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Levin & Perconti Represents Families Impacted by COVID-19 Outbreak at Illinois Veterans’ Home

The recent COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run veterans’ home in LaSalle, several investigations, and the subsequent firing of the home’s administrator, has triggered legal action directed at Illinois officials by the families of at least five dead residents. Levin & Perconti will represent the families, several of whom have described their personal tragedies with tremendous anger and frustration and overwhelming sadness, grief, and sorrow.

In an interview with Chicago’s ABC7 I-Team on December 22, Mike Bonamarte expressed tremendous and urgent concern of the situation, saying that “something happened” to trigger the November COVID-19 outbreak at the facility and that the virus was able to spread “inexcusably” inside beginning in late October, infecting more than 200 residents and staff members. Inadequate safety procedures, staff and leadership negligence, lack of personal protection equipment, and ineffective use of infection control resources likely contributed to the outbreak. Up until then, only one resident and five staff members at the home tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

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State Data Shows Illinois Nursing Home Residents Are Dying at Most Alarming Rate Yet

In the most recent data released by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials, the state’s nursing-home residents are contracting COVID-19 and dying from it at their highest reported rates yet. Over the past week (December 11-18), public health regulators have recorded 605 deaths among residents of long-term care facilities, assisted-living centers, state-funded veterans’ homes, and other nursing home care sites. The previous highest mortality (and record-setting) death rate was for the first week in December when IDPH logged 480 fatalities among residents within the same groups of facilities.

The new data brings the COVID-19 death toll for Illinois nursing-home residents since the pandemic began in March to a staggering 7,559 or just over 50% of total Illinois fatalities due to the coronavirus, according to a Levin & Perconti nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer analysis of IDPH data.

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COVID-19 Care Failures Should Prepare Illinois Nursing Homes for Influenza Outbreaks

In the last flu season, an estimated 35.5 million people were sick with the illness, 16.5 million people required a health care provider for their treatment, and there were 490,600 influenza hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an estimated 213,000 related deaths and counting, medical communities agree that this year’s influenza burden may magnify one of the deadliest illnesses in the United States, with the elderly residing in nursing homes affected most severely.

Shockingly, U.S. nursing homes have the lowest flu shot rates among health settings, leaving many residents of nursing homes already at a significant risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, now left to battle influenza. And as we have witnessed with the rapid spread of COVID-19, many nursing homes and long-term care facilities are not necessarily prepared to prevent an infectious disease outbreak among residents and staff. The pandemic has brought renewed attention to nursing home quality issues related to infectious diseases, such as:

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October Reminds Us That “Connection Matters” for Illinois Nursing Homes Residents

Every day, Illinois families bring their loved ones to nursing homes all around the state, some feeling certain and others uncertain that they will receive the high-quality care and comfort needed and their rights protected. Unfortunately, willful neglect, preventable accidents and illnesses, and abuse occur even in the most highly-rated facilities. October is a time to remind families and residents of the many rights designed to protect them from these situations.

Residents’ Rights Month is an annual event held in October by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (Consumer Voice) to celebrate and focus on awareness of dignity, respect, and long-term care residents’ value. This year’s theme is “Connection Matters.” The theme emphasizes connections – to family, friends, and the community – as essential components of good health and residents’ quality of life.

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Nursing Homes Cited for Mistreatment Are Flagged with Special Icon on Government Website

In 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) Five-Star Quality Rating System via The Nursing Home Compare website added a new tool to help better identify elder-care facilities with extreme and troublesome care failures. When visiting the site, the most troubled homes, many with only a one-star rating, also display a red circle with a white hand inside. The stop-sign-like icon can be used as a way to warn families of long-term care facilities currently in non-compliance and those with a documented struggle to meet Federal and state quality care measures.

These facilities meet the following criteria:

Partners At Illinois Law Firm Recognized As Leaders

Levin & Perconti Partners Chosen as Influential Leaders in Legal Profession

Levin & Perconti partners Margaret Battersby Black and Mike Bonamarte have been separately acknowledged for their work as leading attorneys in Illinois. Battersby Black has been nominated for her rising influence as a woman in the legal field and named to Crains Notable Women list for 2020. And, Bonamarte has been asked to join the Illinois State Bar Association’s steering committee on racial inequity.

In 2020, also Battersby Black and Bonamarte joined Levin & Perconti partners Steven Levin, John Perconti, and Susan Novosad for achieving the notable 2020 Illinois Super Lawyer title. The attorneys were recognized for individual and team work representing clients in medical malpractice and personal injury cases, including nursing home abuse and neglect. Bonamarte and Battersby Black were previously honored by the Super Lawyers Rising Stars program for early-career lawyers, multiple times.

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Transitioning A Loved One Into a Nursing Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Nursing homes and assisted living centers should offer a safe place for your loved one, whether he or she is your parent, a family member, or a friend who needs guided rehabilitation or to make a senior care facility their future residency. It is normal for you to have questions and be concerned as a quarter of all nursing home residents will experience abuse during their residency and the coronavirus pandemic has brutally targeted the elderly nursing home population.

As you begin your research, schedule a virtual tour of a facility, or speak with an administrator, review these questions to guide your learning about the home’s staffing, environment, and infectious disease outbreaks.

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An altered mental status is a difficult condition for nursing home residents to manage on their own, especially when symptoms can present slowly and brushed off for age-related memory loss, stress, medication side-effects, lack of sleep, or other conditions like dementia. Delirium, sometimes referred to as “sundowning” or “psychosis”, is one of those conditions that if misdiagnosed or treated with overmedication, can worsen quickly with irreversible outcomes including long-term cognitive impairments.

Delirium has been defined by The American Delirium Society (ADS) as a state of confusion that comes on very suddenly and lasts hours to days. If a nursing home resident becomes delirious, they may have hallucinations, disorganized thinking, difficulty understanding daily tasks, and inability to pay attention and be unaware of their environment or trust of the people in it. Delirium affects nearly 18% of long-term care residents and has a staggering 40% one-year mortality rate.

Nursing homes have been known to manage residents with disruptive behaviors in less productive ways, and many things can make delirium (and other mental conditions) worse, such as:

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Illinois Nursing Home Facilities with Ongoing Infectious Disease Shortcomings

For decades, nursing home owners and operators have cut corners and allowed their facilities to perform under minimal oversight. Legal liability serves a definite purpose and is a functional safeguard for nursing home residents who have the right to be served by an operation that complies with laws and regulations. Our attorneys are currently investigating outbreaks and reviewing over 100 complaints involving assisted living, long-term care, and skilled nursing facilities that have failed to uphold adequate procedures and responsibility related to the COVID-19 outbreak in the greater Chicago area and surrounding communities in Illinois.

Here is a summary of facilities representing only a small number of our findings.

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Are Nursing Homes Still Short on the Supplies Needed to Fight Coronavirus?

COVID-19 cases are expected to continue climbing across the U.S. as more than 25,000 nursing home residents and 400 staff have died since the pandemic began. In the months to come, an increase in supplies are expected to be needed by health care workers, patients, and nursing home residents for their protection. But a troublesome report by Kaiser Health News (KHN) published in June 2020 shows that nearly 20% of the nation’s nursing homes still aren’t receiving the personal protection equipment (PPE) they need.

  • An estimated 3,213 out of more than 15,000 facilities had less than a week’s supply of masks, gowns, gloves, eye protectors, or hand sanitizer.
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