Celebrate Nursing Home Residents’ Rights Month!

Advocacy and increased awareness are the keys to changing hearts and minds on the issue of elder abuse and nursing home neglect. Virtually everyone agrees that mistreatment of seniors is intolerable. Yet, it still happens on daily basis. That is because real change only comes when more and more people put pressure on all those involved in the process to enact actual safety improvements. Good thoughts are not enough. We need action.

Speak Out Against Elder Abuse
With that goal in mind, we are happy to share that this month, October, is officially designated by the Consumer Voice as “Residents’ Rights Month.”

The month-long awareness event is a time to speak out on behalf of those those in different senior housing communities, from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to retirement communities. As the main website for the event summarizes, this month is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident.”

The particular theme of this year’s annual event sends a clear message “Speak Out Against Elder Abuse.” As our neglect attorneys often point out, there are many more instances of elder abuse that actually occur than are ever brought to light. Many seniors suffer in silence because onlookers with suspicions stay silent. Doing nothing only guarantees that the mistreatment will continue. It is critical that friends, family members, and other advocates stand up and demand quality service 100% of the time.

Many different activities are sponsored by the Consumer Voice as part of Residents’ Rights Month. For example, a “Voice Challenge” contest is under way. Residents from across the country have submitted poems, stories, and other thoughts related to these issues–some including personal stories of mistreatment. There is something particularly powerful about hearing about the issues directly from the seniors affected. It is worth browsing the entries.

Other activities incorporated into the month-long celebration include small discussion groups where resident rights are discussed and scheduled speakers where advocates share important information with all those at a facility.

Speak Out
We encourage all advocates to use this month as a reminder to step up and speak out. You can browse a long list of Residents’ Right Month resources at the Consumer Voice website. One key component of the celebration includes taking the time to reflect on the federal Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987. As the Consumer Voice points out, that law makes very clear what rights individual seniors are entitled. Even though many facilities may shirk their responsibilities, that does not mean residents must sit in silence and take whatever care is provided to them, no matter how sub-standard. The law must be followed.

Please don’t turn your back on vulnerable seniors. If you suspect mistreatment, contact our neglect attorneys and see how we can help.

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Alternative Long-Term Care Report Issued

More Illinois Nursing Homes Not Fully Meeting Sprinkler Requirements

Alternative Long-Term Care Commission Report Issued

Last week we shared information on the report issued by the federal Long-Term Care Commission. Created as part of the tax bill that avoided the “fiscal cliff” at the beginning of the year, the Commission was charged with holding hearings and issuing a report on the state of long-term care in the country.

The Commission was comprised of fifteen members of various interest groups, appointed by both Republican and Democratic leaders from D.C. It was given six month to complete its work, which was accomplished earlier this September.

Alternative Report Discusses Financing
However, as might be expected from a group made of representatives with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, not all Commission members agreed with the scope of the final report. In fact, five members of the Commission issued a separate, shorter report in which they slightly critique the final Commission draft and argue for more comprehensive recommendations as they relate to financing long-term care.

A press release announcing the alternative report was published at Medicare Advocacy, Inc. The members who contributed to this report include the President of the SEIU branch of the United Long-Term Care Workers, the Vice-President of the American Association for People with Disabilities, Vice-Chair of the National Council on Disability, among others.

So what does the report say?

The report (viewed in full online here) begins by noting that: “The authors’ vision is to create such an inclusive LTSS system for people of all ages – a system that will meet individual’s functional and cognitive support needs with quality care in the most integrated setting. We are convinced that no real improvements to the current insufficient, disjointed array of LTSS and financing can be expected without committing significant resources, instituting federal requirements, and developing social insurance financing.”

To meet that goal, the Commission members believe that a nationwide system must be created, mostly based on expansion of Medicaid and Medicare benefits–a true public, long-term care insurance program. In addition, the report calls for better training for at-home caregivers (including family members) and an integration of those caregivers into the national long-term support services.

The report includes a range of different options regarding the specifics of this public insurance program. In addition, various tax and policy changes are suggested as possible ways to increase public resources for this task–including an increase in the payroll tax.

