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Katrina Wesemann, a former nurse at Heritage Health: Therapy and Senior Care, a 92-bed, for-profit nursing home in Dwight, Illinois, was awarded $5.2 million by a jury in Livingston County, Illinois. In October 2012, Ms. Wesemann was fired for calling Heritage Health’s corporate hotline to report that she was being ordered to give residents higher than needed doses of anti-anxiety medications. The intended effect of overdosing residents on such medications is to control their behavior to ensure an easier work shift for nursing home staff. The orders, handed down by Heritage Health’s director of nursing, also included altering the medical records of residents to eliminate any notes pertaining to injuries they’d endured at the facility.

Nursing Home Staff: Truth Tellers Are Protected by Law

Heritage Health’s parent company, Heritage Enterprises Inc., is a medium-sized nursing home chain based in Bloomington, IL. The company’s website boasts of the owners: “Their vision is guided by their focus on keeping the best interest and well-being of the residents, their families and employees at heart.”

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The family of a 77 year old woman with Alzheimer’s has filed a lawsuit against her nursing home after the facility allowed the woman to go missing. Two hours passed before the facility, Woodland Terrace at Oaks Senior Living Community in Allentown, Pennsylvania, called the police. Her body was found dead 3 weeks later in a ditch almost 2 miles away. It is unclear for how long the victim had been deceased before she was located.

The victim, Audrey Penn, was admitted to Woodland Terrace in February of this year with a documented history of dementia and other ailments. After her admittance to the facility, it was noted that she had a tendency towards wandering, a condition that requires precautions including door alarms, personally-fitted tracking devices, and staff vigilance. The nursing home was well aware of Ms. Penn’s tendency to wander and failed to protect her on August 23rd. Ironically, the staff member who allowed Ms. Penn to exit the facility unnoticed that day (referred to as elopement) had just been trained 48 hours prior on how to handle residents who had eloped or wandered. She said she assumed Ms. Penn had left her room to visit with another resident and finished her rounds, leaving a 2 hours gap between when she noticed Ms. Penn was missing and when she decided to call the police.

Elopement and Wandering Can be Prevented 

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A resident of Forest City Rehab and Nursing Center in Rockford, Illinois died this summer after receiving 2 doses of morphine and 2 doses of Norco, all intended for other residents of the facility. A day later, after noticing a change in condition of the resident, the staff gave her Narcan to counteract the effects of an overdose. The woman died a week later as a result of the overdose.

Despite the reason for her death, the facility itself notes that the family was not notified of the error. The information came to the public as a result of a quarterly Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) report that identifies and details nursing home violations. The report notes that Forest City did not document the overdose until the date of her death. Three days after her death the report was updated by a nurse to say “I did not notify the family. I should have.” The report also reveals that the victim’s physician was also not notified at any point in the 7 day period between the overdose and the woman’s death.

The same report details other violations, including failure to properly assist a resident while using the restroom, allowing him to fall and fracture all 4 limbs. The total dollar amount of fines assessed for all violations was a mere $27,000. Forest City Rehab and Nursing Center LLC is a for-profit nursing home that currently holds a 1 (out of 5) star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is responsible for overseeing the safety and quality of nursing homes, ensuring that they abide by regulations in order to receive reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid.

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In mid-November, we blogged on the changes to the Federal Requirements of Participation for Nursing Homes, the already established set of criteria put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal entity responsible for overseeing nursing homes. CMS is also the single largest payer for healthcare in this country, including for the care of those who reside in nursing homes.

On November 28th, phase 2 of the 3 part improvement plan went into effect. As a concession for nursing homes arguing that instantly implementing these requirements would be difficult, CMS has given facilities up to 3 years to become compliant.

Noteworthy Additions to Nursing Home Regulations

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Eldercare Locator, a website and call center that connects elder Americans with resources ‘to enrich their lives and help them meet their daily needs,’ has released the findings from their latest report on the most common reasons for contacting the network. The report gives the public a snapshot of the biggest concerns seniors are facing today, as well as where more resources are needed to improve their livelihood.

Eldercare Locator is a group effort by federal, state and local agencies and funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging. According to their website, Eldercare Locator’s call center is open 5 days a week from 9 am-5 pm ET. Last year, the network responded to 308,637 individual inquiries through phone calls, emails, and web chats. The website alone averaged over 40,000 hits a month last year.

Who Contacts Eldercare Locator and Why

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Yet another case of a video camera in a nursing home revealing abuse and neglect has come to light. A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) from a nursing home in Pompano Beach, Florida was caught on hidden camera forcefully handling a 94 year old resident, including hitting him in the head, pushing him into a chair and pouring mouthwash on him while attempting to clean him and change his undergarments. The resident, unable to speak, wasn’t able to detail the abuse to his family, but after discovering stage III bed sores on her father, his daughter became concerned. She placed a video in her father’s room and saw multiple clips of the same nursing assistant abusing him. Products containing alcohol or other chemical agents can cause drying and breakdown of the skin, a contributing factor to pressure sores, especially for those who spend the majority of their time lying down or sitting. It is rare that nursing homes will admit to the occurrence of abuse, but in this case the video footage saved attorneys, authorities, and the court time significant time investigating the incident.

