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Unlike seniors who receive aid from at-home caregivers, those in nursing homes have virtually zero control over the actual front-line workers on whom they rely. Upon moving into a long-term care facility, residents immediate count on the individuals who were hired for basic tasks–preventing falls, proper grooming, ensuring nutrition, and more. When those caregivers leave, it is the owners and operators who make decisions about hiring new employees. Residents are left out of the process entirely.

Those of us who work on cases of nursing home neglect appreciate that this theme of complete reliance on others is at the center of the nursing home resident predicament. Much like the trust a medical patient places in their surgeon upon being put under anesthesia, nursing home residents (and their families) must rely on caregivers. In fact, the ultimate trust is actually places in the owners and operators of the homes, who make decisions about hiring caregivers, ensuring adequate resources, sufficient safety policies, and more.

Bad Care Trends

Earlier this week we discussed how the Administration of Aging’s Administration for Community Living (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) revealed its plan to enact proposed rule changes to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOPs).

On Tuesday those proposals were officially released, providing all those with a stake in these programs the chance to get a look at how the program in their state may change if these rules are adopted. You can view those proposed rules in full here.

LCOP Background

For decades the Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers at Levin & Perconti have aided local seniors and their families following nursing home neglect. While there is slowly a growing awareness of the real need to address the rampant nature of nursing home mistreatment (thanks largely to demographic changes), we still have a long way to go before nursing home residents are treated as well as possible in all locations.

Legal accountability following preventable harm is one of the key ways to improve overall care. If poor care is a financial negative for these owners and operators, then they are far more likely to do what it takes to raise standards. It is partially with that idea in mind that the state of Illinois has a law known as the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The statute outlines how private community member can hold nursing home accountable for their poor care–it is a critical legal protection for all Illinoisans. Our attorneys frequent protect resident rights based on the provisions in this law.

Recently, two of our attorneys contributed to an article published in the Law Bulletin’s “Law Day” publication discussing the nature of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. You can download the full article in .pdf form by clicking here.

Arbitration clauses have long been an issue in Illinois nursing home neglect cases. As many are aware, these are clauses included in admissions documents and sometimes signed by families while admitting their senior into the home. The clause is the nursing home company’s attempt to force any future neglect case to go through an alternative arbitration process for resolution instead of using the traditional legal justice system with a judge and jury. Nursing home companies like arbitration for one reason: it offers them a better chance at avoiding accountability than the regular courtroom. For this reason families are encouraged to never signs an arbitration agreement.

Beating Back the Clause

However, even if one of these was signed, that does not mean that a future elder neglect claim can never been seen in court. That is because there are times when nursing home neglect attorneys can successfully challenge the clause and allow a traditional lawsuit to be brought.

Much of the nation went to the polls on Tuesday to cast a vote in the myriad of elections scattered across the country. Of course, the most high-profile contest was the Presidential election; it was hard to watch television, walk down the street, or check you social media status without being reminded of the election in the last few months. All of that ended this week with U.S. President Barack Obama reelected for a second term, to serve for the next four years until 2016.

Some might hope that with the election over, the political talk will end. However, in reality, the election is just the beginning, and the administration (along with the public) will hopefully be engaging in long discussions in the coming months and years about the best way to help solve the various problems and challenges that lay before us. Some of those issues relate directly to the health, well-being, and care of Americans seniors.

Many might naturally be wondering what the President’s re-election means for those who need long-term care, like nursing home residents. Helpful, the Consumer Voice–one of the nation’s leading advocacy groups for seniors–sent an email to supporters after the election discussing a few of the major impacts of the President’s re-election. Of course, the candidates had different ideas for how they would handle certain issue which impact seniors and their families. And while we do not know for sure how these things will shake up in the coming months once dragged through the political process, we can make some assumptions based on what the President has done in the place and said he plans to do in the future.

As part of a Policy Series, the Consumer Voice–one of the nation’s leading senior care advocacy groups–recently created a brief on an important piece of federal legislation. If passed, the new measure, known as Senate Bill S. 3604, would be a helpful step forwars in ensuring proper care is provided to one particularly vulnerable group of nursing home residents–those with cognitive conditions like dementia.

Senate Bill S. 3604

The bill is referred to as the Improving Dementia Care for Older Americans Act. The focus of the measure is simple: eliminate the chemical abuse of residents with antipsychotic medication drugs. As elder care attorneys and other advocates have consistently shown, many long-term care facilities continue to have a hair-trigger response when it comes to prescribing these powerful medications to control seniors, particularly those with dementia. Not only is this over-use severely detrimental to these resident’s quality of life, but it is downright dangerous. Prescription drug experts have explained vociferously that use of these drugs on dementia residents poses serious risks, including death.

Recently the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care created a fact sheet that provides a helpful overview of a very acute problem in senior care: the overuse of antipsychotic medications. The problem is particularly troubling when used to control senior’s with cognitive conditions like dementia. The overuse is an example of nursing homes choosing the easy road without promoting the health and well-being of each individual senior resident in their care.

The Scope

As outlined in the fact sheet, many nursing home residents receive these drugs without a proper diagnosis for one of the specific conditions that the drugs are supposed to treat. This means that they are given out far too leniently. The sheet suggests that a staggering one-quarter of all nursing home residents are on antipsychotic medications. When just residents with dementia are considered the number jumps even higher. Amazingly, almost 40% of nursing home residents with dementia are taking antipschotics. And this all is true even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issed a “Black Box” warning on use of the drug for these residents leads to increase risk of serious complications, including even death.

Businesses are vital to our national health. Obviously all of us own, work for, and use the services of countless private enterprises each and every day. However, an understanding of the pivitol role companies (big and small) play in our society does not mean that any position taken by the business community is automatically the correct one. It is critical that all organizations be forced to abide by reasonable rules so that their conduct does not harm others and to ensure proper accountability when harm does arise. Unfortunately, there are times when large business interests–like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–pursue policies that unfairly harm society as a whole. All of us who care about preserving the well-being of community fairness must stand against these dangerous organizations and arguments.

Community members whose family members are mistreated while at a nursing home fully understand the harm that comes when big business interests place their own well-being ahead of other members of society, often their very own customers.

Recently the American Association for Justice put together a slideshow listing ten different ways that the largest pro-business advocacy organization–the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–harms the country. Please click here to view the entire slideshow

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has released their January Gazette. This newsletter includes important articles on nursing home abuse. The newsletter highlights the Chicago nursing home abuse that occurs when felons live in facilities. The newsletter also discusses eviction rights and the U.S. News and World Report highlighting the benefits of Resident-Centered Care. This gazette is a must read for all nursing home lawyers. To read the Gazette, Please click the link.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care issues a Policy Leadership Award to a public official who has provided exemplary leadership in advancing quality of care and quality of life for residents receiving long-term care. This year’s recipient is U.S. Representative Janice D Schakowsky of Illinois. During her six terms in the Unites States House of Representatives, Representative Schakowsky has been a strong advocate for the quality long-term care and resident’s rights. In 2000, Ms. Schakowsky introduced the first bill to require nursing homes to meet the NCCNHR minimum staffing standards. Also, during the past two years, she has helped craft and include in the House health care reform legislation the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act. This is the most comprehensive nursing home improvement bill since the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. She hopes to ensure that the Elder Justice Act and the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act were included in health care reform in 2009. Levin & Perconti are proud to have a Representative that is such a wonderful advocate for nursing home rights. To read more about the Illinois senator, please click the link.

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