Levin & Perconti Settle Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit

It is hard to say that there is a “typical” case of mistreatment in nursing homes, because accidents of all kinds occur quite frequently. However, if one were to pick a “standard” example of nursing home neglect, then it would likely be the development of pressure sores by vulnerable seniors—often contributing to death.

This is the case because no other injury develops as much in senior residents and is as directly associated with the care received (or not received) than pressure ulcers (also known as bed sores or pressure sores). In other words, problem with medication, for example, leads to injury for many residents, but not all of those problems are related to neglect or abuse. Pressure sores, on the other hand, generally do not develop at all unless the care received by the resident is substandard. Proper hydration, nutrition, re-positioning, bathing, and other facets of decent caregiving is usually enough to prevent these painful and damaging injuries from developing.

Unfortunately, it is often only when it is too late—and a resident is rushed to the hospital for a serious medical emergency—that the problem is uncovered. In many instances an ailing resident will have their sores noticed by medical caregivers. But by the time this happens the senior may already be on the downhill. It is not uncommon for residents to pass away shortly after their injuries of this nature are discovered.

Many families who discover that their loved one had pressure sores upon their death seek out legal representation and demand accountability for the mistreatment.

Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuit
For example, earlier this summer our team of lawyers at Levin & Perconti reached a settlement on behalf of a local family who filed suit against the Crestwood Care Center. The victim in the case was a 74-year old former resident of the facility. While at the home the resident developed several pressure sores. Those sores worsened as months went by. Eventually, as is prone to happen, the sores became infected, causing a series of very serious complications. It goes without saying that those living in these facilities are already weakened with various health problems, and so complications from pressure sores often hit them hard.

In this case, the woman developed necrotizing fasciitis and ostemyelitis. On top of that she was dehydrated and malnourished. Taken together the injuries had a serious affect on the senior’s health and well-being.

Eventually the woman’s family filed a lawsuit alleging that the facility in Crestwood was negligent in failing to prevent the bed sores and properly treat them once they had developed. The mistreatment was evidenced by the development of the infection.

This particular case advanced quite far in the process—a trial was scheduled. However, just a few days before that trial an agreement was reached between the parties to settle the matter. The Crestwood nursing home agreed to pay $500,000 to the family to resolve the situation. It represents a successful use of the civil justice system to provide accountability and redress following insufficient care which led to the development of bed sores.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Are Regulations Getting in the Way of Nursing Home Reform?

New Documentary Delves Into Impact of Music on Nursing Home Residents

Sending Children with Disabilities into Nursing Homes?

Arguments abound about the proper level of care that needs to be provided to residents of nursing homes. But there is another ancillary argument often made about who should even be sent to these long-term skilled nursing facilities at all. In Illinois, for example, much disagreement (and litigation) has centered around whether certain residents with developmental disabilities or mental health challenges should be forced to live in long-term care facilities which are typically populated with seniors.

In our state this disagreement grew into civil rights litigation, attempting to force state officials to provide alternative living arrangements to those capable of living safely outside of these facilities. The state is involved in these cases because they provide significant financial assistance to pay for these individual’s stay in the long-term care facility. The suits sought to use those funds in alternative ways to provide more opportunity and freedom to certain community members. Fortunately, the case settled last year—as part of that agreement some residents are now transitioning into community living situations instead of being forced to live in more structured long-term care facilities.

A similar problem seems to be brewing in Florida, with certain activist organization claiming that the state is placing children with disabilities into nursing homes typically reserved for senior citizens. The housing arrangements are unacceptable, say the children’s rights proponents, and need to be changed.

Proper Nursing Home Residents?
As reported on by the Mason County Daily News, the U.S. Justice Department has begun an investigation into the matter. The concern is that the institutionalization of hundreds of children in nursing homes violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is obvious a serious concern, as few causes are more important that the safe, fair, and healthy treatment of vulnerable young children.

Violation of the federal law is obviously a problem, but the issue can also be grasped on a practical level. Children with disabilities forced to live in these settings often have little to no opportunities to interact with anyone outside of the setting. They therefore miss growth experiences that other children receive—they experiences to interact with the world are obviously crucial for their development. Various recreational, social, and educational opportunities are unfairly denied to these children.