The main critique echoing from some following the issuance of the report involves the feasibility of the recommendations. After all, legislators are currently deadlocked over potentially raising the debt ceiling. It is incredibly difficult to imagine an agreement being reached any time soon which increases taxes. That is particular true considering the current polarization regarding the public health insurance overall now being implemented (Obamacare).

All those who have a stake in the availability of nursing home care in the future and financing of quality care for seniors should take a look at this report. Whether the actual recommendations in this report ever come to fruition or not, the main challenges outlined in the document are worth understanding.

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‘Chandelier Effects’ and the Personal Side of Nursing Home Advocacy

Last week, we told you about two consumer advocates who are at the heart of the assisted living reform movement in California. Chris Murphy, 67, and Chrisy Selder, 34, began “doing what the state should be doing” by forcing hands when it comes to nursing home abuse and neglect. In other words, they’re doing their own research into the conditions at nursing facilities across the state, they’re keeping specific records about deaths in assisted living facilities and other reports of abuse, and they’re making them available to consumers. Together, the two women formed the nonprofit organization Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform.

Chandelier.jpg

After realizing that many incidents of abuse and neglect go unreported, or worse, unrecognized by the state as events that should incite criminal prosecution, the Murphy and Selder began contacting state prosecutors. They provided examples of the nursing home abuse they uncovered and urged prosecutors to bring charges against some of these facilities.

What led Murphy and Selder to engage in this important work in our state? As with many consumer advocates, their stories are personal ones that began close to home.

The ‘Chandelier Effect’ in Nursing Facilities

Back in the early 2000s, neither of the women admittedly knew much about assisted living or how to evaluate these facilities for their loved ones. Then, in 2003, Murphy began looking at nursing homes for her mother, an 88-year-old woman who suffered from ovarian cancer and early dementia. Murphy went to a facility that had been recommended by a local nursing home, according to UT San Diego.

When Murphy walked into the facility, she “made the mistake that many people do.” What was the mistake? As she explained to the CHCF Center for Health Reporting, “I looked at the chandeliers instead of the care . . . . I didn’t notice the dirt—only the seeming elegance of the place.” Murphy’s mother passed away after moving into the home, and Murphy later reached a legal settlement with the facility.

As a result of her own experience, Murphy knew it was important to warn the public about the so-called “chandelier effect.” According to experts, this is a term that’s often used “to describe how people can be misled by the looks of some facilities, blinding them to potential health and safety flaws.”

Moving into the Long-Term Care Profession

When Murphy decided to become an advocate for assisted living reform in the state, she had no experience or background education in long-term care. According to UT San Diego, she had two years of law school experience and 28 years’ experience working as a contract administrator in the defense industry. However, Murphy didn’t let that stop her. She enrolled in a master’s degree program in gerontology offered at San Diego State University. She soon met Selder in a gerontology policy class that both women had enrolled in.

Selder’s background is a little bit different than Murphy’s, but her interest in elder advocacy also has personal roots. Selder’s grandmother had lived independently until she passed away at 96 years old, and she had been a model for Selder’s own thinking about aging with grace and dignity. Selder ended up working for an RCFE management company, which gave her access to assisted living homes and other nursing facilities.

After seeing inside many of these homes, Selder grew increasingly concerned with the state of long-term care in California. For instance, she described one situation in which she saw “a woman on oxygen, bedridden.” According to Selder, the facility left the woman “lying on the bed naked right after a bath. The windows were all open. She sat there for over an hour.” Selder retrieved a blanket for the woman. Selder is now training to be a paralegal in consumer law and continues to work as a principal investigator for Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR).

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one’s care in an assisted living facility or nursing home in our state, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today. Don’t hesitate to contact us.

Photo Credit: green_is_in via Compfight cc

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Federal Long-Term Care Commission Issues Final Report

In recent years, growing focus has been placed on providing necessary care for the nation’s senior community. Demographic changes and the aging of the Baby Boomer generation means that in coming decades more individuals will be in need of support services than ever before. How will we provide those services? Who will pay for it? What can be done to ensure quality care?

To help answer these and other questions at a national level, recent legislation passed by Congress and championed by President Obama called for the creation of a Long-Term Care Commission. The group was a diverse one, made up of fifteen representatives like nursing home owners, senior resident advocates, caregiver union leaders, and more. As discussed in a recent press release, the group was tasked with “developing recommendations for the establishment, implementation, and financing of a comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality system that ensures the availability of long-term services and supports for individuals who depend on this system to live full and healthy lives.”

