Articles Posted in Illinois Nursing Homes

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national health disparity month

April Is National Health Disparities Month

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates nearly two-thirds of individuals who rely on federal and state funding to support their healthcare and long-term care services have multiple chronic conditions. Most of these conditions impact specific racial and ethnic minority communities who have disproportionately been supported with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment needed to thrive. As April marks an opportunity to call attention to these issues under National Health Disparities Month, it’s an important time to start discussion about the significant problems we have in the United States and right here in Illinois, in relation to at-risk populations who receive Medicare or Medical Assistance to treat chronic diseases. These groups are currently battling greater morbidity, mortality, and disability rates as a result of their long-term care coverage.

According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare and Medical Assistance (Illinois’ name for Medicaid) populations that experience disproportionately high burdens of disease are provided worse quality of care, and barriers to accessing long-term care than others. CMS officials say, “these populations include racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, persons with disabilities, as well as individuals living in rural areas.”

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Nursing Homes with Serious Deficiencies Are Often Poorly Staffed

An analysis of data from Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website concluded that nurses and support care staff such as nursing assistants and aides are grossly understaffed at some of the most troubled homes in Illinois. This proves something the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti know all too well. Understaffed care facilities put unnecessary pressures on employees that often lead to mistakes, injuries, and deaths of nursing home residents in their charge. And although we hear of changes in administrative staff, and fines aimed to tighten and clarify procedures as a solution to the issue, many of these poor performing homes continue to receive their funding, remain understaffed and contribute to more cases of nursing home abuse and neglect than facilities that are equipped to provide sufficient care and services.

The Factors Behind Understaffing

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The story is one of the most tragic our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys have heard in years. A series of horrifying acts of neglect on behalf of Aperion Care Moline resulted in the August strangulation death of a male resident. Multiple distress calls were made by the man’s roommate when he realized the now-deceased was entangled in the straps of his nightgown after they had become wrapped around the foot of his bed. It took nearly 20 minutes before a CNA finally arrived. Upon arrival, the CNA noticed the man had turned blue and was not breathing. Instead of offering immediate care to the strangled victim, Aperion Care Moline nursing staff wasted precious time attempting to figure out if the victim had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. He did not. According to an Illinois Department of Health investigation, the CNA rolled the man on his side and allegedly did not perform CPR because he was vomiting. By the time emergency medical personnel arrived, the patient was gone.

Upon learning of the incident this morning, Levin & Perconti spoke about the Aperion Care Moline strangulation death with a national CPR expert who teaches CPR to physicians, nurses, CNAs and laypeople across the country. Current CPR teaching indicates that in the event of vomiting, you must turn a patient’s head to clear their airway and once clear, begin CPR if the patient is not breathing. Vomiting is NOT cause to rule out CPR. It has also been reported that not all Aperion Care Moline CNAs were trained in CPR and that the facility did not have a fully stocked crash cart, missing both portable suction equipment and supplies needed to give an IV.

Levin & Perconti: Top Illinois Attorneys for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

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A former nurse at Christian Living Communities and Hearthstone Communities in Woodstock, IL is suing for her job back. The nurse, Juana Walsh, alleges that the nursing home fired her after she acted as a whistleblower by reporting resident abuse to management and the family of the victim. In November 2016, Ms. Walsh went to conduct a routine check on a male resident. The resident was upset and told Ms. Walsh that a male nursing assistant yelled at him and had been physically aggressive while adjusting his pillow. Ms. Walsh reported the incident to her supervisor and the director of human resources for the facility. A social worker was sent to speak with the victim and later reported that he was just confused. Days later, Ms. Walsh gave a written summary of the incident to the victim’s brother. As a result, she was fired and told that she jeopardized the reputation of the facility. She is asking for her job back and for income lost as a result of her termination.

Illinois Whistleblower Act & Illinois Nursing Home Care Act

It is surprising how often we hear stories of nursing home employees being terminated for reporting nursing home abuse and neglect. Legally, nurses, CNAs, and other nursing home employees have protection under the law for reporting abuse to their superiors or to authorities. Firing someone for reporting abuse is referred to as retaliation and is punishable under the Illinois Whistleblower Act and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Both laws forbid employers from doing anything that punishes an employee for coming forward with proof or suspicions of abuse or neglect and gives the employee the right to pursue civil action that may include obtaining their former job, backpay, and payment of reasonable attorney’s fees and associated legal costs.

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A Quincy, Illinois nursing home has lost 13 veterans since 2015 from Legionnaires’ Disease, a severe form of pneumonia caused by a waterborne bacterium called legionella pneumophila, commonly referred to as just legionella. The same nursing home is also responsible for at least 60 other cases of the disease. The Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy is now being sued by the families of 11 of the 13 deceased veterans. In the lawsuit, the families accuse the facility of negligence for failing to adequately monitor the water supply and failure to provide a timely diagnosis of their loved ones, therefore delaying treatment with antibiotics known to cure Legionnaires’ Disease.

The Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy has had at least one case of Legionnaires’ Disease every year since 2014. 12 Legionnaires’-related deaths occurred in 2015 and the latest death was just this past fall. 3 of the 60 reported cases of illness also occurred this fall.

Senator Durbin Calls for Closure of Illinois Veterans Home

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An Orland Park widow is suing Spring Creek Nursing and Rehab Center in Joliet over their alleged negligence that led to the death of her husband in April of this year. Dianne Casper, the widow of Edward Casper, said he was just 75 when he entered the facility after having hip surgery. According to the lawsuit, Edward Casper’s record at Spring Creek documented that he was suffering from dementia, ‘increased cognitive impairment,’ as well as at risk for falls.

Excessive Number of Falls Within Two Months

The lawsuit alleges that from his admission date on January 31, 2017 to his death in April, he fell 28 times at the facility. His final fall in early March caused him to fracture his other hip, which resulted in an immediate hospital transfer and surgery. He died one month after that fall.

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An audit by the Inspector General’s Office of Health and Human Services has found that Illinois has the highest number of nursing home neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse incidents. The report analyzed 2015-2016 emergency room records from hospitals in 33 states and found that among nursing home residents admitted as patients, 134 of them had injuries consistent with physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Even more alarming is that in nearly 40% of these cases, the incidents were not reported to local authorities, even though a more than 5 year old federal law mandates immediate reporting of injuries consistent with elder abuse.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin quotes the Inspector General’s report as concluding that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “has inadequate procedures to ensure that incidents of potential abuse or neglect of Medicare beneficiaries residing in (nursing homes) are identified and reported.” If Medicare is found guilty of not reporting a known case of nursing home abuse or neglect, federal law allows for a fine of up to $300,000. Despite this deterrent, Medicare has still allowed a shocking number of cases to go unreported to authorities.

Although a statement by CMS says that they are committed to protecting the elderly and investigating all incidents, nursing homes are still able to avoid punishment over allegations of abuse and neglect by falsification of records, intimidation and scare tactics to deter employees from becoming whistleblowers, and saying they’ve removed employees found guilty of infractions. Until there are harsher penalties passed down by CMS onto nursing homes for failure to report these incidents, the cycle is destined to continue.

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Every month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) update their list of nursing homes that have proven to be in dire need of improvement to avoid patient safety events and to hang on to funding from Medicare and Medicaid. The nursing homes, referred to as Special Focus Facilities (SFFs), have all been found to have higher than average numbers of safety violations or deficiencies, including actions that have the ability to cause immediate harm or death to residents. Facilities are only able to graduate from the SFF list by having a clean record during two consecutive inspection visits by CMS.

‘Graduation’ from SFF Not the Same Thing as Giving Better Care

In a report by Kaiser Health News, over half of the 528 facilities that graduated from the SFF list before 2014 have gone on to seriously harm and even kill patients. The report says that the same facilities still have nurse staffing levels at an average of 12% lower than typical resident to nurse ratios that many other nursing homes maintain, a significant difference in an industry where ratios are already at shockingly low levels.

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Michael Morris was just 43 years old when he died from complications that arose from infected tracheostomy and gastrostomy tubes, as well as multiple pressure ulcers. He was a resident of Salem Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Joliet, Illinois for just over a year at the time of his death last September.

In a lawsuit filed in Will County, the administrator of his estate alleges that the facility is directly responsible for his death by failing to provide the adequate care required for a resident in Mr. Morris’ condition.

How do Pressure Ulcers Develop?

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The family of a woman who died after suffering from malnourishment, dehydration and a urinary tract infection (UTI) is suing Alton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Alton, Illinois. The lawsuit alleges that before her death in June 2015, Judith Bates was visibly sick and was not sent to a hospital for treatment, despite lowered oxygen saturation, an abnormal heart rate, breathing difficulties, lethargy, low blood pressure, and excessive sweating. She had also lost 42 pounds in less than 6 weeks. By the time she was tested for a UTI on June 24, 2015, Ms. Bates’ condition had deteriorated and she died the next day.

For-Profit Nursing Home Rated Much Below Average

Alton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is a privately-owned, for-profit nursing home located in the southern Illinois town of Alton. The nursing home is owned by Integrity Healthcare of Alton and according to Nursing Home Compare, the rating system developed and maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the home is rated 1 out of 5 stars. A one star rating is considered much below average. The facility received one star for its health inspection, one star for its staffing practices, and two stars (below average) for quality measures.