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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

As a result of the notoriously substandard care provided by nursing homes throughout the country, elderly individuals in need of assistance are turning to home-care providers to the extent that the home-care industry constitutes two of the top three fastest growing occupations in the U.S. However, partly because of this staggering growth, regulation of home-care workers has been inadequate. Recently, home-care workers were convicted of theft, abuse, and even manslaughter.

One of the principal reasons for this trend is the lack of regulation of the home-healthcare industry. A majority of states do not require criminal background checks for wannabe providers leading to situations where felons convicted of burglary are able to easily access elderly patients’ homes. Illinois is among the few states that requires home-care providers be licensed and screen their employees. However, until other states follow the trend, elder abuse will continue to move from nursing homes into our own homes.

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A new survey has revealed that nurses working at nursing homes feel that there are fewer staff members than needed. Nearly three-quarters of nurses surveyed declared that at the nursing homes and hospitals they worked for, the staff numbers were inadequate. A lack of staff members can lead to neglect, and even abuse, as recognized by those surveyed, half of whom reported feeling that quality of care is on the decline. The problem of inadequate numbers compounds itself as more nurses leave their positions because of concerns about sub-par care resulting from the low numbers of staff. Most shockingly, little more than half of the nurses felt comfortable about the idea of one of their loved ones being treated at their respective facilities. This announcement by nurses shows that there is a rising danger of hospital injuries and nursing home injuries, especially medication errors, wrongful death, and other nursing errors as existing staff members are unable to keep up with high demands which can lead to medical mistakes.

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A recent study shows that elderly people with dementia who are prescribed antipsychotic medications like Haldol (haloperidol), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and Risperdal (risperidone), even for a short time, faced increased risks of ending up in the hospital and dying. Though there are limited alternatives to antipsychotics for the treatment of some behaviors associated with dementia and impaired cognitive functions, there is a clear indication that treatment with antipsychotics may lead to an increased risk of antipsychotic medication injury, nursing home wrongful death, and nursing home medical malpractice or medication injury. Elderly patients who were put on antipsychotics were 3.2 times more likely than individuals who had received no antipsychotics to be hospitalized or to die during the 30 days for follow-up.

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A civil claim was filed against a nursing home charging that one of its nurses negligently contributed to the death of a resident. The resident died about two days after he was given the wrong medication by a nurse at the facility. The nurse acknowledged her error, once she realized that she had given the wrong medication to the wrong patient. However, the facility would not comment on whether the nurse continues to be employed or whether any other legal actions alleging harm to its residents.

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The family of an Arkansas woman has filed a nursing home negligence lawsuit against after the woman died from complications regarding a gastronomy tube. The woman was admitted to the nursing home and needed a g-tube to ensure that she got enough nutrition. A g-tube is connected through the stomach through an incision in the abdomen. After several months, staff at the Arkansas nursing home noticed that the woman’s g-tube was missing. They inserted a second tube, assuming that the first one had fallen out. However, no one ever tried to find out where the g-tube went. If they had done a search, they would have discovered that the tube had been pulled into the woman’s stomach. Because the doctor’s failed to remove the first g-tube, the woman continued to get ill and eventually died.

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A $1 million verdict was reached recently on behalf of the family of an 84-year-old man who died of infected pressure sores as a result of nursing home abuse and neglect. The man, who had lived at his daughter’s home without complications up until his stay at the nursing home, developed stage IV pressure ulcers, weight loss, dehydration and malnutrition after only 26 days at the facility. The man was admitted to the hospital and died 6 days later as a result of those symptoms including a pressure sore so infected that it went to the bone and was infected with his own feces. The plaintiff was awarded $250,000 in survival damages, $500,000 in wrongful death damages, and an additional $250,000 for the nursing home’s medical malpractice and neglect.

Among the many forms of nursing home abuse and neglect, there is one common offense that is being habitually overlooked. Unfortunately, it has become a regular practice in nursing homes or long-term care facilities to sedate patients with medication instead of using them for their intended purposes. Staff often gives patients medication to make their job easier. If they are understaffed, which is by no means uncommon, or if patients are displaying a degree of behavioral issues, medication can be used to lighten the workload. Unnecessary use of psychoactive drugs can cause serious side effects. Psychiatrists may not even be prescribing many of these medications. Instead, regular doctors can write prescriptions “as needed” and leave the distribution up to the nursing home staff. Nursing homes have been fighting medical malpractice lawsuits due to the abuse of the drugs, but the percentages of patients being administered antidepressants and antipsychotics is astounding. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calculated that 27% of patients in nursing home nationwide are being administered antipsychotics, and a shocking 52% are being administered antidepressants. In Illinois, 33.2% of patients are given antipsychotics, over 5% above the national average. 47% are given antidepressants. These figures are well above what should be a proportional amount of patients receiving medication. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is vital to carefully monitor the medication they may be receiving.

In a new initiative to improve health care, Medicare will no longer pay hospital costs of treating illness, injuries or infections resulting from medical mistakes or negligence. By not paying the extra costs of treating preventable injuries or illness in hospitals, the lives of many patients and millions of dollars can be saved. Currently, Medicare pays for treatments resulting from medical malpractice and negligence. Private insurers are considering following Medicare’s lead, which could greatly increase benefits and savings for patients and make insurance less expensive and more accessible.

Preventable conditions that will no longer be covered include bedsores, or pressure ulcers, injuries or death caused by falls and unnecessarily contracted infections. This will force doctors and hospitals to take more care in following policies and procedures to prevent these types of avoidable errors. Hospital advocates have tried to fight back, making claims that some injuries, such as pressure sores, are unavoidable. However, Levin & Perconti recently settled a case for $1 million in which a nursing home claimed that pressure sores were unavoidable. This theory proved false when the paraplegic patient was treated somewhere else and the pressure ulcers healed. This initiative is a federal recognition that many illnesses and injuries are caused by hospitals and doctors not following policies and procedures or meeting the standard of care. Because pressure ulcers are not covered by Medicare, for instance, the federal government is acknowledging that they are, in fact, avoidable and a result of negligence.

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A Tazewell, County Illinois coroner has said that a nurse from the Washington Christian Village Nursing Home lied to him about the death of a resident. The nurse told the coroner that there were no extenuating circumstances regarding the resident’s death, but just two days later, a doctor told the coroner that the resident died after being given the wrong medication by a nurse. Despite the nurse’s assertion that there were no extenuating circumstances regarding the resident’s death, the coroner has been informed by a medical expert that five of the seven pills that the resident received just two hours before her death would have caused a severe drop in blood pressure.

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The family of an 88-year-old nursing home resident recently filed a lawsuit against a nursing home for negligence. The family claims that the home neglected to supervise patients allowing a 25-year-old resident to attack and stab the woman multiple times in the neck. The family alleges that the nursing home was negligent in admitting the patient with a serious mental disorder and a violent criminal past without performing a background check. The nursing home also failed to prevent the violent patient from accessing sharp objects. The victim’s family is also suing the violent patient’s doctors and other mental health facilities he attended for medical malpractice as they failed to treat the patient with proper medication.

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