Cameras Legal in Illinois, but Cannot be Hidden   

A Florida ABC news channel reviewed other hidden nursing home videos that showed one CNA removing a resident’s breathing tube and leaving the room, ignoring alarms indicating the resident was in danger.  Five minutes later, another staff member came running to reinsert the tube and check the resident. Sadly, these recently released videos are not indicative of isolated cases of abuse and neglect. Earlier this month, a video was released of a WWII veteran dying while staff at an Atlanta nursing home laughed at his bedside. Despite the graphic, horrific nature of these videos, the impact of the images on the public and lawmakers seems fleeting.

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In late October, Senate Republicans voted to overturn a rule that would prevent banks and big financial institutions from blocking class action lawsuits. The rule, set to go into effect in 2019, would’ve forced banks and credit card companies to do away with arbitration clauses embedded in lengthy agreements between a financial institution and the consumer.

Wells Fargo Scandal: Why Class Actions Are Necessary

With last year’s Wells Fargo scandal still fresh in Americans’ minds, overturning the block on class action lawsuits is unwelcome news. Wells Fargo employees were discovered to have opened over 3.5 million fake accounts and to have enrolled consumers in their auto bill-pay program without their consent. Close to 200,000 customers also paid fines on these fake accounts.  As part of a class action settlement, Wells Fargo must pay $142,000,000 back to consumers whose names were used to open fake bank and credit card accounts.

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Willie Green was only 67 years old when he suffered a fatal fall in 2013 at Southpoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Chicago’s Southside. According to the lawsuit, Willie Green had a history of fainting and cognitive issues that required assistance while walking. Mr. Green fell in the entrance to his room on January 4, 2013, striking his head with such force that he required brain surgery. Less than 4 months later, Mr. Green passed away from complications attributed to his fall. In a week long trial earlier this month, Levin & Perconti partner Michael Bonamarte and Associate Andrew Thut successfully proved negligence on the part of Southpoint Nursing and Rehab, leading the jury to award the decedent’s son $2.77 million, with the jury allocating $500,000 for disability experienced; $1,000,000 for pain and suffering; $277,000.92 for reasonable expense of necessary medical care; $500,000 for shortened life expectancy; $100,000 for loss of society and $400,000 for grief and sorrow.

Chicago’s Leading Attorneys for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
The Chicago lawyers of Levin & Perconti are considered experts in the field of nursing home abuse and neglect. Well respected for our diligence, compassion, and fierceness in pursuing the truth and securing justice for victims of elder abuse and neglect, our numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements speak to our commitment. While we know a financial settlement cannot bring back a loved one, our legal team works tirelessly to bring you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that justice has been achieved for someone you love. You do not have to face this alone. There is a timeline to file lawsuits for nursing home abuse and neglect cases in Illinois, so please, call us now. Our consultations are free and we are not paid unless we recover money for you and your loved one. Call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or fill out our online case consultation form.

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Genesis Healthcare, one of the largest nursing home groups in the country, is having a bad year.  This summer, the chain was ordered to pay $54 million to 5 whistleblowers who exposed fraudulent billing for keeping and treating patients who did not require hospice care.

Adding to the nursing home chain’s problems are criminal charges against a resident, with a concurrent civil case against the chain itself. In October of this year, 74 year old Francis Kinsey, a resident of Coventry Center Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Rhode Island, was arrested for sexually assaulting an 80 year old female resident. An employee witnessed the assault and immediately notified authorities. After the resident’s arrest, it was discovered that he had a 5 year old pending charge for sexual molestation and was currently out on bail. That case had not been furthered because his heath prevented further legal action. The family of the 80 year old resident who was sexually assaulted has sued Coventry Center and Genesis Healthcare, arguing that a resident with a pending criminal charges for a sexual offense should not be able to live freely alongside others, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.

On November 16th, a Rhode Island judge declared Kinsey not fit to stand trial for the recent sexual assault. Mr. Kinsey’s health has now prevented him from facing charges on two sexual offenses for which he has been formally charged by police.

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The topic of nursing home evictions has been at the forefront of our minds, ever since NPR singled out Illinois and Maryland this past May as having the worst nursing home eviction rates. Nursing home eviction, commonly referred to as involuntary discharge, has grown tremendously in recent years, with many theorizing that nursing homes have begun to catch on that they can get away with dumping Medicare patients as soon as their nursing home benefits expire. Medicare reimburses nursing homes at a higher rate than Medicaid, making new Medicare patients such an attractive prospect that nursing homes are willing to buck the law and dump current residents that are recently transitioning from Medicare to Medicaid.

Couple Forcefully Separated After 30 Years

NPR recently profiled the case of Mrs. Gloria Single, an 83 year old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s who was evicted in March from Pioneer House, the Sacramento, California nursing home in which she resided with her husband of 30 years. Pioneer House staff claim that Mrs. Single became aggressive with staff and threw plastic dishware. Even after a psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital determined there was no cause for concern, Gloria Single was evicted from the nursing home and sent to a hospital where she lived for 4 months before being placed in another facility. As hospitals are not intended to maintain a social or activity routine for patients, Mrs. Single lost her ability to walk during her stay and is now wheelchair bound. She also is heartbroken at having to spend her remaining years in a facility separate from her husband, who is 10 years her senior.