Controversial Feeding Tube Use for Elderly

Most adequate elder care focuses on “quality of life.” But the phrase itself is somewhat elusive. In a few situations it is not necessary easy to determine if a certain course of conduct will improve one’s quality of life or make it worse. There are general principles that can be applied to better make choices on behalf of a senior loved one, but every decision is ultimately a personal one. What might be a welcome act or service for one person may be shunned by another. All of this is why we continue urge resident-centered care that is based upon specific understanding of an individual’s strengths, weakness, likes, and dislikes.

Feeding Tubes
One area where these questions are often asks relates to use of feeding tubes. An editorial from My Elder Advocate recently touched on the concerns, providing an interesting perspective on the use of these measures among those caring for seniors. In short, the article explains how at first blush it may seem like use of feeding tubes is a critical life-saving step. However, the truth is that there are serious questions about whether these tubes serve any function. In fact, in some cases seniors may ultimately suffer serious injury or death as a result of their use.

According to some sources, in the worst performing homes as many at 35% of all residents with cognitive impairments (dementia, Alzheimer’s) are on feeding tubes. Those familiar with basic elder abuse facts understand that residents with these mental impairments are always far more likely to fall victim to elder neglect.

Of course in certain limited settings the use of feeding tubes may be essential. This includes situations where the senior has swallowing issues or to prevent aspiration pneumonia. However, as with many other treatments that are important in limited situations (i.e. antipsychotic medications), feeding tubes are often drastically over-used. The over-use is usually caused by the convenience factors–caregivers may decide to continue use because it makes their job easier, not because it is absolutely necessary for the resident.

Real Risks
The potential overuse of feeding tubes is not just a theoretical issue–the use of the devices comes with real risk of harm. For example, one study found that elderly individuals who are on a feeding tube at a hospital and then discharged into a skilled nursing facility are at a higher risk of developing pressure sores than those not on the feeding tube. In addition, there are many examples of caregivers who made mistakes with the insertion of the tube, errors which often prove fatal for the vulnerable elderly resident.

For these reasons, it is often more appropriate to engage in careful hand feeding of residents where at all possible. Besides minimizing a few risks, it is often far more comfortable to the senior to be fed that way as opposed to the obtrusive tube inserted into their body. However, as with so many caregiving issues, many facilities decide not to put in the time and staffing to actually allow hand feeding. There is a temptation to overuse the tubes simply for their convenience and cost-saving for the facility regardless of the resident’s best interest.

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Fireworks in a Nursing Home Abuse Trial

Elder Abuse Manslaughter Charges

Long-Term Care Insurance and the Legacy of the CLASS Act

For quite some time, elder-care advocates have encouraged federal legislation that would require certain long-term care measures for older adults. However, a recent article in the New York Times referred to this legislation—the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act—as a victim of the recent fiscal cliff deal in Congress. In short, the CLASS Act was repealed. What does this mean for nursing home and other residential care programs? Very likely, long-term care will remain available only through private long-term-care insurance in the near future. Are you considering long-term care insurance? Or do you have a loved one who may require nursing home or other residential care? You’ll want to have a clear idea of what the end of the CLASS Act means for you and your loved ones. 450px-Walker_extended.JPG

History of the CLASS Act

The CLASS Act was originally conceived by Senator Edward Kennedy in the mid-1990s. Elder Law Answers explains that Kennedy’s proposed long-term care plan would allow employees to pay a small premium, approximately $65 per month, which is much lower than the average cost of a private long-term care insurance plan. For participants who had contributed for at least five years and worked for at least three of those years, they would become eligible for benefits of at least $50 per day.

It was later enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, under H.R. 3962. According to a 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, the CLASS Act was intended to create a national long-term care insurance program for employees. The program would be voluntary and would follow many of the terms proposed by Kennedy, with final terms set by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Certain employees of the insurance industry argued against the inclusion of the CLASS Act in larger federal health care reform, indicating that the benefits would be insufficient to cover nursing-home care and other extended financial needs. However, many elder-care advocates insisted that CLASS was wholly beneficial and would provide much-needed services to older adults.

