Articles Posted in Hot Button Issues

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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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Last year, several nurses at Lake Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina walked in on nurse’s aide Douglas Steven Little sexually assaulting an elderly resident suffering from dementia. Little, a 10 year employee of Lake Park Nursing & Rehab, admitted to the assault and is now serving a 19 year prison sentence. After the news of Little’s crime broke, other Lake Park families began coming forward with similar allegations of rape and assault of their loved ones.

Repeat Offender

An affidavit by a former Lake Park Nursing & Rehab nurse states that in 2012, the facility was made aware of sexual assaults committed by Douglas Steven Little and covered them up from victim’s families. The affidavit was included as part of a lawsuit filed by the daughter of another alleged victim of Little’s. The woman’s daughter, Annette Foster, says her mother was a dementia resident who spent two years at Lake Park Nursing & Rehabilitation before her death. She says that after the news of Little broke, she began examining her mother’s medical records and coupled with the behaviors she observed in her mother before her death, she is certain that she was assaulted on multiple occasions and strongly believes it was by Douglas Steven Little. While her mother was still a patient, Foster knew something was amiss after her mother reported being raped on two separate occasions. She requested that only female staff members treat and visit with her mother and despite the request, she still saw Little wandering around the dementia unit.

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It is a growing concern as the population of elderly prison inmates continues to rise: What happens to inmates who require more care than an infirmary at a standard correctional facility can give? The cost of treating inmates in prison, at specialized psychiatric facilities and at local hospitals is making the cost of long term care an expense that states are having a hard time managing. Federal funding is not given to prison inmates treated at any of these locations.

Enter facilities like 60 West, a combined nursing home and correctional facility in Rocky Hill, Connecticut that has become the first nursing home of its kind to be granted funding from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Several states hoping to receive federal funds for similar facilities are clearly pleased with the news and experts hope that the success of 60 West will spur other nursing homes to adopt the mentality that the elderly all deserve compassionate and federally-covered care, regardless of a prison record. Receiving federal funding for state-owned nursing homes would significantly ease the burden of covering long term care costs for prison inmates.

Previous Denial Due to Health and Safety Issues

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“We can no longer choose between caring for your family and our own, and so, we have decided to stand together as part of what will be the largest strike of nursing home workers in the history of our country.” 

            -Services Employees International Union (SEIU) statement on nursing home employee strike

In a move to influence contract negotiations between SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Illinois Association of Healthcare Facilities (who represents 53 Chicago-area nursing homes that use SEIU members for staffing), 5,000 SEIU members are planning to strike. The two main issues at hand are low pay and low staffing numbers, creating an industry of underpaid and over-utilized nursing home employees who feel they must work excessive amounts of overtime in order to maintain a living wage.

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We’d like to share insightful information from an April newsletter from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) regarding 5 major reasons to oppose the Protecting Access to Care Act, better known as H.R. 1215. The bill, due to be voted on at any moment by the House, has a sweet-sounding name that overrides the detrimental aftermath that will result if the policy becomes law.

ITLA’s newsletter contains information shared by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and perfectly sums up why we as Americans should oppose the passage of a bill that will take away our civil rights.

Below are the top 5 reasons to oppose The Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215):

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The daughters of a now deceased 95 year old woman filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa and the nursing home of which she was a resident during a sexual assault committed by a fellow resident, a violent sex offender. A lower state court ruled that the state was not liable and the Iowa Supreme Court upheld that decision earlier this month. Despite the court’s ruling, the daughters of the victim are still pursuing the lawsuit with the nursing home now named as the sole defendant.

What is the State’s Duty to Society After Inmates are Released?

William Cubbage was convicted of four violent sex crimes against children between 1989 and 2000. He served time for his offenses and upon his release in 2002 was sent to a state-run institution that focused on rehabilitation of sex offenders. After 8 years he was released from state custody and admitted to Pomeroy Care Center, a private nursing home in Iowa. In less than a year at the center, a child visiting a family member saw Cubbage assaulting the woman. The victim’s daughters sued the nursing home and named the state of Iowa as a defendant, arguing that the state should not have allowed Mr. Cubbage, a man with an extremely violent past, to be admitted into a nursing home amongst vulnerable elderly residents. Attorneys for the state argued that once Cubbage’s prison sentence and court ordered rehabilitation was completed, they had no responsibility for him.

