Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

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Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa, Illinois, has been served with a lawsuit by the family of a deceased resident who was the victim of online photo shaming by an employee from the nursing home. The employee, believed to be Samantha Brown, was terminated when the facility was made aware that she, along with her then boyfriend, Michael Scurlock, had posted pictures of multiple residents in various states of undress while doing routine activities such as bathing, using the toilet, and sleeping. McLean County prosecutors are currently filing charges against the couple, after local police reviewed over 50,000 documents and records, including those from internet providers and Facebook. The graphic images were posted to Facebook earlier this year.

In March, the employee (identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe but believed to be Samantha Brown, a former CNA) notified Meadows that the photos were posted online, including to the the nursing home’s own Facebook page. She told Meadows, IDPH, and police that she believed photos she and other Meadows employees had taken were stolen by her ex-boyfriend and shared online.

Nursing Home Failed to Report Illicit Photos to Authorities

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The Des Moines Register recently co-published a report with ProPublica, a public interest group, about the uptick in reports of nursing home employees using social media as a way to share demeaning photos and videos of residents.

After several stories made headlines last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) called on nursing homes to develop training and policies regarding resident abuse. Specifically, CMS encouraged facilities to educate staff about improper use of cell phones and social media as a means of sharing ‘demeaning or humiliating’ photos and videos. Regardless of the push for facilities to prevent and correct staff members from using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms to share offensive content, the report discovered at least 18 cases of such abuse in the last year alone, with 6 of those in Iowa. The authors note that the number of incidents has increased since 2015 and that the 18 recent cases of which they’re aware are likely just the tip of the iceberg. In all, ProPublica states that they are aware of 65 cases of social media posts of nursing home residents since 2012.

An Increasing Problem

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The National Adult Protective Services Association has shared findings from a study evaluating the differences between substantiated and unsubstantiated cases of sexual abuse in care facilities. The study, entitled Victim, Allegation, and Investigation Characteristics Associated with Substantiated Reports of Sexual Abuse of Adults in Residential Care, considered 410 reported cases of sexual abuse in New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin that occurred over a 6 month period in 2005. Of the 410 cases, 72 (or 18%) were found to be substantiated by a state regulatory agency or a state Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. The study authors spent 3 years interviewing investigators from APS agencies, reviewing records from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and evaluating themes and trends among the data they gathered.

The 72 substantiated cases shared several key characteristics:

  1. Sexual abuse cases were more likely to be substantiated if the reporting of the incident occurred within 3 days.
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On Wednesday, we posted the findings from CNN’s Investigative Report Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes. The stories and facts discussed in the report are tragic and the reality that these violations are increasingly happening to our loved ones has haunted us. As a reminder, the elder abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti would like to share the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in the elderly. The information below is courtesy of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

Physical indicators of sexual abuse include:

  • Bruises around inner thighs, the genital area or breasts
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In November 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began implementing their first newly revised set of nursing home regulations since 1991. According to CMS, 1.5 million Americans call a long term nursing care facility their home, a number that is increasing year by year. With such a large volume of residents in nursing homes, coupled with the fact that for-profit companies own and operate the majority of them, CMS finally decided to tighten rules imposed on the facilities. CMS hopes that the appeal of receiving as much funding as possible from Medicare and Medicaid will encourage facilities to abide by the latest set of changes.

The Good

One of the best provisions outlined in the new regulations is the call for staff training on elder abuse and neglect, specifically on how to care for residents with dementia. Dementia in some form is present in the majority of residents at nursing homes and knowing how to properly care for patients facing this diagnosis has been an age-old problem in long term care facilities.

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A November opinion piece from Crain’s Chicago Business highlights a common practice among nursing homes: Placing elderly residents in the same facility as those with psychiatric disorders and felony convictions. This practice, while not new, has recently come to light after Continental Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Chicago was fined by the Illinois Department of Public Health after five residents overdosed on heroin in just one month.

A Common but Inexcusable Occurrence

Every year, over 2,000 cases of resident-to-resident abuse are alleged in the U.S. alone.

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As discussed earlier this week, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is in a position to exert significant influence over quality of care at nursing homes. That is because most facilities depend on receiving payment from the CMS programs covering seniors without the means to pay for nursing home care on their own. For this reason, CMS has requirements, incentives, and programs aimed and getting facilities to provide better care to both improve senior lives and lower overall long-term care costs.