The Justice Department letter notes that may of the children taken from their families and placed in these institutions are deemed “medically complex’ or “medically fragile.” That includes children who suffer from cerebral palsy or who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child (often in car accidents or falls). Many of these children face serious medical complications, including attachment to medical equipment to keep them alive each day.

Even with the complications, however, it is not too great a burden to demand that these children not be forced to languish in long-term care facilities surrounded by those at the other end of the demographic spectrum. Unfortunately, the report found that once many of these children arrive at one of these facilities, they often never go back home.

For example, one child mentioned by DOJ investigators became a quadriplegic following a car accidents. Without funds to provide the care he needed, his family relied on state support. However, the state told the family that the waiting list of “at-home” care was five to ten years. As a result, the boy was forced to move into a long-term care facility—he has been there for three years.

Hopefully this matter will be resolved so that these children are afforded a chance to live with their family and friends.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Are Regulations Getting in the Way of Nursing Home Reform?

New Documentary Delves Into Impact of Music on Nursing Home Residents

Resident Dies After Left in 102 Degree Heat in Wheelchair

Lawyers, family members, and senior care advocates frequently cite the civil justice system as one of the key ways that long-term care facilities are actually held accountable for their conduct and spurred to make changes to minimize future harm. That point is well illustrated by a recent case related to the tragic death of a wheelchair bound resident and the lack of punishment (or chance of punishment) from state officials.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death
The Republic published an article this week about a 67-year old Tucson man who was living at a rehabilitation and care center. Like many of his fellow nursing home residents, the man had mobility problems. He was confined to a wheelchair and usually required the assistance of staff members at the home to get around properly. Obviously, nursing home staff members understand their role in helping residents in this way who depend on them to move in certain settings.

In this case, the resident was wheeled outside on a particularly hot Arizona day. Reports indicate that it was well over one hundred degrees. Yet, even with the heat (and the resident’s vulnerabilities), the man was allowed to languish outside in his chair without any supervision. In fact, he was left without oversight for at least an hour and fifteen minutes. Is it logical or prudent for a senior resident to be left in one hundred plus degree heat for over an hour without monitoring? Of course not. In fact, nursing home employees admit that even when inside residents are supposed to be monitored “every five, ten, or fifteen minutes.”

The consequences of the elopment in this case were severe. The senior resident was found unresponsive and rushed to the hospital. He eventually died as a result of the situation.

Inadequate State Accountability
One might expect state regulators to hold the facility strongly accountable for the obvious lapses in care which led to this tragic nursing home death. Not quite. Instead, the facility was fined $500 for leaving the wheelchair bound resident outside alone in the brutal temperatures. The paltry fine was not a result of any determination that the facility was not really at fault. Instead, the penalty was so low, because that is the maximum amount of penalty allowed under state law. No matter how egregious the mistake–in this case, fatal–$500 was the max punishment for one violation of rules on a single day.

With that sort of penalty it is no wonder that many home are loathe to many any changes or invest resources to improve care. After all, even though hiring more care workers may result in vastly improve services (and the prevention of deaths like this one), hiring even a single extra worker is far more expensive than simply paying $500 for the death of a resident.

The accountability simply does not exist in these settings.

That is one of many reasons why it is absolutely crucial for the accountability to be demanded by the family members of those actually hurt via a civil lawsuit. It’s often the only way to ensure proper redress is provided and the best chance at encouraging changes to actually improve the lives of seniors living in poor conditions. Fortunately, the family in this case has already filed a wrongful death lawsuit involving claims of nursing home negligence and abuse.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Levin & Perconti Settle Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Case for $1 Million

Nursing Home Lawsuit Alleges Chronic Negligence at Facility

State Issues Fines After Nursing Home Rape Case

Knox News reported on actions by a state Department of Health following a horrific case of rape which took place in a nursing home. The citations issued to the facility were for two problems–allowing the attack in the first place and then failing to respond properly to prevent similar attacks afterwards. Specifically, the facility was fined $3,000 and new admissions were temporarily suspended.

