Articles Posted in Chicago 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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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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A November opinion piece from Crain’s Chicago Business highlights a common practice among nursing homes: Placing elderly residents in the same facility as those with psychiatric disorders and felony convictions. This practice, while not new, has recently come to light after Continental Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chicago was fined by the Illinois Department of Public Health after five residents overdosed on heroin in just one month.

A Common but Inexcusable Occurrence

Every year, over 2,000 cases of resident-to-resident abuse are alleged in the U.S. alone.

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Nursing homes are supposed to provide a safe and healthy environment for our elderly loved ones. Sometimes that is not the case. In fact, hundreds of nursing home residents are injured every year because of neglect or abuse. It is difficult to know that our parent was harmed because of neglect at the very place that was believed to be protecting them. A recent lawsuit filed in Cook County brings to light the problem of nursing home neglect. The lawsuit claims that a man was seriously injured and died because of negligence at Southpoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The lawsuit was brought by the man’s estate on behalf of the man’s sister.

Nursing Home Fall Led to Death

Falls can cause serious injuries, especially to the elderly. According to the CDC, Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, 1,800 nursing home residents die each year because of a fall. The man in this case was, according to the lawsuit, not adequately supervised or assisted, causing him to fall. Further, he was not properly assessed and no medical treatment was rendered. The next day he complained of pain and was finally transported to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a fractured hip which required surgery. According to the lawsuit, the man’s health declined following the surgery and he later died.
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A man has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence in the death of his wife at a Cook County nursing home. According to the lawsuit, the woman developed pressure ulcers along with extreme weight loss while living at The Villa at Evergreen Park, also known as the Evergreen Living & Rehab Center. The woman suffered both mental and physical deterioration as a result of the neglect and died in September 2013. The suit claims that the negligence contributed to her death.

Malnutrition is Negligence
Very often, malnutrition that occurs while a resident of a nursing home is preventable and may be considered negligent care or elder abuse. Elderly patients and those who are recovering from illness could be at a higher risk for malnutrition. However, once a patient is receiving adequate nutrition their health can quickly go downhill. Malnutrition may occur in the elderly for a number of different reasons. For example, the patient may be taking medication that could cause a decrease in appetite. Pain and illness may make someone less hungry, and dental problems may make eating difficult or painful. Regardless of the reason, a patient’s dietary intake must be monitored and adjusted accordingly.
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An arbitration agreement is an incredibly common provision contained in all kinds of contracts related to business, employment, and so much more. States across the continent honor arbitration agreements in some way. Such agreements manifest a compact between parties to a contract that if there is a dispute relating to the terms of the contract in any way, and one party seeks to litigate the matter with the other or others, that case will be arbitrated rather than brought in court. Litigation in general can be an incredibly time-consuming event and even more so can be extremely costly.

While arbitration itself incurs costs, it will typically be less expensive than an actual court trial. Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution, which can also include negotiation, mediation, and others. It involves evidence and testimony as to the incident that occurred such as physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, or other neglect similar to a trial, but carries its own distinct procedural rules and tends to be more streamlined in avoiding the often stalled calendar of a courthouse. The decision of an arbitrator or an arbitration panel is typically binding on the parties. There has been precedent for courts to invalidate the arbitration agreement provision of a contract, namely where it is against public policy or deemed unconscionable (or in essence, both).
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Elder abuse is a growing problem, and may only worsen as America’s baby boomer population ages. One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial exploitation.

Elder financial exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. Some examples involve deception, such as forgery and theft. Others are the product of coercion, such as forcing an older person to sign a document that is financial in nature (e.g. wills, contracts).

How to Spot Financial Exploitation

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With a significant number of Americans aging, a large percentage of these individuals suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a baffling and devastating disease. It begins with memory loss and progresses into the unraveling of cognition, leads to the person’s loss of her identity and eventually her ability to take care of herself. It is a degenerative disease that attacks the brain’s neurons, and eventually leads to death. Alzheimer’s, despite popular opinion, is not a natural death. It is painful, arduous, and grotesque, especially for those who must standby and bear witness, i.e., the loved ones who must watch over those who suffer from it and eventually die from it.

Not surprisingly, the majority of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease must be placed in nursing care facilities, as their deteriorating mental condition – as well as physical condition – make it too difficult for families (unless they are fortunate enough to have in-house staff) to tend to their needs. Unfortunately, these patients are oftentimes the targets of abuse and suffer from neglect, too. The consequences of abuse and neglect are serious and even life-threatening, and often result in family members taking necessary measures via litigation.

While all elderly patients are subject to abuse, regardless of their state of mind – especially when staff members are poorly trained, aren’t paid well, and lack professionalism – those with Alzheimer’s disease are even more vulnerable, because they have difficulty speaking up for themselves and reporting it. In fact, in 2010 a study out of University of California, Irvine, found that close to half of Alzheimer’s patients were abused. That is a chilling figure. And that is precisely why family members who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease must make sure to visit the nursing care facility on a regular basis to observe care, get to know staff members, and keep an eye out for possible signs of abuse. The issue of abuse is one of many problems, however. Neglect is another one, as these patients pose a problem of fleeing the facility if left to their own devices. Indeed, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is always a flight risk, and when an event like this occurs, the results can be deadly.

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The line between the type of care provided at a nursing home and the care provided at a hospital is sometimes not easy to distinguish. The traditional long-term care unit is a “skilled nursing” facility, meaning that more medical care is provided than at mere assisted living facility but less skilled care than at an actual hospital. As a result, nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuits can involve general caregiving lapses (like allowing a senior to fall) or actual medical errors (like not providing certain treatment in a timely fashion).

Importantly, even lawsuits against hospitals can take both forms, either problems with the medical treatment itself or with basic caregiving and monitoring of patients. For example, our team of neglect lawyers recently settled a case on behalf of a client against Rush Medical Center following failure to monitor a patient after a CT scan was performed

Chicago Malpractice Lawsuit

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In nursing homes all over the country, the elderly are being restrained from moving freely. Often there are legitimate reasons to restrain someone, like if they pose a risk to the safety of themselves or others. However, physical restraints on residents of a nursing home are used only when necessary, and for good reason. For one thing, using physical restraint for discipline or convenience is a violation of federal and Illinois law. Another reason is the appearance physical restraint takes. Physical restraint is often accomplished using straps, confining the nursing home resident to a bed or chair. The behavior of a resident restrained against their will can be unsightly and disturbing.

Contrast this with chemical restraint. Chemical restraint is the use of drugs to restrict the movement of a nursing home resident. The desired result of chemical restraint is the same as that of physical restraint: prevent the resident from moving. However, chemical restraint is dangerous for reasons that physical restraint is not.

Invisible Straps