Minimizing Nursing Home Neglect

For example, last week CMS officials announced the start of a new program aimed at lowering avoidable hospitalizations of nursing home residents. When senior residents are abused or neglected, they often require hospitalization to treat the consequences of the mistreatment. It is not uncommon for those hospitalizations to drag on, as senior bodies are often frail–complications are common. Those hospitalizations are quite expensive. Minimizing readmissions to hospitals is therefore a key cost-containment effort.

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The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act protects the rights of residents in long term care facilities relating to privacy, freedom from neglect and abuse, and self-determination. Under the Act, a long term care facility is any place that provides personal care, sheltered care or nursing for three or more persons not related to the facility owner by blood or marriage. These facilities are required to comply with the Act and are responsible for preventing nursing home resident abuse and neglect.

Some of the major residents’ rights protected under the Act include:

• The right to wear your own clothing and have a safe, secure storage place for your personal property • The right to privacy of your bedroom space, including not sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex unless the person is your spouse • The right to choose your own doctor and make decisions about your medical care • The right to be free from restraint or confinement without consent • The right to communicate through phone and mail and receive visitors • The right to manage your own financial affairs • The right to be free from abuse and neglect • The right to discharge or transfer to a different facility at your request • All of your rights as a U.S. citizen, including freedom of speech, religion, and the right to vote
The Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) enforces the Act throughout Illinois. If a facility has violated any of your protected rights, your options include 1) filing a complaint with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman; 2) filing a complaint with the IDPH; or 3) consulting an Illinois nursing home abuse attorney about filing a private lawsuit. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman is required to investigate your complaint and can ask the facility to voluntarily comply with the Act’s requirements. If the facility fails to address the violation, the IDPH can investigate and impose fines and other penalties for any violation it finds, up to and including revoking the facility’s license to operate.

In addition to submitting a complaint to the Ombudsman or IDPH, you can also pursue a private nursing home lawsuit. The Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled hundreds of complex nursing home cases involving injuries arising out of Illinois Nursing Home Care Act violations. These cases include securing a record $2.9 million jury verdict against a suburban Homewood nursing home for the family of a deceased resident who suffocated due to the home’s negligent care of her tracheostomy tube.
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For many families, nursing home abuse is a topic that only arises in conversation after they discover that their loved one has fallen victim to its insidious occurrence. The process of sending an elderly relative to one of these facilities is typically a tough decision but one made with the specific purpose of ensuring that their relative is healthy and safe. Unfortunately, when nursing home neglect occurs, the opposite is true-the facility itself causes the health consequences.

Lawyers and Settlements recently provided some context to the scope of the nursing home abuse problem. Specifically, the Illinois Department of Aging reports that most victims of elder abuse are subjected to more than one type including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; confinement, financial exploitation, neglect, and willful deprivation. The most common form of abuse allegations involves financial exploitation, constituting 58% of all elder abuse claims. This is likely true because it is the one form of elder abuse that most directly benefits the abuser.

Each of those neglectful actions constitutes violations of the basic care guaranteed to residents under the law. The victim and their family may have a legal case against the facility when any of these occur, often irrespective of the intent of the abusers.

In nursing homes, the perpetrators of the abuse are varied, from nurses and administrators to aides and other residents. No matter who is the direct cause of the conduct, however, it is often difficult for a resident to find justice. In many cases embarrassment and shame prevent seniors from coming forward with information about the problem. For others, they may not be able to physically or mentally do anything to stop the misconduct or report it.
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Over the past several months on this blog we closely followed the nursing home lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare. We reported on the mammoth $677 million verdict against the conglomerate following their years of inadequate staffing and care. That award was then converted into a $63 million settlement before the appeal on the original verdict was heard. In addition, the 22 nursing homes managed by Skilled Healthcare were required to abide by the nursing staffing requirement in the future. 42,000 other patients were all part of the nursing home lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare which failed to provided the 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day as required by state law.

Yesterday the Contra Costa Times talked with residents and nurses involved in the suit to get a different perspective on the suit, including information about the lives affected by the poor care given to the vulnerable seniors at the facilities. For example, one 71-year old widow found herself at one of the facilities living in what she described as a living hell because of the chronic understaffing and poor treatment provided by the facility.

Another resident explained how the lack of sufficient nursing employees made it difficult to get even the most basic assistance. When she needed to use the bathroom she pressed a button on the side of her bed. But the nurses were always later and later to arrive. She explains, “I went through hell every night just trying to get a bedpan. If you don’t hold it, well there goes your dignity.”
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