Final Report
Last week the Commission officially submitted its final report. The document (view it online here) provides an overview of the issues at play and suggestions about ways to tackle the challenges ahead. Thus far, most observers have provided somewhat cautious assessments of the document, noting that it may not do enough to inspire a national dialogue on the subject.

However, those who followed the formation of the group conceded that with only 6 months to work and a relatively small budget, it is commendable that the entity was able to produce a report at all. Similar federal “blue ribbon panel” projects are given more time and latitude.

Most criticism of the report thus far is that it trods on ground already covered. For example, there was much focus on the value of family caregivers to provide necessary support for seniors. Those taking a broad view of the problem often point out that there simply is not enough current space in assisted living facilities and other senior housing locations to accommodate the looming need. On top of that, many seniors prefer to “age in place” anyway, in no small part because of the prevalence of nursing home neglect and abuse. As such, emphasis on home care by relatives is key. Developing support and assistance for these at-home care providers should be on the agenda of all policymaking bodies.

Commenting on the report, the nation’s leading senior citizen’s advocacy group the AARP explained, ” “These recommendations are an important step, but only one step of a larger dialogue. AARP believes that the Commission’s full report will illustrate the need for a continued conversation and action to address long-term care in our country.”

While far from a silver bullet, this report will hopefully be read by many, pushing the issue of senior care onto many more agendas. The attorneys at our firm know well the poor care already provided to many elder community members. One can only hope that large-scale change will be made to ensure better care in the future, particularly when more and more individuals will be in need of it.

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Levin & Perconti Secure $2.4 million Verdict Following Gold Coast Accident

You may remember the newspaper headlines a few years ago involving a tragic accident that struck in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. In late May 2011, a Chicago Streets and Sanitation worker was driving a city vehicle near the corners of Rush and Cedar streets in the middle of the day. Strangely, when at the intersection, the city driver lost control of the vehicle and it careered off the road and onto the sidewalk.

It was not long before the root of the problem was uncovered—the driver’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the accident, and an open brandy bottle was found nearby.

The incident caused severe injury to several passersby who happened to be on the sidewalk at the time. One of those was a 27-year old man named Stephen Dewart. Stephen was participating in a photoshoot for his wife’s company when the truck hit him,. His injuries were severe. He ultimately required several surgeries and a rod implanted in one of his legs. Stephen endured month of rehabilitation and therapy following the incident.

A lawsuit was filed the next month by Levin & Perconti against the driver and his employer, the City of Chicago. Legal rules regarding vicarious liability generally hold an employer responsible for the conduct of the employee when the employee is on the clock.

The case eventually went to trial where the only issue was damages–the City admitted that they were at fault for the accident. Eventually, after a five-day trial and two hour deliberation, the jury came back and awarded Dewart $2.4 million.

In the aftermath, one of our injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti, Jordan Powell, explained, “For over two years Stephen has been fighting to regain the life he had prior to this terrible accident. We hope that this verdict will bring him some peace while helping him to move forward. We also hope that this lawsuit will encourage City officials to create more effective screening processes for City employees to avoid future accidents such as this.”

General Principles of Negligence: From Nursing Home Abuse to Car Accidents
Of course, this particular case does not involve mistreatment at a nursing home. But it is a good reminder of several general principles of negligence that apply in many injury cases, even when the specifics are very different.

For example, issues of vicarious liability like that in this Gold Coast accident case, frequently arise in nursing home neglect matters. Consider that much mistreatment occurs because of errors in judgement by individual caregivers at these facilities. Yet, just because the individual caregiver may make a mistake, that does not mean that only they can be held individually liable for their conduct. Instead, so long as they are working while negligent, their employer–the nursing home itself–is liable. This is a long-standing legal rule. It was put in place to ensure fairness for those harmed and to incentivize employers to be cautious about who they hire, train, and put into various positions where they may harm others.

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The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform is out with a new video on arbitration agreements in the nursing home and residential care setting. There message is simple – don’t sign them.