But that is not all. Federal officials have also stepped in. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted that the facility provided a “substandard quality of care.” As a result the facility is being fined $6,000 every day until improvements are made which bring the facility up to par.

The Nursing Home Rape Case
The underlying problem involved an 89-year old woman with dementia. The resident told her family members that earlier this summer she was raped–she did not know the man who attacked her. Obviously the family members immediately told staff members. An examination was conducted and the resident was then transferred to a hospital so that a “rape test’ could be performed. The results indicated a DNA sample from the attacker.

An investigation was opened by police officers, with staff members, family members, and other residents interviewed. No one has yet been charged with anything. The actual resident was, fortunately, moved by the family into a different facility.

The recent state and federal citations and penalties against the facility included a list of allegations against the home. For example, state officials noted that the home did not notify the resident’s actual physician or question male staffers at the home properly. In addition, the resident did not receive proper counseling. Apparently the facility’s social worker did not believe the resident’s story, and so she did not provide actual counseling. Finally, the nursing home did not make any necessary changes after the attack to ensure other residents were protected. In other words, there were no new locks on the doors, more security at entrances or surveillance cameras added.

In response, the facility claims that the safety of their resident is their most important goal and that they believed their improvement steps were adequate. The home also claims that they do not have the resources to add more cameras or increase staffing to provide more oversight.

The canard about lack of resources is quite common following events like this. Unfortunately, in most cases this is nothing more than a stock answer to keep profit levels high while providing substandard care to the senior residents who are counting on them.

Preventing Illinois Nursing Home Abuse
Improper protection of residents at long-term care facilities is something that the lawyers at our firm know well. We’ve worked on similar cases in Chicago and throughout Illinois. Many are surprised at the widespread abuse of residents by other residents, staff members, and even random strangers.

Don’t let this elder abuse or neglect go without recourse in our area without accountability.

At the end of the day, even with state and federal oversight (as seen here), it comes down to family members to identify problems and press for the rights of their senior residents.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Former Nursing Home Employee Witnesses Nursing Home Sexual Assault

Family Claims Mother Was Sexually Assaulted at Nursing Home

New App Lets Consumers View Nursing Home Inspection Reports

The U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) compiles reports on nearly 15,000 nursing homes scattered throughout the U.S. The inspection reports cover nearly 118,000 deficiencies at those homes. Although the CMS publishes these reports online, it is an enormous amount of information to try and analyze for consumers and professionals alike. Enter Nursing Home Inspect. abuse.jpg

We’ve touched on it before, but it is such a helpful new tool that it’s worth reiterating.

Nursing Home Inspect is a new app whose search engine makes it easier for consumers to search the CMS reports and get a better picture of the instances of “deficiencies” at nursing homes throughout the country. These apps are a crucial way that local residents can be better informed when making decisions regarding nursing homes. Nursing Home Inspect’s search engine allows one to search across all of the reports available by keyword, city and specific nursing home names; options that the CMS web site does not offer.

An article in ProPublica recently enlightened readers as to how better utilize the search options that Nursing Home Inspect offers. One of the key items to remember is that the results of these inspections are just a “snapshot” of these homes and that they are based on “deficiencies” and complaints–eliminating the ability to find positive attributes of these homes within the reports. It is also important to remember that simply because a home had a deficiency in a particular inspection, might not mean that the home is “subpar.” Since these reports are written in narrative form, it is also important to try multiple search words to maximize your search results since different people write the reports and may not use the same terms or descriptions.

This app might obviously get a lot of use from individuals who are interested in moving to one nursing home or another. However, elder law attorneys utilize this app to investigate nursing homes for various reasons. An individual might file a claim against a nursing home for abuse or neglect. The attorney can then use this app to find out if there have been similar complaints against the nursing home to help strengthen the case. If the attorney finds numerous complaints at a particular home or at homes run by the same company, then it might be an indication of a bigger problem. This app helps to ensure that nursing homes address the deficiencies and complaints found in these reports because of the ease with which individuals can search out and avoid homes who exhibit sub par services.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

ProPublica is Launching a New App: Nursing Home Inspect

Recognizing and Avoiding Elder Financial Abuse

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Nursing Home for Medication Error

The Weatherford Democrat reported this week on another lawsuit filed by a family following the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, because of the frailty of many seniors in these facilities, when a mistake is made, it often proves to be fatal. A suit alleging neglect in a nursing home often includes claims for wrongful death.