A 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times cited the CLASS Act as one of the “most ambitious” measures in health care reform. Dee Mahan, then-deputy director of health policy at the nonprofit FamiliesUSA, described the program as “really, really important.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the CLASS program would have been similar to plans available through private insurance, but with two marked distinctions. First, the CLASS program would be administered by the federal government, and second, any working adult would be able to enroll and be eligible for benefits, regardless of preexisting medical conditions. Significantly, CLASS benefits would also allow plan holders to use the funds for a variety of expenses, including in-home care. Such services are often restricted by private long-term care insurance plans.

By October 2011, the New York Times published an article discussing the “post-mortem” for the CLASS Act. Most notably, it reported that the Obama administration would be “shutting down CLASS.” The article indicated that the primary roadblock to the program was a fear of “adverse selection.” Because the CLASS program would make no limitations on people enrolling with preexisting medical conditions, the term “adverse selection” refers to a situation in which too many people needing benefits would enroll, such as those already ill or in need of long-term care, without enough younger, healthier people enrolling to balance the risk. Additionally, some reports indicated that there was no statutory basis for a program like CLASS, and thus it may not have passed legal muster. While Robert Yee, the program’s chief actuary, argued that such legal problems could have been addressed through “very simple changes in the language,” CLASS was repealed on January 1, 2013.

How Will the CLASS Act Repeal Affect Long-Term Care Options?

A New York Times blog suggests that a new fifteen-member Commission on Long-Term Care, created by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, will begin to develop plans for a long-term care system aimed at “older adults and people with disabilities.” Within six months, the Commission is supposed to recommend new legislation and administrative actions in lieu of the CLASS program.

While many elder-care advocates question whether the Commission will be able to make any substantive progress in six months, the advocates agree that elder issues and concerns about long-term care insurance, as well as nursing home and residential care, require attention.

In the meantime, if you have questions about long-term care or concerns about elder abuse, an experienced attorney can discuss your options with you.

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[Image courtesy of BrokenSphere (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

Fireworks Between Attorneys in Nursing Home Abuse Trial

Far too many nursing home owners and operators are focused almost exclusively on maximizing their own bottom line each month. That often means making choices about staffing, safety changes to the facility, commitment to staff training, the buying of supplies, and many other decisions where the best interests of the residents conflict with more profit for owners and operators. Obviously, a proper balance must be struck with reasonable levels of care provided to seniors at all times. When that profit motive is out of balance and harm results to a senior, then elder neglect has occurred and a civil lawsuit might be appropriate.

Yet, even when dealing with a lawsuit, some facilities take the same approach–willing to do anything to save themselves from having to pay out. In nursing home neglect lawsuits (and possible trials), that often means aggressive legal defenses that seem to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the plaintiffs in order to get the suit dismissed or encourage a settlement far below was is fair.

Judge Rejects Mistrial Argument in Nursing Home Case
For example, as reported in a recent Sacramento Bee story, one nursing home neglect case is now at trial. The plaintiffs in the case allege that poor care was provided to a woman, leading to the development of pressure sores, severe weight loss, and a significant fall that caused injury. The senior died shortly after she left the facility at the age of 82, and her three children filed suit shortly after.

Recently, the attorneys for the defendant asked the judge to declare a mistrial. They argued that the lawyers for the plaintiff “improperly” contacted current and former employees of the defendant-company and “coerced” their testimony. The judge rejected the call on two separate occasions. In responding to the claims, those representing the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s lawyer explained that the defense actions were “frivolous” and a “desperate measure.”

In dismissing the defendant’s arguments, the judge noted that the two witnesses whom the defense was complaining about were no longer working for the nursing home company. That means that they were not actually represented by the defense lawyers. There are unique rules about when attorneys can contact parties represented by a lawyer without the lawyer’s consent. However, the judge determined that those rules did not apply. That is because, the witnesses in question were not on the company payroll.

Experienced Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers
As the courtroom dramatics in this neglect case testify, anything can happen at trial. In their attempt to avoid accountability, virtually any argument under the sun might be raised. That is why it is critical to have the aid of attorneys who are experienced in these matters. In the Chicago area, the elder neglect lawyers at our firm have been helping families on these matters for decades. Please contact us if you think we can help ensure accountability for your loved one who might have suffered neglect at a long-term care facility in Chicago, the suburbs, or throughout Illinois.