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More Illinois Nursing Homes Not Fully Meeting Sprinkler Requirements

Late last week we shared information on the Consumer Voice’s “Hall of Flame.” The dubious list includes names of nursing homes throughout the country, including many in Illinois, that have yet to comply with rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Specifically, the rules relate to fire safety and the installation of sprinklers.

Nursing homes residents are incredibly vulnerable to serious injury and even death in the event of fire, mostly because of their mobility issues. Unlike adults are those without physical and mental frailties, many senior residents need close assistance just to get out of bed, let alone escape a fire.

The List
All nursing homes who participate in CMS programs (the majority) were required to have fully working sprinkler systems by August 13th of this year. Unfortunately, over 1,2000 facilities nationwide have yet to comply, and Illinois is near the top of the list of total number of homes not meeting the rules.

Last week we shared the names of Illinois nursing homes that zero working sprinklers. But there are many more facilities that have partial compliance. It is worthwhile to check out this list and see if a home that you or a loved one is considering is on it. If so, contact those at the facility and demand answers. The risks are too high.

Illinois homes with only partial compliance

FAIR ACRES NURSING HOME
DU PAGE CONVALESCENT CENTER
MEMORIAL CARE CENTER
ALDEN ALMA NELSON MANOR
CONCORD NURSING & REHAB CENTER
BURGESS SQUARE HEALTHCARE CTR
FREEPORT REHAB & HEALTH CARE CENTER
REGENCY REHABILITATION CENTER

Long list continued after that jump…

More Illinois Nursing Home Not Fully Meeting Sprinkler Requirements

Late last week we shared information on the Consumer Voice’s “Hall of Flame.” The dubious list includes names of nursing homes throughout the country, including many in Illinois, that have yet to comply with rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Specifically, the rules relate to fire safety and the installation of sprinklers.

Nursing homes residents are incredibly vulnerable to serious injury and even death in the event of fire, mostly because of their mobility issues. Unlike adults are those without physical and mental frailties, many senior residents need close assistance just to get out of bed, let alone escape a fire.

The List
All nursing homes who participate in CMS programs (the majority) were required to have fully working sprinkler systems by August 13th of this year. Unfortunately, over 1,2000 facilities nationwide have yet to comply, and Illinois is near the top of the list of total number of homes not meeting the rules.

Last week we shared the names of Illinois nursing homes that zero working sprinklers. But there are many more facilities that have partial compliance. It is worthwhile to check out this list and see if a home that you or a loved one is considering is on it. If so, contact those at the facility and demand answers. The risks are too high.

Illinois homes with only partial compliance

FAIR ACRES NURSING HOME
DU PAGE CONVALESCENT CENTER
MEMORIAL CARE CENTER
ALDEN ALMA NELSON MANOR
CONCORD NURSING & REHAB CENTER
BURGESS SQUARE HEALTHCARE CTR
FREEPORT REHAB & HEALTH CARE CENTER
REGENCY REHABILITATION CENTER

Long list continued after that jump…

Illinois Nursing Homes Listed in the Consumer Voice’s “Hall of Flame”

It’s a nightmare scenario for many of us–out of nowhere you see drifting smoke, smell burning, and hear the screeching of an alarm. There is a fire. What do you do? It has been drilled in us since we were children. Find the nearest safe exit and get out as soon as possible. Sometimes a window may be your only choice. If you happen to get aflame yourself, we all know the manta “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

But what if you don’t know where the exit is? What if you cannot pull yourself through a window. What if you cannot stop, drop, or roll? What if you are unable to even get out of your own bed without help?

For many seniors in nursing homes, those disabilities are real. For that reason, a nursing home fire is an absolutely terrifying prospect. One need only look back to 2003 when a blaze broke out in a long-term care facility in Connecticut. The result was sixteen killed residents and many others injured. We cannot let similar atrocities strike again.

Nursing Home Fire Safety
Considering the risks, it is no wonder that state and federal officials place requirements on these facilities to keep residents safe in the event of fire. As the Consumer Voice explains, five years ago the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required all nursing homes to install automatic sprinkler systems. The facilities were given five years to meet the requirement, with the compliance mandated by mid-August of this year.