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A law firm in Eureka, California, is representing the families of two men who died from complications from pressure ulcers within 8 months of each other. The men were unknown to each other, but both received negligent care at facilities owned by the same company and run by the same nursing home administrator.

The lawsuits allege that understaffing was an intentional business decision and that the lack of available staff plus negligence on the part of nursing and medical staff caused both men’s deaths. Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Center and Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center are both owned by Brius Healthcare and day-to-day operations of both facilities are overseen by Rockport Healthcare Services.

Avoidable Deaths

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In a March report by 7 News in Boston, an investigative team found at least 12 serious sex offenders living alongside elderly residents in Massachusetts nursing homes. The team cross referenced the addresses of nursing homes in the state with the addresses of registered sex offenders and found two Level 2 Offenders and ten Level 3 Offenders. Level 3 offenders are considered the worst kind in the state of Massachusetts.

In 2005, a registered child sex offender, John Enos, was living in a nursing home in Massachusetts, assumed to be harmless because his crimes were all committed in the 1980s against children. Enos raped his 90 year old roommate, a World War II veteran who never knew that the man living beside him was a sex offender. Although his roommate was unaware, nursing home administrators did know of Enos’ past offenses. 2 years after the crime, Massachusetts attempted to pass a law that denied nursing home residency to anyone convicted of being a Level 3 offender. The Supreme Court in that state overturned the law, saying it was unconstitutional. Massachusetts does not require background checks for residents of nursing homes and they are not required to post or make known the criminal past of any of its residents if such information is made available to them.

Illinois Nursing Home Legislation

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Salem Nursing & Rehab in Augusta, Georgia, also known as Amara Health Care & Rehab, settled a wrongful death lawsuit on the eve before the case was set to go to trial. The widow of a man who suffered and ultimately died from gangrene-infected pressure sores was pursuing action against Amara after her husband was sent to the facility to receive rehab services as a result of a stroke in 2011. In less than than 1.5 years, Mr. Patrick Manning, the decedent, developed pressure sores and was found to be dehydrated and malnourished. His widow, Mrs. Norma Manning, alleged that poor care caused the rapid decline in her husband’s health that ultimately led to his death.

Amara Health Care Had History of Violations & Lawsuits

Unsurprisingly, Salem Nursing & Rehab (aka Amara Health Care) had consistently received a less than average rating through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as a result of numerous standards violations and had been named in several lawsuits in the last 10 years. A recent search on Nursing Home Compare shows that the facility received 1 star (the lowest rating) at its latest health inspection and has an overall star rating of 2 (below average). Just this past May the facility declared bankruptcy and was sold off to University Health Care System in Augusta.

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The family of a woman with a history of falling and rheumatoid arthritis is suing ManorCare Health Services at Mercy Fitzgerald of Yeadon after the victim died following a fall at their facility. The woman, Nellie Louise Howard, had fallen multiple times as a resident of the facility, but it was a fall she suffered after 20 months in the facility that ultimately took her life. Ms. Howard was admitted in May 2014 with documented dementia and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a track record of falls. Because of her high fall risk and her other mobility issues, she was required to have 24/7 care in order to prevent accidents. On February 25, 2016, Ms. Howard fell and was treated in the Emergency Room of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. She stayed for nearly two weeks before being transferred back to ManorCare, this time to the Hospice unit where she died from her injuries less than 2 months later. Ms. Howard’s cause of death was cervical fracture and pneumonia.

Documented Fall Risk Doesn’t Guarantee Better Supervision
Falls are happening with alarming frequency at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Regardless of a care plan that indicated Ms. Howard required constant care, she still managed to suffer a fall so tragic that it took her life. The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin and Perconti have successfully represented the families of many loved ones who have found themselves in the same unfortunately circumstances. Click here to view some of the many victories we’ve secured for victims of falls and other acts of nursing home and medical negligence.