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elderly wanderer

Understanding Why Nursing Home Residents Wander

1 in 10 Americans, older than 65, will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. These individuals will experience a drastic decline in mental abilities that make it difficult to complete daily activities most take for granted such as eating, bathing, socializing, or even the ability to remember their own name or address. A majority of dementia victims will require an intense amount of supervised care and physical assistance to go about these routines. More often than not, families will put their trust in a nursing home center to manage the progressive, non-curable disease that will continue to worsen their loved ones until death. For individuals with who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities with dementia and have no family to check-in or watch out for them, receiving the best care can be difficult due to the staff responsible for the growing number of abuse and neglect cases impacting nursing home residents today.

Wandering represents one of many behavioral problems occurring in people with the dementia. In fact, six out of 10 people with dementia will wander and aimlessly move about within the facility or grounds without regard of their personal safety. For a better understanding of this phenomena, The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) has identified several different reasons for wandering in nursing homes as well as the different types of wandering.

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Community Members Wait in Angst Over Champaign County Nursing Home Sale 

Residents and community leaders in Champaign County have had a lot to say about the $11 million sale of a financially challenged nursing home to private control under Extended Care Clinical LLC and Altitude Health Services Inc., both headquartered in Evanston. Board members say current funds are insufficient to cover nursing home operations, but a sale would essentially restore the nursing home to its original 12-month budget. Most people in the Champaign County community remain concerned about the sale to this particular buyer and would rather have it stay a county owned facility. The purchasers have already licensed care under a different name, a tactic most for-profit or private care companies will do to minimize any lasting stigmas in poor reputations.

“The proposed project contemplates the transfer of operational control of the nursing home from Champaign County to University Rehabilitation Center of C-U LLC and transfer of the physical plant to University Rehab Real Estate LLC,” according to the application. “Upon approval by the Illinois Health Facilities and Service Review Board, University Rehabilitation Center of C-U LLC will apply to the Illinois Department of Public Health to become the licensee, necessitating a change of ownership.”

nursing home legionnaires disease

Medical Documents Show “Questionable” Record-Keeping Related to Legionnaires’ Disease Victim’s Care and Family’s Concerns Prior To Death

The family of Dolores French, one of the 13 residents of the Illinois Veterans Home who died from the horrific Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in 2015, recently spoke out to WBEZ reporter Dave McKinney after “newly obtained health documents related to her case demonstrated a litany of questionable procedural and record-keeping practices at Illinois’ largest state-run veterans’ home….”

French had only been a resident of the Quincy Veterans Home for six weeks when Adams County Coroner James Keller examined her already decomposing body, possibly of two days, on the floor in her room. Although state officials deny the claim, her family was told her body was not in a condition to be embalmed and an open-casket funeral would not be an option.

Falls are the number one cause of injuries among the elderly. According to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, older individuals suffer serious injuries due to falls although most falls are preventable. Falls in nursing homes are certainly disconcerting because residents are supposed to be kept safe from harm. When a fall occurs, it is likely due to negligence on the part of the nursing home management or staff. In one recent case, a woman filed a lawsuit against the nursing home where she resided alleging that they were negligent after she suffered serious injuries from a fall. The lawsuit was filed against Glenwood Healthcare & Rehab Inc. in Glenwood, IL.

Injuries from Falls

Falls can lead to severe injuries in the elderly. Scrapes, bruises, and broken bones are very common injuries that result from falls. One of the most serious types of injuries is a hip fracture. A hip fracture may necessitate surgical treatment and has a lengthy recovery time. Head trauma is also a serious concern for the elderly. Older individuals take a longer time to heal and while healing they may encounter other difficulties or complications that cause a health decline.
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In our society, people often say, “You should sue him,” when a business deal goes wrong, or when someone suffers a personal injury or property damage. But suing someone, and even winning, is only the first half of the process. The second half, and often the hardest part, is collecting on the judgment award and actually receiving money for the harm caused.

Collecting A Judgment in Illinois

The process of collecting on a judgment starts with learning what assets the debtor owns. Typically, there are four main sources of money that a creditor can look to for money from an individual debtor, including (1) the debtor’s bank accounts; (2) the debtor’s personal property; (3) the debtor’s paycheck; and (4) the debtor’s real property.

Citation To Discover Assets
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In states across the country, there have been battles between states and nursing homes, and between nursing homes and residents or their loved ones, over the use of arbitration provisions in nursing home contracts. When a family rushes a loved one in for care, particularly when they are frail or just came out of the hospital, they are likely to sign on the dotted line relatively quickly to ensure that the patient receives their care immediately. While it is on these parties to generally understand what is in these contracts, the same cannot be said for the specific arbitration provisions. These clauses are intended to require nursing home residents or their loved ones to waive their rights to take legal disputes with the facility to a jury trial in a court, and instead submit to binding arbitration, which is an out-of-court alternative dispute process.

