Articles Posted in Care Centers Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

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nursing home neglect

Payroll Records Indicate Nursing Home Staffing Shortages Create Serious Gaps in Patient Care

Only recently did the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) begin collecting and reviewing daily payroll records from more than 14,000 nursing homes. The publishing of the data became required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Kaiser Health News recently analyzed the submissions and caught that most U.S. nursing homes have been operating grossly understaffed and reporting a false review of average employee shifts. Kaiser claims these nursing homes had:

  • Significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends when personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as normal.
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Hidden VA Nursing Home Care Data Published

According to USA Today and The Boston Globe, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been tracking and withholding data on the quality of care at VA nursing homes for years. Because of this alleged fail, resident veterans and their families may not see the bigger picture regarding the quality of care services provided or performed. Families may also be withheld vital health care information to assist in making support decisions. On June 25, 2018, the national news outlets published the ‘hidden’ information from 133 VA nursing homes using reports obtained from internal DVA documents. The review concluded that for the 46,000 veteran residents across the U.S., more than two-thirds of their VA nursing homes were “more likely to have issues related to serious bedsores and residents who will suffer serious pain, than their counterparts in private nursing homes across the country.”

Unlike the VA, private nursing homes are required to submit timely reports on the care they provide to measure quality, inspection issues and staffing. That data is then publicly posted on a federal website for families to use when researching a facility for their loved one.

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nursing home violations

New Report Shows Serious Care Violations and Doubled Fines For 56 Illinois Nursing Homes

The Illinois Department of Health produces quarterly reports on nursing home violators. The most recent report, dating January 2018 thru March 2018, highlights more than 50 Illinois facilities determined to be lacking in patient care abilities related to the Nursing Home Care Act, a statute that provides nursing home residents and their families with the assurance that proper and safe care will be received.

Some violations heightened with a serious high-risk designation, and all homes received fines of no less than $1,000 while others reached more than $50,000 fines for issues that caused actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents. Several problems were related to infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition, and abuse and neglect of patients caused by lack of support or inexperienced, overburdened staff. These violations may result in an official recommendation for decertification to the Department of Healthcare and Family Service, or the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Facilities included in this report are:

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Nursing home lawsuits seem to pit the residents (and their family) against long-term care facility owners, operators, and staff members. Yet, in many of these cases it would be inappropriate to consider the residents in an antagonistic relationship with the staff members. In fact, as elder care advocates have pointed out again and again, when it comes to ensuring proper care, the residents are usually on the same side as the staff members. That is particularly true when it comes to “front-line” care workers–or those who provide help to residents day in and day out. Many of those employees do yeoman’s work with long hours, little pay, poor benefits, and little employer support. On many occasions, it is those employees who are the first to stand up for residents when resources are cut to the bone by owners and operators. In this way, nursing home residents and their families often side with front-line care workers in various disputes with owners and operators.

Sadly, the drive for profits by many long-term care facilities often results in severe cutbacks for the employees who are the lowest rung on the totem pole–but who do the most for residents each day. Often those actions result in labor disputes.

For example, last week, as reported by CBS local, employees at more than 50 Illinois nursing homes–including 12 Chicago nursing homes–conducted an “informational” picketing in front of a local facilities. According to reports the picketing was in response to chronic problems at so many facilities. One employee interviewed for the story explained that, amazingly, her facility continues to face severe shortages of even the most basic supplies, placing resident care and quality of life at risk. For one thing, she noted that things like diapers–or even food!–was sometimes at a bare minimum. On top of that, her facility, like so many around the state, face chronic under staffing problems. There is simply not enough bodies to help residents in the timely way that is necessary. No matter how well-intentioned those care workers, failure to have enough bodies in the hallways is a recipe for nursing home abuse and neglect.

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Yesterday we discussed the new book “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of the Care” where a doctor argued for a new outlook on dementia care. The physician, who has decades of experience with patients experiencing cognitive disease as they age, argues that instead of focusing solely on the disease itself, the overall patient must be considered.

Admittedly, it is easier to grasp this general principle than it is to understand exactly what that means in terms of caregiving at nursing home and other assisted living facilities. Perhaps most obviously, the book is a call for less dependence on medications to control the symptoms of dementia. Instead, more individualized care plan need to be crafted which take the unique challenges of a resident with dementia into account.

Unique Nighttime Programs

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What happens when a nursing home is cited by state or federal regulators for quality of care problems? Most assume that the regulators will ensure that that negligent facility will be forced to improve or face closure. And in theory that is how the regulators are set to work. While the specific procedure depends on the state in question, most regulators will conduct investigations into practices and protocols at a nursing home during routine inspections or following a particular incident. Following those inspections, the facility may face financial penalties and is often forced to make changes and show improvement. Regulators will often conduct follow-up visits to ensure changes have actually been made.