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Importance of Death Certificates

The Dangers of Bed Rails

Elder Abuse Manslaughter Charges Pursued Against Facility Operator

One of the signs that elder abuse is being taken more seriously are the increases in penalties faced by those who are caught engaging in this conduct. It is well understood that the vast majority of mistreatment of senior community members never ends up in a police report or complaint charges with regulatory agencies. Instead, most seniors suffer in silence, living out their golden years in pain and depression.

Yet, one way that those unreported cases might be influenced is by setting the the example via significant punishments for those actually caught doing wrong. The deterrent effect may work to prevent some neglect, with wrongdoers knowing that they could face serious ramifications for their conduct.

More Criminal Charges for Egregious Caregiving Lapses
For example, in what is being reported as a first of its kind prosecution, an elder caregiver who was supposed to provide support at a senior living home is facing manslaughter charges following one resident’s death. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the 88-year old resident in question had lived in the senior care facility managed by the defendant since 2007. The senior passed away last June, and it was soon learned that the death was caused in large part by massive bed sores that she developed while living at the facility. Essentially, a few of the bedsores, particularly on her buttocks, were so severe that she developed sepsis. Sepsis is a far too common cause of death for nursing home residents related to severe bodily reactions from germ or bacteria infections.

Sadly, no one seemed to care about the woman’s condition until it was too late. An emergency room doctor who treated the senior explained that the bed sores were among the worst he had ever seen. They were of the “Stage 4” variety–the most severe category.

The facility where the senior died is somewhat unique, as the caregiver is only licensed to provide support to six residents at a time. However, the operator explained that she usually only kept two to three residents. Even that proved to be too much, as the awful conditions this woman was forced to live in testifies to. The elderly woman’s family in this case was paying several thousand dollars a month to the defendant in order to provide the close care that they thought their loved one needed. Little did they know that the woman was instead being ignored, allowed to develop the painful bedsores which ultimately took her life.

In defending the pursuit of criminal charges in this case–and in similar matters–the state’s attorney general explained, “We know abuse of our elders is becoming more pervasive, so we must become more resolute in our protection of them.”

If convicted of the charges in this matter, the care facility operator could face serious sanctions. Currently in jail on $300,000 bond, the defendant could be sentenced to as much as twelve years in prison for the elder abuse charge and another four for involuntary manslaughter. The criminal charges included special allegations because the elder abuse involved great bodily injury and death.

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Importance of Death Certificates

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Director of Nursing Faces Faces Prison Time for Overmedication

Not all nursing home neglect is a simple matter of unintended mistakes or oversights that cause harm to residents. At times there are far more organized, repeat efforts that place dozens (or even hundreds) of residents at risk of serious harm and death. In those more far-reaching cases, the consequences may be severe for those who engage in the conduct, including nursing home staff members, nurses, doctors, and administrators. While family members of those harmed can file civil lawsuits seeking accountability, criminal charges can also be filed (by the state) if criminal laws are violated.

Three Year Prison Sentence
That is what happened in a unique case which just ended in a Director of Nursing at a long-term care facility being sentenced to three years in prison for conduct related to medication of facility residents. The defendant in the case pled no contest to state criminal charges alleging elder abuse which led to the death of a resident. Interestingly, she also faced “assault with a deadly weapon” charges–with the weapon being the drug Risperdal.

Essentially, the charges stem from widespread use of chemical restraints. The legal documents in the matter argue that administrators “allowed the staff to forcibly administer psychotropic medications to patients for their own convenience, rather than for their patients’ therapeutic interests.”

According to stories on the situation, the Director of Nursing grossly deviate from accepted practices in prescribing the dangerous medications. She would lead interdisciplinary meetings where she had a pharmacist write prescriptions for “troublesome” residents. Of course, she determined who was or was not considered “troublesome.” The entire purpose of the prescriptions was to control the residents and make them easier to handle. It is a textbook example of blatant misuse of these antipsychotic drugs.

One obvious problem, of course, is that nurses are not allowed to order medication. Yet, notwithstanding the proper protocol, the pharmacist in question actually wrote out the orders and filled the prescription. A doctor eventually did sign off on the orders, but it was often months after the medications were actually given. Even then, the doctor rarely investigated the matter to determine if the drugs were necessary for the well-being of the patient or simply for the comfort of the caregivers.

