Articles Posted in Chicago Nursing Home Abuse

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Far too many nursing home owners and operators are focused almost exclusively on maximizing their own bottom line each month. That often means making choices about staffing, safety changes to the facility, commitment to staff training, the buying of supplies, and many other decisions where the best interests of the residents conflict with more profit for owners and operators. Obviously, a proper balance must be struck with reasonable levels of care provided to seniors at all times. When that profit motive is out of balance and harm results to a senior, then elder neglect has occurred and a civil lawsuit might be appropriate.

Yet, even when dealing with a lawsuit, some facilities take the same approach–willing to do anything to save themselves from having to pay out. In nursing home neglect lawsuits (and possible trials), that often means aggressive legal defenses that seem to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the plaintiffs in order to get the suit dismissed or encourage a settlement far below was is fair.

Judge Rejects Mistrial Argument in Nursing Home Case

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Yesterday we discussed the new book “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of the Care” where a doctor argued for a new outlook on dementia care. The physician, who has decades of experience with patients experiencing cognitive disease as they age, argues that instead of focusing solely on the disease itself, the overall patient must be considered.

Admittedly, it is easier to grasp this general principle than it is to understand exactly what that means in terms of caregiving at nursing home and other assisted living facilities. Perhaps most obviously, the book is a call for less dependence on medications to control the symptoms of dementia. Instead, more individualized care plan need to be crafted which take the unique challenges of a resident with dementia into account.

Unique Nighttime Programs

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Knox News reported earlier this month on a follow-up to a tragic case of nursing home neglect and abuse on which we’ve previously posted. The underlying case involved the rape of an 89-year old woman with severe dementia. Late last month the senior resident told her family that earlier in the summer a man entered her room and raped her. She did not know the man. Eventually the police were called in and a rape test was performed. The test revealed DNA samples of the attacker–though the criminal has yet to be identified.

Of course this opened up a big question: how on earth did the man enter the room and have access to the vulnerable senior? Perhaps the most obvious answer is that the attacker may have been a male employee of the facility. Lawyers and other advocates working on these cases appreciate that sexual assault by caregivers is not unheard of.

The state Department of Health investigated the matter, issuing a suspension on new admissions into the facility after determining that the home’s current policies and procedures placed residents at risk of harm. This particular home is run by a large nursing home conglomerate which operates at least 225 facilities in 28 different states. In other words, if this company was cutting corners or not abiding by proper safety protocols, then tens of thousands of residents may be at risk.

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One of the biggest differences between a risk facing a senior and one facing a healthy younger adult relate to falls. The fact is that many seniors have vulnerable bodies which mean even a short fall can wreak serious damage for an elderly person that would be nothing more than a temporary blip for a younger person. Obviously understanding these risks is crucial to providing proper long-term care–front line workers must act efficiently to limit even the most limited tumbles.

My Elder Care advocate recently published an extensive story of these incidents which provides a helpful summary of the issue.

The Scope of the Nursing Home Fall Problem

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The Russell Sage Foundation recently released a free new e-book that takes a look at the long-term care system in the United States. The authors examine both the current state of this care (including at nursing homes) as well as the likely future needs. Considering the aging of the nation, the importance of these issues will undoubtedly only grow. Lawyers, senior care advocates, friends, and family members will all need to completely re-think many of these issues if we want to seriously address the problem down the road.

The Importance of Quality Long-Term Care Workers

One chapter of the new book focuses on the critical role played by the caregivers who provide the support that seniors need. This includes direct care workers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at-home service providers. At the end of the day, concerns about neglect or mistreatment begins with an examination of the total number (and quality) of direct care workers. These are the individuals who perform the actual tasks, helping with nutrition,grooming, mobility, and more.

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Lawyers, family members, and senior care advocates frequently cite the civil justice system as one of the key ways that long-term care facilities are actually held accountable for their conduct and spurred to make changes to minimize future harm. That point is well illustrated by a recent case related to the tragic death of a wheelchair bound resident and the lack of punishment (or chance of punishment) from state officials.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death

The Republic published an article this week about a 67-year old Tucson man who was living at a rehabilitation and care center. Like many of his fellow nursing home residents, the man had mobility problems. He was confined to a wheelchair and usually required the assistance of staff members at the home to get around properly. Obviously, nursing home staff members understand their role in helping residents in this way who depend on them to move in certain settings.

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Knox News reported on actions by a state Department of Health following a horrific case of rape which took place in a nursing home. The citations issued to the facility were for two problems–allowing the attack in the first place and then failing to respond properly to prevent similar attacks afterwards. Specifically, the facility was fined $3,000 and new admissions were temporarily suspended.

But that is not all. Federal officials have also stepped in. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted that the facility provided a “substandard quality of care.” As a result the facility is being fined $6,000 every day until improvements are made which bring the facility up to par.

The Nursing Home Rape Case

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It seems that all too often we hear of tragic incidents occurring at Nursing Homes. Today, the Chicago Tribune published an article regarding Alden Village North noting that over the past ten years, Alden has been cited thirteen times for violations in connection to the deaths of its patients.

It is unreasonable to believe that any facility can be perfect in their care, but the types of nursing home neglect that Alden has shown is, in our opinion, inexcusable. The law firm of Levin & Perconti has handled a significant number of cases against Alden for their negligent treatment and care of patients. When negligence occurs, it is important for a facility to investigate the source and correct any problems to mitigate these types of incidents. Alden has been neglecting this part of their duty.

A one-year-old Alden Village North resident who suffered from severe Down syndrome was found in his room “unresponsive and blue” about forty-five minutes after having been fed. There was no one in the room when the child died, and as such Alden was responsible to investigate the cause of the child’s death. In a state investigation, it was found that there was no evidence that the facility reviewed whether proper supervision was provided. The facility was also cited for being understaffed and for not reporting his death to the state health department.

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The Illinois Senate has given an overwhelming amount of support to Illinois nursing home legislation that will overhaul the standards for care and safety in Illinois troubled nursing homes. This new legislation was written after a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed a great number of attacks, rapes and murders in nursing homes that mixed elderly residents with convicted felons.

The Illinois nursing home bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 46-8. It will require nursing homes to increase staffing levels. Many studies have shown that those nursing homes with a higher resident to staff member ratio tend to have a lower rate of nursing home abuse. The nursing home legislation will also ensure that those residents in nursing homes will have a higher standard to meet upon admittance if they have a serious mental illness. Illinois has the highest number of mentally ill residents living amongst elderly residents of all the states. Finally the nursing home legislation will segregate the most dangerous residents in secure units where intensive monitoring and treatment will be ushered by employees. This will help decrease the amount of attacks that occur between mentally ill residents and the general population.

State senator Heather Steans of Chicago stated that this was long overdue legislation in Illinois. The legislation reflects some of the 38 recommendations given by Governor Quinn’s Nursing Home Safety Task Force. The Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti applaud the efforts of the Illinois Senate to decrease nursing home abuse. To read more about the nursing home legislation, please click the link.

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Chicago nursing home attorney Steven Levin wrote to the Chicago Tribune to praise them for their commitment to uncovering nursing home abuse. He applauded the Tribune’s efforts in raising public awareness of Chicago nursing home abuse. Attorney Levin believes that there is a critical need for adequate staffing in nursing homes to protect residents from harm or abuse. When nursing-home owners focus on census over patient care, nursing home negligence ensues. Care workers must be sufficiently trained to create an environment void of physical and sexual abuse. Steven Levin urged readers to contact their respective state representatives to demand legislation that provides minimum staffing standards for Illinois nursing homes. This will help avoid Chicago nursing home abuse. To read the entire letter to the editor, please check out the link.