While there have been conflicting decisions as to the validity of such contractual provisions as jurisdictions differ and certain provisions are considered on a case-by-case basis, some court shave found this mandatory arbitration to be a broad and ambiguous requirement which residents and their families, unless well-trained lawyers, could not impliedly or expressly consent to because they cannot truly understand the scope of what they are agreeing to waive. It is generally feared that arbitration provisions favor nursing homes who can hire high-powered expert attorneys, and because arbitration involves a separate set of rules, and the decision is made by one or a few arbitrators, as opposed to a jury of peers as contemplated by the U.S. Constitution.
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The abuse and neglect of nursing home and long-term care facility residents can result in injury, illnesses, injuries, or even deaths. It can lead to administrative and civil liability, or even criminal charges in particularly egregious circumstances. However, there is another act that can truly threaten the integrity of the nursing home system and the safety of patients and residents: the cover-up. On top of committing acts of abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of nursing home residents, the active cover-ups of these acts make things even worse, and can certainly lead to further civil and criminal liability, such as obstruction of justice. We have blogged about attempted cover-ups before, including a recent case in Illinois. Another appalling case comes out of Western New York, near the Syracuse area.
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Out of Oklahoma, which is one of the worst states in the country for nursing home quality of care, comes another incredibly sad story of nursing home abuse that has resulted in some form of justice, though not one that can ever change what happened. The daughters of a 96 year old nursing home resident, who suffered from dementia, sued the facility when they discovered evidence that their mother was abused by two staffers at the nursing home. The lawsuit proceeded in federal court, and resulted in a jury verdict for $1.2 million. As reports indicate, defense attorneys for the nursing home intend to appeal the verdict, which they characterized as “excessive.” The staffers were fired, but that was the least of their punishments. One of the accused aids, who reportedly was in the U.S. illegally, was arrested and charged criminally, and eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to serve two years behind bars. The other worker fled.

The Nursing Home Abuse
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The nursing home industry in many areas has been challenged by complaints of abuse and neglect by aides, state and federal surveys and investigations with the possibility of sanctions that go so far as denying licensure, as well as the uncertainty as to sources of funding to pay for care at these facilities. These issues and accompanying discussions are often framed in terms of the lasting and consequential effects on facility residents, and the disciplinary actions taken against a nursing home and/or specific nurses or aides. In Connecticut, however, there is news of specific action that nursing home workers are taking to protect themselves from their employers and a threatening state budget proposal.

In the state of Connecticut, in earlier April, a significant 3,500 employees from 27 different nursing homes agreed to go on a workers’ strike starting the last week of the month. Local reporting details the primary motive as protesting the state government for its budget that may threaten reimbursements to nursing homes through federal insurance programs like Medicaid, which is typically a tremendous source of income for nursing homes. Connecticut’s governor has proposed a budget that would eliminate a previously planned cost-of-living increase that is factored into reimbursements to medical providers for care given to Medicaid insurance recipients. As indicated in an article, approximately 70% of nursing home residents in Connecticut are covered by Medicaid insurance, and cuts to that would obviously take away from money going to the facilities, which in turn are used to in part pay employees’ salaries.
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When it comes to vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly or infirmed, pneumonia presents not just an illness, but a condition that could lead to death if left unattended by doctors. In western Minnesota, an elderly nursing home resident was hospitalized after he was found to have numerous open sores on his body, very dry skin, and exhibited symptoms of malnourishment and dehydration. Prior to being rushed to the hospital, the nursing home staff gave him extra oxygen as well as cough syrup to help with his breathing problems as well as his changing body temperature. They added Tylenol to the mix as well, and used a cold cloth to try to control his temperature. When he got to the hospital, he was not responsive. Hospital staff diagnosed the pneumonia there, and noticed that he had very little food or liquid, in addition to the clear sores and dryness on his skin. Sadly, within three days he had succumbed to the pneumonia.

Staff Never Notified the Doctor

There is a particularly disturbing aspect of this case that will undoubtedly put this nursing home in a bigger spotlight, and should be of tremendous concern to nursing home consumers and their families. While clearly there must have been questions as to the chosen methods to treat the patient – Tylenol, cough syrup, and oxygen – for pneumonia symptoms, the astounding discovery was that nursing home staff allegedly failed to even once consult a doctor about the patient’s symptoms that affected his body temperature and breathing abilities.

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