covers

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Many portrayals of attorneys in TV, movies, and even newspaper stories paint the picture of legal professionals who are greedy and only out for maximizing their own pocketbook. Unfortunately, these stereotypes actual influence public opinion and sometimes seep into actual policy matters affecting the legal professional and the civil justice system as a whole.

For example, contingency agreements are often looked at with suspicion. Many personal injury cases, including Chicago nursing home neglect matters, are taken via contingency fee arrangements. This basically means that the plaintiff does not have to pay for attorney fees, court costs, or other expenses unless they recover. The payments are then made out of this recovery.

CJ&D Study

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Yesterday we discussed a new report which provides helpful summary information about long-term care payments and the role of public support programs like Medicaid. As noted, the majority of nursing home residents are on Medicaid and the majority of all long-term care services (both at home and in facilities) is covered by Medicare and Medicaid jointly. One of the main reasons that these insurance options are so critical is because the actual cost of long-term care is prohibitive for many lower and middle income families.

Expensive Services

Nationwide, nursing home care averages over $83,000 per year. For a senior resident without the ability to work, it does not take much imagination to realize that the cost is likely impossible to pay out of pocket for most. Even assisted living facilities–which usually have no professional medical staff or skilled care– cost nearly $40,000 annually. Unfortunately, the majority of seniors do not have retirement nest eggs that can cover those costs for very long (or at all). Private long-term care insurance exists, but only a few ever purchase the insurance and it is usually incredibly expensive. The same financial challenges that prevent seniors from paying for care out of pocket make it not feasible to purchase long-term care insurance out of pocket.

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Unless you shut out all newspapers, online articles, and television programs over the last week, you’ve probably heard about the “Cliff Agreement” that was reached by Congress on New Year’s Day. The compromise measure surprisingly passed both chambers with support from members of both parties–though Republicans were more likely to be opposed to the bill.

The majority of focus on the details of the plan relate to taxes. After all, the bill is actually entitled the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). That major provisions include elimination of the payroll tax, increases in the capital gains and income tax for high-earning Americans, and changes to the estate tax. There are also alterations to long-term retirement accounts, with 401(k)s converted into Roth IRAs for the purpose of generating more short-term tax revenue for the federal government.

However, taxes were not the only thing at issue in the ATRA. In fact, one issue related to elder care was included as part of the compromise bill. A Forbes story provides some helpful details of the situation. In particular, the bill does two different things which may affect long-term care services, including proper access to quality facilities void of Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect.

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Senior abuse is so widespread because those affected are often voiceless. One of the consequences of this dynamic is that solving the problem usually requires the action of outsiders. While educating elderly themselves is helpful, doing that alone will not end the problem. All of us need to come together, commit to be vigilant about the safety and well being of seniors in our lives, and speak up when we have suspicions.

Fortunately, there are some great advocacy groups and public entities leading large-scale programs aimed at organizing around this problem and working to end it. For example, the U.S. Administration on Aging (AOA) recently published information on the “Year of Elder Abuse Prevention.” The project includes dissemination of many different resources all seeking to educate community members about the facets of the abuse, the risk factors, prevention tips, and the best ways to report problems once they are identified.

There are many different ways to to help, and we hope you use the start of a new year to learn more about the problem and commit to ending it.