Wrongful death claims are distinct from basic claims of nursing home negligence in the specific harm that is alleged. While abuse or neglect suits generally seek to hold one accountable for the harm suffered by the individual physically hurt in the ordeal, a wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the separate harm suffered by certain loved ones. In many cases multiple claims can be made following a single event. The actual facts to be examined are the same for all of the claims, but the legal rules and potential recovery are differences for each claim. While it may seem complicated, it is actually a common sense way to ensure full accountability for various harms that results from unreasonable care provided by those who had a duty to act properly to keep others safe..

The Latest Nursing Home Neglect Case
This most recent case stems from allegations of medication errors by staff members at the nursing home. The 79-year old female nursing home resident in this case was admitted to the defendant-nursing home in late November 2010. The nursing home stay was not intended to be permanent. Instead, similar to a situation faced by many residents in our area, the extra care was needed as part of a rehabilitation process following her receipt of several stents after suffering a minor heart attack. The idea was that she was get her strength back, and, hopefully, return back to more independent living. Many residents are sent to a nursing home directly from the hospital, with the hope that they will get out of the facility and back to their homes.

Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case.

Instead, the family claims that staff members at the nursing home did not properly monitor the woman’s medication needs. Following the procedure the resident’s physician prescribed a blood thinner. However, the lawsuit claims that the staff members did not administer the medication as needed. As a result, just a few days after being admitted to the home the woman suffered a massive heart attack. The second heart attack forced the woman to spend the next few months in the hospital where she ultimately died.

Nursing Home Medication Errors
Sadly, these sorts of medication problems occur frequently at long-term care facilities. It should seem obvious that ensuring proper medication practices is an essential component of care at nursing homes. However, time and again mistakes are made so that seniors do not receive the medication they need, are given the wrong drug, or given too much of a prescribed medication. Because of the fragility of the residents, even a single mistake can prove fatal. It is crucial to ensure full accountability following these errors.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Fall Sparks Civil Lawsuit

Levin & Perconti Settle Nursing Home Neglect Case Against Clark manor Convalescent Center

Aging & Loneliness

Preventing Illinois nursing home neglect is one thing–ensuring nursing home residents actually thrive as human beings is another. The Chicago nursing home lawyers are not naive enough to assume that all senior at long-term care facilities are living their best life so long as they are not neglected. Instead, preventing the abuse and mistreatment is merely a baseline. On top of that, facilities must help these individual live well. Helpfully, a range of new research efforts have emerged which seek to better explain the lifestyle challenges faced by local seniors in all situations. The information from that research should be used, where possible, to craft better living situations for all local elderly citizens.

One big theme hit upon time and again in these studies involves loneliness. A fascinating new study from research at Cornell, and published in Psychology and Aging, found that loneliness plays an important role in the aging process. More succinctly: Lonelier people age faster. Considered in that way, increasing meaningful social interaction is not only a way to improve the quality of one’s life but it also may prolong it. The full study can be found here.

Senior Housing News discussed the research effort earlier this summer. The study paints a unique picture, because it counsels, in some ways, toward increased use by seniors (and their families) of alternative living arrangements that increase the opportunity for social interaction At times that might mean leaving one’s home. It is often assumed that allowing a senior to stay in their own home is always preferable to alternative living arrangements. Yet, this research suggests that, in some cases, it might be better to consider senior centers or retirements commitments–so long as it means the difference between loneliness at home and interaction in the community.

Each Chicago nursing home lawyer at our firm appreciates that this is just one of many considerations. Obviously, there are other factors in a potential move that must also be considered. Aging in place at home may still be preferable. But, this new research should at least be considered as part of a comprehensive analysis of your family’s unique situation.

