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2021 Justice in Aging Guide Identifies 25 Ongoing Nursing Home Problems

State-licensed elder care and rehabilitation centers in Illinois may include assisted living facilities, and residential or personal care homes. Unfortunately, hundreds of investigations into these facilities continue to reveal these 25 repetitive problems noted by the Justice in Aging. The organization’s newly published 2021 list points to issues related to relaxed oversight and understaffing workforces, preventable resident injuries, painful and unnecessary evictions, Medicaid complications, dangerous patient abuse and neglect, and irreversible tragedies for families.

Problem #1: Providing Less Care to Medicaid-eligible Residents

nursing home staff must wash hands

7 Hand Hygiene Truths to Keep Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Accountable

Hand hygiene for infection prevention is an essential part of the U.S. response to the preventing further spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. Nursing home staff should especially adhere to the standard and transmission-based precautions when caring for their patients. Here is a closer look at seven truths provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to explain how properly cleaned hands of health care workers can protect our most vulnerable populations.

  1. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is more effective and less drying than using soap and water. Compared to soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are better at reducing bacterial counts on hands and are effective against multidrug-resistant organisms (e.g., MRSA). Additionally, alcohol-based hand sanitizers cause less skin irritation than frequent use of soap and water.

nursing home death by neglect covid-19

Associated Press: “Residents are suffering and dying from neglect.”

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin and Perconti support a statement provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in response to a November 19, 2020, Associated Press report, Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows. The article only confirmed what advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, care workers, and families have known for months: residents are suffering and dying from neglect.

According to the AP:

covid-19 pandemic nursing home criminal charges

Massachusetts Nursing Home Leaders Are First to Face Criminal Charges Related to Coronavirus Deaths

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts is home to 76 patients who died due to coronavirus outbreak that began in March and led to 160 residents and staff members found to be positive for COVID-19. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, two leaders of the veterans’ home have now been criminally charged for those related deaths. Healey said the nursing home officials are believed to be the first in the country to face criminal charges in connection with the pandemic.

According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, “A grand jury indicted former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh, 50, and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton, 71, based on their decision to merge two dementia care units, combining COVID-19 positive residents with others who were asymptomatic.”

flu outbreaks during covid-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Care Failures Should Prepare Illinois Nursing Homes for Influenza Outbreaks

In the last flu season, an estimated 35.5 million people were sick with the illness, 16.5 million people required a health care provider for their treatment, and there were 490,600 influenza hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an estimated 213,000 related deaths and counting, medical communities agree that this year’s influenza burden may magnify one of the deadliest illnesses in the United States, with the elderly residing in nursing homes affected most severely.

Shockingly, U.S. nursing homes have the lowest flu shot rates among health settings, leaving many residents of nursing homes already at a significant risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, now left to battle influenza. And as we have witnessed with the rapid spread of COVID-19, many nursing homes and long-term care facilities are not necessarily prepared to prevent an infectious disease outbreak among residents and staff. The pandemic has brought renewed attention to nursing home quality issues related to infectious diseases, such as:

covid-19 pandemic highlights
U.S. nursing home residents, totaling 1.2 million seniors and nonelderly people with disabilities living in over 15,000 facilities, are at increased risk of coronavirus infection and complications. The combined challenges of the facility setting and shared living environment, residents with underlying health conditions, the close contact that many care workers have with residents, and failures in facilities who do not provide quality care, all contribute to the high number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the elder communities.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), as of August 7, 20202:

  • More than 25,000 cases of COVID-19 have been traced back to nursing home residents and staff, resulting in 4,162 deaths.

nursing home staff ignoring dementia symptoms

Identifying Dementia Warning Signs in Nursing Home Residents

Dementia denial from caregivers is real and dangerous. And unfortunately, many nursing home owners find it easier to have staff ignore the warning signs of declining cognitive abilities rather than provide additional support. Dementia diagnoses can also be missed when overworked, and poorly resourced care teams are not trained to evaluate struggling residents who require extra supervision and management of their daily activities, medications, and financial needs. Eventually, these residents need to move to a 24-hour assisted specialized environment to keep them safe, especially as their disease progresses into later stages. Family members and friends are typically the first to request help after noticing a loved one’s behavioral changes or one or more of the concerning events listed below.

#1. Early Stage Memory Loss

40% of coronavirus deaths from nursing homes

Newly Released Data Shows Long-Term Care Facilities Report 40% of Coronavirus Deaths

Two new analyses of coronavirus deaths throughout the United States have revealed that many fatalities occur at long-term care facilities, as many as 43%. The data comes from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and ABC News. The ABC News report added that the figure is more than 50% in at least 18 states.

  1. Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (updated May 22, 2020)

rise in covid-19 nursing home deaths

Glenview Terrace Continues Jump in COVID-19 Deaths of Residents

About a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois have now been linked to long-term care facilities, and to make matters worse, cases are also doubling, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). A rehabilitation facility in Glenview is the latest to report more than two dozen COVID-19 deaths. Glenview Terrace is a 314-bed facility, located at 1511 Greenwood Road in Cook County. It has now reached 75 outbreak cases of the novel coronavirus and 25 deaths.

Glenview’s Administrator Allen Hollander told the Chicago Tribune that the people who died had first become sick in late March. Hollander also explained that more than 20 infected staff could have contracted the disease outside of the facility.

covid-19 nursing homes understaffed

As of Friday, May 1, nursing home workers at 64 Illinois facilities have said they will strike on May 8 due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), safety training, testing, emergency benefits, hazard pay, and paid time off for coronavirus-related illnesses. The workers are represented by SEIU Healthcare, a growing union of healthcare, child care, home care and nursing home workers in the Midwest.

According to the most recent news release by SEIU, “Family members, faith leaders and community supporters will call upon nursing home owners to promptly settle a fair contract with the provisions needed to safeguard both workers and residents—including above-poverty base wages, hazard pay during the current crisis, appropriate and adequate levels of PPE, plus the increased staffing levels to support quality resident care.”

Many of the workers have also been reported to say that facility owners and operators have “refused to increase staffing levels or protect workers’ healthcare coverage and haven’t been transparent about COVID-19 cases within their facilities.”

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