Prescription protocols exist for a reason. When they are obviously violated–as was suggested in this case–then there must be consequences. Misuse of medications not only greatly reduces the quality of life for residents but it can lead to severe injury or even death.

Act Up
Misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes remains a problem in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout the country. More and more attention is being drawn to the issue, but we still have a long way to go. If you suspect problematic use of medications for a loved one, please do not say silent. Stand up, ask questions, and demand that you receive answers about how the drugs are necessary for therapeutic reasons. The elder abuse attorneys at our firm are here to help.

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Importance of Death Certificates

The Dangers of Bed Rails

Importance of Death Certificate Following Passing of Nursing Home Residents

Illinois nursing home neglect often leads to the death of a resident. Because of the medical problems that many seniors already have, injuries caused by neglect often prove fatal where they otherwise might not have been as harmful for a younger community member. As most know, when neglect leads to a passing then legal accountability can be had, including the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Obviously, one critical piece of information when it comes to proving these claims is the death certificate. The death certificate is a form that is usually jointly completed by a doctor and medical examiner to indicate details of the death (date/time), cause and manner of death. It’s self-explanatory that this information may impact a lawsuit. If a patient suffered a fall and the cause of death was something connected to trauma to the head, then there is an obvious connection between possible neglect and death. Even in cases where the cause of death was not something obviously connected to neglect, the evidence may prove useful. For example, a passing due to complications from an infection may be a sign of neglect, such as allowing bed sores to develop and worsen

The bottom line, however, is that these certificates are important documents, and it is critical that the information contained in them be accurate. Unfortunately, as discussed in a recent AMED News story, mistakes in death certificate documentation are too common. There are many reasons for the errors, including doctor unfamiliarity with the process. Observers note that training on how to properly fill out death certificates is nonexistent in many places. Some doctors never fill one of these out until they are actually in their residency. Others remain confused about what items they need to fill out and what should be filled out by the medical examiner.

Also, a doctor’s familiarity with a particular patient may influence the accuracy of the certificate. If the doctor is unfamiliar with a patient–perhaps only seeing them a few times–then they may have less information about the ultimate cause of the passing. Similarly, patients with cognitive mental challenges–like dementia and Alzheimer’s–are usually less able to share information with their doctors about symptoms, experiences, etc. As a result, if the resident passes away, the doctor may be less accurate in indicating exactly what the cause might have been.

For this reason, it is not uncommon for death certificates for nursing home residents to be filled with inaccuracies or vague statements. These errors can impact possible legal challenges if nursing home neglect is suspected to have contributed to the harm. An experienced attorney who has worked on these cases in the past can explain how information in a death certificate may impact your specific case. Importantly, the details of the certificate, while useful, are not necessarily proof-positive of anything. Instead, the details are only a snapshot of a medical opinion at a particular time. If new information is uncovered or provided to the medical professional, that opinion might change.

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Senators Send Letter Urging Bed Rail Action

MRSA Infections on the Rise in Nursing Homes

U.S. Senators Send Letter Urging Action on Dangerous Bed Rails

For several years we have discussed the ever-present (but little known) risks posed by bed rails. Patients in hospitals, nursing homes residents, and those with special beds at home can very easily become injured as a result of these metal rails placed on the sides of their bed. These objects are actually intended to improve safety, but when not designed properly or used incorrectly, they may lead to serious harm–even death. Far too many local seniors in long-term care facilities have been harmed as a result of these rails. Failure to account for the risks may be an example of nursing home neglect.

While it has been a hard fight to raise awareness of these risks, some advocates have been working tirelessly to ensure community members know of the harm. Recently, those efforts attracted even larger national attention when five sitting U.S. Senators wrote a letter to the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), urging that they take action to minimize the harm that can result from these rails.

The Bed Rail Letter
Last year the CPSC finished a report that looked into the dangers of bed rails and possible steps to correct the problem. The report found that tens of thousands of emergency room visits were spurred by bed rail accidents over a nine year period. Over 150 deaths were reported directly from the products–and that is not counting the many injuries and deaths that may not have been reported as such. After reviewing the report, several Senators sent a letter to the agency head this month urging real action.

The letter, signed by Senators Merkley, Sanders, Harken, Blumenthal, Franken calls on the CPSC to take “immediate action” to address the dangers of these rails. The action that is requested includes a range of steps which will hopefully minimize the risk of harm and ultimately save vulnerable seniors from serious injury or even death caused by these products.