In some cases, the facility may have committed so many egregious offenses or continually fail to improve, that more drastic actions are taken. This may result in the facility losing its ability to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs (a death knell for many facilities which cannot financially survive otherwise). Alternatively, a state may deny the facility the ability to receive the proper licensing to legally operate. In those instances, the facility may be closed.

For example, SF Gate reported last week on a nursing home that is slated to close following the end of a two year legal battle with state and federal regulatory officials.

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The Russell Sage Foundation recently released a free new e-book that takes a look at the long-term care system in the United States. The authors examine both the current state of this care (including at nursing homes) as well as the likely future needs. Considering the aging of the nation, the importance of these issues will undoubtedly only grow. Lawyers, senior care advocates, friends, and family members will all need to completely re-think many of these issues if we want to seriously address the problem down the road.

The Importance of Quality Long-Term Care Workers

One chapter of the new book focuses on the critical role played by the caregivers who provide the support that seniors need. This includes direct care workers at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and at-home service providers. At the end of the day, concerns about neglect or mistreatment begins with an examination of the total number (and quality) of direct care workers. These are the individuals who perform the actual tasks, helping with nutrition,grooming, mobility, and more.

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According to the Chicago Tribune, Somerset Place in Chicago will officially close on Friday, and the state must transfer Somerset’s remaining residents. The closure comes after Medicaid funding was cut off and the Illinois Department of Public Health revoked Somerset’s funding after inspections revealed rampant nursing home abuse and neglect. Somerset Place nursing home has received attention in the media due to an investigation by the Tribune into alleged abuse and neglect at the nursing home. The population at Somerset Place is entirely made up of residents suffering from mental illnesses.

Eric Rothner owns a number of nursing homes throughout Illinois, including the management company Care Centers, Inc. Care Centers declared bankruptcy recently, but was managing Somerset up until bankruptcy was declared. Care Centers, Inc. is the subject of a number of nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits, however it is questionable whether the victims will ever see compensation. The company still owes $400,000 to a former employee after a jury found that Care Centers denied her leave benefits.

Despite this debt, the Tribune reports that Rothner received payments of $900,000 from Care Centers, Inc. in the year before the management company filed for bankruptcy. A judge called this a “deliberate attempt to conceal and divert assets to avoid paying the judgment.”

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A Merrillville nursing home with a history of safety problems has avoided a likely closing by finding a buyer. The state health department had issued an emergency order requiring the Northlake Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to hire a state-approved nursing home administrator in order to monitor patient care. The nursing home is on its third and final probationary license and would not win a permanent license when that probationary experience expires. The nursing home had previously been owned by Care Center, Inc. This is a for-profit company based in Evanston, Illinois and owned by operator Eric Rothner. Many of the nursing homes owned by Rothner have suffered patient safety problems and are being investigated by Illinois authorities. The poor care given to the elderly at nursing homes owned by Care Center, Inc. has been a topic of past Chicago nursing home negligence blog posts. Additionally, the nursing home abuse attorneys of Levin & Perconti have filed nursing home lawsuits against many of their nursing homes. To read more about the Care Center nursing homes, please click the link.

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Penny Whitlock, a former nurse and director of nursing at the Illinois nursing home, Woodstock Residence, now called Crossroads Care Center of Woodstock, requested that three charges against her related to nursing home abuse and neglect be thrown out. The charges allege that she neglected three nursing home residents by failing to blow the whistle on the mistreatment of another patient. Whitlock filed a motion asking the judge to throw out three charges for neglecting long-term care facility residents, claiming she cannot be charged for neglect of patients other than the one who she allegedly knew was being mistreated. In total, Whitlock is charged with five counts of criminal neglect of a long-term care facility resident and two counts of obstructing justice. Additionally, former Woodstock Residence nurse Marty Himebaugh was charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, four counts of criminal neglect of a long-term care facility resident, one count of obtaining morphine by fraud, and one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance. At the heart of the issue is whether Whitlock failed to take action after receiving complaints from other staff members alleging that Himebaugh was overmedicating nursing home patients with morphine and whether Whitlock urged Himebaugh to continue being an “Angel of Death.” The charges touch on nursing home abuse , nursing home neglect, medication errors, and physical or chemical restraints.

In a related suit, Levin and Perconti has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Woodstock Residence, Whitlock, and Himebaugh.

Read more here.