Articles Posted in Nursing Home Negligence

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Nursing Homes with Serious Deficiencies Are Often Poorly Staffed

An analysis of data from Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website concluded that nurses and support care staff such as nursing assistants and aides are grossly understaffed at some of the most troubled homes in Illinois. This proves something the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti know all too well. Understaffed care facilities put unnecessary pressures on employees that often lead to mistakes, injuries, and deaths of nursing home residents in their charge. And although we hear of changes in administrative staff, and fines aimed to tighten and clarify procedures as a solution to the issue, many of these poor performing homes continue to receive their funding, remain understaffed and contribute to more cases of nursing home abuse and neglect than facilities that are equipped to provide sufficient care and services.

The Factors Behind Understaffing

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In 2011, veteran Anthony Spallone of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans took the lead on filing a lawsuit against the Grand Rapids, Michigan nursing home, alleging that the plan to privatize the facility would lead to disaster for him and his fellow residents. At the time, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, stated that privatization was in the facility’s best interests and that state-employed nursing aides should be replaced by cheaper, contracted employees from a company called J2. Dedicated aides who spent more time than any other employee with Grand Rapids Home for Veterans residents would be cast aside to make room for aides from J2, a company with a history of providing poor care. Privatization went ahead and as predicted, residents at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans suffered. Anthony Spallone’s lawsuit against the facility was dropped.

Worst Fears Realized

In 2013, Michigan Representative Winnie Brinks began pushing an act that would address better care for residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. She, along with 2 fellow congressmen, were shocked by what they witnessed during a visit to the facility. The privatization had indeed played a part in the decline of the care and conditions there. It was as if everything Anthony Spallone had tried to prevent in 2011 had come to pass.

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A nursing home in Westborough, Massachusetts is facing two separate lawsuits for falls that ended the lives of two its residents within a 7 week span in 2015.  The lawsuit alleges that staff at for-profit Beaumont Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center ignored and purposely defied physicians’ orders that mandated the use of fall prevention devices, resulting in the tragic falls that caused blunt force head trauma and the death of two elderly residents.

Properly Used Safety Devices Can Aid in Fall Prevention

Per doctors’ orders, both fall victims, 89 year old Betsy Crane and 85 year old Vincent Walsh, were to wear wrist or ankle bracelets that function as tracking devices, referred to as a wander management system.  Devices such as these alert staff to the whereabouts of each resident, including leaving protected areas (such as the resident’s room or designated safe zone) or even making the smallest of movements. When combined with adequate supervision, wander management systems can be a valuable tool in ensuring the safety of nursing home residents who are at risk for wandering, as well as those at risk for falls.

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On July 18th, a Cook County jury gave justice to the family of Dolores Trendel. Awarding $4.1 million dollars, a record-setting verdict under the Nursing Home Care Act, the jury found Assisi at Clare Oaks Senior Living in Bartlett, Illinois, liable for stopping a medication that caused a stroke and ultimately ended 85 year old Dolores Trendel’s life.

Doctor vs. Staff

In January 2011, Ms. Trendel was admitted to Assisi at Clare Oaks to undergo physical therapy after a fall at her Schaumburg home caused a broken hip.

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A Casper, Wyoming nursing home with a history of negligent care, cost-centered staffing practices, and hazardous living conditions just settled a lawsuit with a blind resident who was hit by a facility-owned, staff-driven minivan while waiting for a ride. Although the man survived the accident, he now deals with pain and numbness from an incident that could have been prevented by greater supervision and improved employee training.

Repeat Offender

Between January 2014 and 2016, Poplar Living Center was cited 90 times by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for a multitude of violations, some so egregious that they twice lost federal funding. Most of the complaints made by CMS against Poplar Living Center are common themes heard about many nursing facilities: Not enough staff to handle high resident volumes, inadequate staff training, rundown infrastructure, and negligent care.

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In recent years there has been much talk of “whistleblowers.” The most high-profile stories refer to government employees or military personnel who leak secrets to reporters about various government programs. There is significant public disagreement about the value of these political revelations.

It is important not to forget, however, all of the whistleblowers who are not engaged in political matters at all, but who step forward to demand fairness for vulnerable populations like medical patients and nursing home residents.

As elder care advocates know, one of the most important ways that the worst nursing home caregiving practices are fixed are when actual employees say “enough!” and come forward. These whistleblowing employees are able to provide direct evidence of the negligent, and often illegal, practices of individual nursing home or entire nursing home chains. In so doing, these individuals can enact massive changes, literally saving the lives of an untold number of residents.

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Our attorneys are proud to work with residents in Chicago and throughout Illinois after poor nursing home care leads to injury. In most cases the process is initiated by the family of the resident. Sadly, families often only learn of problematic care after an incident which causes harm–a nursing home fall, the development of pressure sores, an attack by another resident, or similar accident. When that happens the legal system usually allows the family to recover compensation for the harm irrespective of possible state and federal sanctions for any care violations.

When helping families with these matters, the final resolution in our cases is often a settlement. These are agreements between the parties to resolve the matter without the need to have the issue decided by a judge or jury. Settlements are an efficient way to resolve disputes, ensure fairness, and provide incentive to ensure proper care 100% of the time.

New Illinois Nursing Home Settlement

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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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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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What is the biggest insurance program in the country? Medicaid. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans participate in Medicaid, and that total is rising. According to some recent estimates about 11 million more people will be added to the programs over the next decade.

Of course Medicaid is often associated with Medicare, but there is much confusion over the basic roles of these programs.

In theory, Medicaid is suppose to help lower income Americans of all ages while Medicare is healthcare for seniors. However, the reality is that a large portion of Medicaid costs are actually spent on senior care as well–most notably long-term stays in nursing homes. That is because Medicare usually only covers limited nursing home stays–often 90 days–and only those directly from the hospital. Long-term care for seniors that have significant disability is usually not covered. That means that a senior who needs that care is either required to pay for it out of pocket, use private long-term care insurance (if they have it), or try to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is based on the individual’s assets. That means that many seniors are forced to “spend down” their assets in order to qualify for the program.