Not long ago the Illinois nursing home attorneys at our firm settled another case on behalf of a family whose loved one died at the Ballard Nursing Center in Des Plaines, Illinois. The case stems from an incident that occurred in mid-October of 2008, leading to the man’s death. According to information that came out during investigations into the passing, it was learned that Illinois nursing home neglect contributed to the resident’s death at the facility at only sixty one years old.
The resident entered the facility on October 17th to receive skilled long-term care. When he was admitted to the facility he had a tracheostomy tube intact. These tubes are catheters that are inserted into a patient’s mouth to ensure that the airways are opened and that the patient is able to breathe. Many seniors with various conditions, particularly those who are discharged directly from the hospital into the nursing home, need to have these tubes working properly to survive.
Unfortunately, in this case the negligent nursing home did not provide proper care for this resident. The resident died the very next day after his arrival at the home because his tracheostomy tube was not properly placed. The problem with the tube caused the man to suffer subcutaneous emphysema (where air gets under the skin)-he lost the ability to breathe and passed away.
Investigations into the incident revealed that the problem was two-fold. Not only was the tube improperly placed in the patient’s body, but once the problem was noticed, caregivers failed to abide by basic levels of care to fix the problem. Had they acted reasonably, the resident’s life would have been saved. For example, the respiratory therapist who was caring for the resident did no assess and reassess the man’s oxygen level, even after it fell to levels that should have clearly indicated a problem. In addition, when a problem was noticed, instead of trying to fix the resident’s tracheostomy tube, the therapist used an Ambu-Bag to try to restore his breathing. On top of that, it wasn’t until 30 minutes later that emergency responders were finally called to provide much-needed help. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late. The poor care and time delay caused the man to suffocate to death.
As often happens in these cases, eventually the man’s family began suspicious about the level of care their loved one received just prior to his death. There were many red flags in this case, as neglect is often present when one passes shortly after arriving at a facility-in this case, the very next day. The family contacted our Illinois nursing home lawyers and we filed suit to hold the negligent facility accountable for the conduct that took the man’s life. Last year the case was settled for more than $860,000. This amount was determined, in large part, by the available insurance funds at the facility’s disposal. Not all nursing homes have insurance, but those that do have insurance may have limits on the coverage amount. For example, in this case, the limit was $1 million. In addition, the limit was declining the longer that the case went on, because defense attorney fees were deducted from the policy limit.
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