Sadly, despite clear CMS rules, as of today, nearly 1200 facilities have not fully met the requirements. On top of that, senior care advocates are dismayed that CMS officials have yet to take any forceful action to ensure these rogue facilities actually comply.

To help raise awareness of the situation and push for change, the Consumer Voice recently crafted a list referred to as the “Hall of Flame.” It includes the names of all facilities which have apparently not yet met their obligations under the CMS fire safety rules.

Unfortunately, the number of Illinois nursing homes of the list is quite extensive. The specifics:

Illinois Homes with NO Sprinklers

COURTYARD HEALTHCARE CENTER
CROSSROADS CARE CTR WOODSTOCK
RIVERSHORES HLTH & REHAB CTR
EMBASSY HEALTH CARE CENTER
SNYDERS-VAUGHN HAVEN
EFFINGHAM REHAB & HEALTH CARE CTR
METHODIST HOSPITAL OF CHICAGO
SYMPHONY OF CRESTWOOD
NEWTON REST HAVEN
HEIGHTS HLTHCARE & REHAB CTR
GROVE OF SKOKIE L & R
WINDMILL NURSING PAVILION
SHAWNEE ROSE CARE CENTER
TRANSITIONS NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER
ANNA REHAB & NURSING CENTER
TWIN WILLOWS NURSING CENTER
LA HARPE DAVIER HLTH CARE CENTER
CRAWFORD COUNTY CONVALESCENT

We urge all community members to ask those in charge of these homes why they have yet to comply with the rules. Demand to know when changes will be made to keep residents. safe.

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Consumer Advocates at the Heart of Assisted Living Reform

Earlier this month, UT San Diego published a news story about a report it co-authored with the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). What was the story about? The dismal state of assisted living homes in California. This may not come as a surprise to some of us, given that California nursing homes earned a “C” grade in a report card published by Families for Better Care. For many of us, however, it’s shocking and disheartening to learn that so many of the assisted living facilities and nursing homes in our state aren’t passing master.

So what’s being done? On the heels of the CHCF report, UT San Diego released a story about consumer advocates in California and the work they’re doing to encourage assisted living reform in our state. Specifically, Chris Murphy, 67, of San Diego, and Chrisy Selder, 34, of La Mesa, have personally taken up the cause. According to UT San Diego, “the two women are leading a small but hard-hitting campaign to draw attention to a side of long-term care in San Diego that most people have never seen.”

Hand%20in%20Water.jpg

Are you concerned about the kind of care your elderly loved one currently receives? No one should have to worry about nursing home abuse and neglect. The experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today.

Consumers Advocates for RCFE Reform

Together, Murphy and Selder founded the nonprofit consumer advocacy group, Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform. According to UT San Diego, Murphy and her husband provide most of the funding to the group.

What exactly are the two women and their nonprofit group doing to promote assisted living reform in California? In short, they’re “doing what the state should be doing,” Murphy told UT San Diego. Murphy and Selder post important files on their website, and they “counsel seniors and families seeking safe surroundings.” In addition, and perhaps most importantly, they “lock horns with state regulators and push prosecutors to bring charges.”

The state of California doesn’t post records for its assisted living facilities online. With the help of interns, Murphy and Selder spent a significant amount of time at the offices of the state Department of Social Services (DSS), using scanners to “copy inspection reports and records of penalties and fines.” Now, their website provides reports “for nearly every one of the 640 licensed assisted living homes in San Diego County.”

While posting records for assisted living homes in San Diego County, the two women grew increasingly concerned about the lack of charges brought against these facilities, especially considering the reports of “suspicious deaths, rapes, physical and verbal abuse, theft, medication errors and life-threatening bedsores” that never seemed to attract much attention from the state.

As a result, Murphy and Selder began mailing reports of nursing home abuse to state prosecutors. And as of today, they’ve managed to provide records of 83 “unusual events” to state and local prosecutors. Paul Greenwood, a San Diego County deputy district attorney who prosecutes elder abuse, said that the two women told him about nursing home “horror stories” that he didn’t even know existed.

Elder Justice Advocates Can Help

The work that Murphy and Selder have undertaken is vital for the health of our elderly loved ones in California. If you suspect that your elderly loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect in one of the many assisted living homes in our state, it’s never too early to speak to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: aguscr via Compfight cc

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