In any event, it is helpful to look at the full study. Researchers noted that loneliness produced bodily changes which actually mimic the aging process. This results in increased risks of heart disease. Interestingly the negative effects were seen both in seniors and young adults. However, the negative effects were more pronounced in the seniors. In addition, seniors were more likely to be lonely in general.

The researchers were quick to note that temporary pangs of loneliness needed to be distinguished from the chronic problem. Everyone experiences the temporary emotions from time to time in various settings. That is likely an unavoidable part of the human condition. But the chronic problem is the real concern. This refers to prolonged periods of loneliness which may manifest in real, harmful bodily changes. The lead author summarized that “one of the most important and life-affirming messages of this research is the reminder that we all desire and need meaningful social connections.”

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Dangers of Unlicensed Senior Care Facilities

Minimizing the Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes

New Program from CMS to Improve Dementia Care & Antipsychotic Drug Use

Seniors with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s and other dementias are most at risk of suffering Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse. The Chicago nursing home attorneys at our firm work with many families whose seniors were severely injured or even killed after a facility failed to take their unique mental vulnerabilities into account. The neglect takes many forms, from failing to protect residents from one another to allowing wandering and elopement. It goes without saying that failing to account for these vulnerabilities is unacceptable.

Improper restraint of these residents is another problem. Many seniors with dementia are given drugs unnecessary–not to deal with a medical condition but to make them easier to “control.” By drugging a senior into a stupor, some nursing home caregivers are able to avoid the more challenging tasks of providing full care to the resident. These unnecessary medications not only have serious effects on the seniors quality of life, but they are downright dangerous. Many studies have been conducted connecting serious adverse (even fatal) effects of drug use–usually antipsychotic medications–for residents with dementia.

We have a long way to go before all long-term care facilities properly account for the unique challenges faced by residents with dementia.

Seeking to improve the situation, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced a new initiative to address the use of antipsychotic medication in nursing homes. In announcing the new partnership, CMS officials admitted that recent data found that over 17 percent of all nursing homes had residents who received higher than recommended dosing levels.

This percentage is likely on the low end, as many other studies have found even more widespread problems with these prescriptions. For example, one report found that 40 percent of dementia residents were prescribed an antipsychotic without any diagnosis of actual psychosis. In short: too many patients are receiving these drugs. That is where the new CMS initiative comes in. The acting administrator for CMS said that “As part of this effort, our partnership has set an ambitious goal of reducing use of antipsychotics in nursing homes by 15 percent by the end of this year.”

The CMS program is multi-faceted. For example a new training program is being launched which focuses on “patient-centered” care. This care takes quality of life issues into account, instead of simply focusing on control. In addition, there will be new behavioral training for state and federal surveyors, hoping to better identify this form of nursing home neglect and abuse. On top of that, the “Nursing Home Compare” website will soon include data on antipsychotic drug use all facilities, so that families can consider the statistic when making nursing home choices.

This new CMS initiative should be applauded–hopefully it has the intended effect of curbing this widespread problem. Yet, the Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers urge all local families to remain vigilant about the care received by their loved ones at these homes. That includes an understanding of the medications prescribed to your loved ones. It is important to ask questions about the benefit and risks of all drug. Also, be sure to raise concerns if you suspect that a resident is showing mental or functional issues after taking a new medication.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medication and the Elderly

Minimizing the Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes

Challenges Facing Young Residents in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are sometimes still referred to as “Old Folks Homes” or other colloquial phrases indicating them as a space filled only with the elderly. While senior citizens are obviously the most in need of these skilled nursing facilities, the Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at our firm know that there are actually a good amount of young individuals at these homes. At the end of the day, these nursing homes are places for all individuals who do not need to stay in a hospital but who need care that cannot be provided at home.

However, the fact remains that younger residents often face social challenges that are often not met at these facilities. Their plight is a hidden one, as few consider the lifestyle consequences for younger people living in long-term care homes. A recent Medical Express article went so far as to explain how these individuals were denied basic human rights.