The Senator’s urged the CPSC to do three things: (1) formulate safety regulations so that the most dangerous designs are not used: (2) educate the public on the danger risks; (3) exercise its recall power, when necessary, to get the most dangerous objects out of the marketplace

Spurred By Neglect Lawsuit
As with many other consumer safety efforts, the efforts to protect community members from bed rails began with a community members seeking legal accountability following a death. A woman filed suit against a nursing home and those connected with the use of manufacture of bed rails after her mother died as a result of the product. After completing the legal matter, she then began advocating to prevent others from suffering similar harm. The CPSC report and this recent letter urging actions are direct by-products of that work.

These developments are an example of why our nursing home neglect attorneys at our firm are proud to work in this field. Change only happens when real people step forward and demand action. Nothing is gained by staying silent.

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MRSA Infections on the Rise in Nursing Homes

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Antipsychotics Plague Nursing Home Patients with Dementia

If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has been diagnosed with dementia, you may want to read closely. A recent article in The Tennessean reported that antipsychotic drugs are being overused in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, particularly for patients who have been diagnosed with dementia. While we don’t immediately think about medication practices when considering nursing home abuse, widespread antipsychotic drug use in certain nursing home patients is startling.

How Widespread is ‘Off-Label’ Use?

State statistics vary for nursing home use of antipsychotics. In Tennessee, nearly 30 percent of current long-term nursing home residents receiving care are treated with antipsychotic medications, while the national average is still a large 23.8 percent. The Hartford Courant recently reported that a local Connecticut nursing home was found prescribing antipsychotic drugs to two-thirds of its long-term residents without medical diagnoses that would require the use of these medications. This is called “off-label” use, and some health officials worry that dementia patients are being treated with antipsychotics to control their erratic behavior “instead of treating their dementia symptoms through non-pharmacologic therapy.”

What are the Effects?

While these drugs can be useful for treating certain conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, they also carry serious side-effects. When used for conditions like dementia, patients may be at increased medical risk, as these drugs often have serious side-effects that can include “infections and cardiovascular complications,” and in some cases, death. Statistics on such medical risks don’t account for side-effects that impair quality of life alone. At a Tennessee nursing home, one resident’s daughter described her mother’s daily condition after being treated with antipsychotics: “[S]he couldn’t move. She was catatonic,” further describing her 84-year-old mother with dementia as “dazed and zombie-like.”
Dementia.jpg

Can Regulations Help to Stop Dangerous ‘Off-label’ Use?
The Hartford Courant indicates that federal standards are very high when it comes to drug safety in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. These regulations require that a specific condition be diagnosed and documented in the patient’s record before she or he can be prescribed antipsychotic drugs. Additionally, such regulations require nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to make “gradual dose reductions” and “behavioral interventions” in order to limit the use of antipsychotics. Some of this federal supervision is possible since many of the medications mentioned here are provided through Medicare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also granted funds for training sessions that would teach employees in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities how to treat dementia patients without relying on antipsychotic medications.

Currently, the FDA also requires that antipsychotic medications have packaging that includes a ‘black box warning,’ which alerts practitioners that prescribing these drugs for elderly dementia patients can have serious consequences, including infection and increased risk of death. Since certain federal standards are in place, better enforcement may be the more significant issue here. According to Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, nursing homes that overuse medications, especially antipsychotics, should be subject to higher penalties. The current fines are insufficient deterrents, Edelman implies.

Are you concerned that a family member or loved one is being overmedicated? Do you have an elderly parent in a nursing home who is being treated for dementia with antipsychotic medications? Contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney today to discuss your options.

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MRSA Infections on the Rise in Nursing Homes

It goes without saying that seniors in nursing home have general vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible than the general public to long-term harm from certain medical risks. One of the most obvious example of this are infections. While healthy adults have stronger bodies and immune systems which are capable of fighting off many bodily invaders–seniors might not. That is why it is critical for caregivers and administrators at these homes do everything in their power to minimize the risk of infection spreading at these facilities. It is not an overstatement to say that lives literally hang in the balance.