The story shared information on new research published by the Summer Foundation. The study (found here) evaluated the quality of life for young people living in nursing homes. Expectedly, the underlying theme was that there are serious ramifications for those individuals such that everything possible should be done to move these younger individuals out of these facilities and into alternative living arrangements

Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers appreciate that this was a comprehensive research effort, evaluating individuals over a five year period. Entitled, “Younger People in Residential Aged Care,” the research sought to examine the effect on program participants who took advantage of alternative living options. In particular, about 500 people under age fifty were involved. Half of the group avoided nursing homes altogether while the other half left a nursing home where they previously lived.

What did the researchers find?

Those not in nursing homes scored far better on a range of quality of life indicators. The main benefit, claim the researchers, is the opportunity to make everyday choices. One of the key problems with nursing home life for younger individuals is the highly structures lifestyle that often leaves little room for creativity or individual choice. In some ways this structure is important to prevent nursing home neglect that leads to accidents for the most vulnerable residents. But, that does not mean there is no room for flexibility.

For example, the study found that the lack of materials and too much structure often means that basic human rights is denied to these residents. For example, many nursing homes have rigid locked doors schedules, denying residents access to the outside. This means that many residents are literally locked into the home without the chance to interact with others as they might like

Some of these challenges are natural outgrowths of an institution that is aiding individuals with various needs. The care needed by a 85 year old man with dementia is far different than a 38 year old woman. But that does not mean that these facilities can do nothing to make the experience better for the younger residents. Our Chicago nursing home lawyers know that many different quality of life initiatives can be undertaken to maximize the freedom and potential thrive for all residents–regardless of their age. Those quality of life programs should be fully explored.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

First-Hand Portrait of Life Inside and Assisted-Living Facility

Aging Expert Optimistic About Senior flourishing in their Golden Years

Continuing Challenges Faced By LGBT Seniors in Nursing Homes

My Elder Advocate touched on a very unique issue in a recent post discussing quality of life concerns in nursing homes. As Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys, it is sometimes easy for us to focus entirely on the individual instances of misconduct that cause serious harm (or even death) to residents. Obviously no senior should be hurt at one of these facilities as a result of unreasonable care.

But it is insufficient to focus only on stopping the most egregious harm. We should also pay attention to actual quality of life issues inside these homes Nursing home have the reputation of being a place where one simply exists, without a chance to thrive, grow, and meaningfully contribute to their community. It doesn’t need to be that way.

As the article from My Elder Advocate explained some groups of seniors face even more challenging quality of life issues at these communities than others, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered seniors.

The story notes that the federal Nursing Home Reform Act protects many groups of residents from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yet legal protection from overt discrimination is not the same as creating an environment where all residents are free to be open and honest about themselves. Unfortunately we still have a long way to go in that regard.

A recent survey found that three out of every four LGBT seniors admitted that they would likely not be open about their sexuality in a nursing home. Nearly 90% of respondents felt that the staff members might discriminate against them if they knew. Another 80% thought that other residents would discriminate. These LGBT seniors were concerned about being isolated in the long-term care facility if they were open about their seuality. Nursing home lawyers know that it is little wonder why. Sexual orientation concerns are hot-button political issues which have clear generational differences. Many seniors in nursing homes grew up in an entirely different world in relation to these issues than the world in which the current generation is living. Thus, it is not surprising that entering a nursing home may feel like going back to less tolerant time for LGBT seniors.

The story shares the story of one female couple that was together for 58 years. One of the woman suffered from Alzheimer’s and was forced to move into a nursing home when her health deteriorated. However, as a result of various pressures, the woman’s partner had to pretend that she was a “sister.” The resident ultimately passed away. A few years later her surviving partner had to move into an assisted living facility as well. However, she stressed endlessly about displaying her pictures with the love of her life, over fear of the reception from others in the community.

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers believe that all nursing home residents should be able to live safely as themselves in local long-term care facilities. Staff members should do everything in their power not only to keep residents healthy but allow them to thrive as unique human beings.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

First-Hand Portrait of Life Inside and Assisted-Living Facility

Aging Expert Optimistic About Senior flourishing in their Golden Years