In fact, according to a Medical News story one deadly infection is on the rise in nursing facilities: MRSA. More specifically, the article points to new studies which find that more needs to be done to control the spread of community-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA). Hospitals are usually the focus of efforts to properly minimize MRSA spreading. But according to research published in the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America known as Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, nursing homes may be just as risky. As part of the effort, the researchers visited 22 different nursing homes over a several year period. Surprisingly, nearly 25% of residents examined shows traces of CA-MRSA.

The researchers point out that these drug-resistant strains are incredibly harmful and often lead to many different invasive diseases. Senior residents who develop this CA-MRSA while at the facility may be prone to develop abscesses, pneumonia, and infections of the bloodstream. There are many different infection control practices which should be instituted at these facilities in order to minimize the spread and subsequent harm. That is particularly important, because nursing home residents are uniquely positioned to develop the infection. The article authors explain: “Nursing home residents also have increased risk factors for MRSA, including diabetes, long-term use of indwelling devices, and inability to perform activities of daily living.”

The researchers who studied the issue argued that there may be a connection between hospital MRSA rates and nursing home rates. That is because many nursing home residents are admitted into the skilled nursing facility directly from the hospital. The strain can easily be carried from one setting to another.

Our Chicago elder abuse lawyers urge all local families to be very careful when monitoring a loved one’s condition at these facilities. Timing is often important when it comes to properly treating these complications, and so it is helpful to share any concerns with caregivers and medical professionals.

Unfortunately, it often takes aggressive action on the part of families and friends to ensure that nursing home residents receive the full care to which they are entitled. It is dangerous to assume that caregivers will identify all problems before others. There are many cases of family members who notice problems during a visit and are shocked to discover that caregivers failed to notice it earlier. The bottom line: do not let concerns about the care that a resident is receiving go unvoiced. Share your concerns and demand changes.

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Excessive Medication Common in Nursing Homes

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Dementia Resident Found Safe After Wandering from Illinois Nursing Home

There are different kinds of senior care facilities, each offering differing degrees of specialized medical care for elderly residents in need. When people think of the traditional “nursing home,” that usually refers to a skilled nursing facility. These locations offer the most intensive care that one can find in a long-term setting outside of an actual hospital. In that vein, seniors who are at these homes often need far more support than those at less intrusive locations–like assisted living facilities. There are many other differences which distinguish these home was well–including the number of actual medical professionals working with residents.

Because traditional nursing homes often provide more sophisticated medical care, there is a chance that actual medical malpractice might be committed at the facility. This might occur, for example, when a nursing working at the home violates the standard of care when performing medical services–perhaps involving medication.

Yet, even though skilled medical care is provided at these facilities, much neglect–and the nursing home neglect lawsuits that follow–are not actually based on medical malpractice. Instead, they often stem from negligence of a more fundamental nature. This might include failing to protect a resident from being attached by a fellow resident or failing to properly aid with transfer while allowing a resident to fall.

Another far too common example of negligence at nursing home is wandering. When not properly supervised, some residents are prone to wander to parts of the facility where they are not allowed (and that pose safety hazards). In more serious situations residents may even leave the facility itself. There are countless examples of seniors who leave a home and are killed after being exposed to the elements. Residents with degenerative brain injuries–like Alzheimer’s and other dementias–are by far the most likely to suffer harm in this way. Caregivers at these facilities must be well-aware of who poses these wandering risks and take steps to minimize the risk. When they fail and harm results, legal action might be appropriate.

Illinois Wandering Example
This risk was demonstrated recently at a Southern Illinois facility. According to a report in the Belleville News Democrat, this week a resident wandered out of a facility without caregivers knowledge. The man is 84 years old and suffered from dementia. He was first discovered missing on Wednesday morning. Fortunately, this case has a happy ending. About an hour after he was first identified as missing, a motorist saw him walking in pajamas on a side road. The traveler took the man to a local gas station and waited while authorities were called. The senior was taken to a hospital to be examined but he appeared to be relatively uninjured.

While this situation did not result in permanent injury to the senior, there are many other cases where the opposite is true. At the end of the day there is simply no excuse for caregivers allowing seniors with cognitive mental conditions to leave the facility unnoticed. It is critical that serious analysis be conducted at the home to ensure that this never happens again. Whether it is increase staffing levels, better training, and/or change of safety protocols, something must be done to prevent another senior from being exposed to the same harms.

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Excessive Medication Common in Nursing Homes

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