A widespread and common misconception is that bedsores are a regular part of life in a nursing home. Rather, bed sores are an indication of nursing home neglect here in Illinois and anywhere else they occur. Bedsores, often called pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or pressure injuries, are injuries to the skin and underlying soft tissues that happen due to prolonged weight or pressure being applied to the same area. While able-bodied individuals are capable of regularly moving around, those with limited mobility or limited physical skills may be forced to remain stationary far more often, allowing the same parts of their body to support their weight. Bedsores commonly form on patients who spend a great deal of time lying or resting in a bed or who must use a wheelchair to ambulate around a facility. As the same areas of a patient’s body regularly touch a bed when lying or a wheelchair when sitting, the skin at these sites can begin to deteriorate, leading to a bedsore or other harm.
Though nursing homes in Illinois are designed to be safe places for elderly and ill residents to live, they present significant dangers to their residents as countless incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect happen in them every year. Some instances of misconduct are readily apparent and can be easily identified by family members, including physical abuse that results in burns, bruising, or broken bones. Other forms of neglect are much more difficult to discern and can be very hard to uncover unless a facility and/or its employees admit to the acts. Examples may include failing to provide adequate nutrition to a patient, failing to assist the resident with daily tasks like dressing and personal care, and failing to help the patient during transfers from a bed to a chair and back. Falls in a nursing home setting are often overlooked as mere accidents or as situations that could not have been prevented but the opposite is true. While residents do not intend to fall down, falls often happen because staff members allow them to happen. Staff may be stretched too thin or overworked and therefore unable to supervise a patient as closely as they should. Or staff members may not review prior notes in a patient’s chart and therefore not realize that a patient is a fall risk. Falls in a long term care facility are one of the most common manifestations of neglect.
Labeling and nomenclature can have a profound effect on how we look at certain issues. Some years ago, the automobile insurance industry pushed to rename “car accidents” to “car collisions” to highlight what they really were: crashes between vehicles, not mistakes. As nearly all collisions result from a motorist’s error, the newer terminology was seen as a better way to describe the situation that plagues millions of Americans annually. In a similar fashion, the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (“NPUAP”) has changed its terminology from “pressure ulcer” to “pressure injury” to refer to injuries the public commonly calls “bed sores.” The organization reports that the change in name “more accurately describes pressure injuries to both intact and ulcerated skin.” The name change also reflects that these conditions are true injuries which are harming some of our most vulnerable citizens including the elderly and those with other medical conditions that limit their mobility.
One of the biggest decisions that some people in Illinois face every year is whether to place their loved one in a nursing home, and if so, what home to select. With so many facilities to choose from, it can be a daunting task to sift through the information and determine which nursing home will provide your family member with the care that she deserves and the help that she needs. If you are faced with this difficult decision, make sure you do your research as the care provided may vary significantly from one location to another. Initially, know that Medicare has developed a ranking system for nursing homes in almost all parts of the nation. The rating system is based on a number of stars and a facility can be awarded up to five stars in three separate categories: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Based upon these three categories, a facility is given an overall ranking between one and five stars where one star is much below average, two stars is below average, three stars is average, four stars is above average, and five stars is much above average.
As each year comes and goes, the demand for long-term skilled nursing care increases in America, a nation with an aging population and with increased life expectancy when compared to prior generations. Yet as this demand increases, the supply of top-notch nursing homes in the state of Illinois has not grown at the same rate, which has led to some citizens being placed in homes with troubling track records of care, repeated violations of state and federal guidelines, and even visible instances of abuse and neglect. The loved ones of nursing home patients often question what they can do to protect their family and to ensure that an appropriate level of care is provided in a Chicago-area nursing home. When a suspected incident is properly reported, it is easier for family members to learn about the condition that led to a possible injury and to address the facts with the staff, employees, and owners of a nursing home. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number of nursing home abuse and neglect incidents go underreported every year which means that individuals including family members, friends, and loved ones may have no idea about potential harm done in a nursing facility. Among all types of occurrences that may be neglect in a nursing home, the CDC states that falls often go unreported. The reasoning behind this is not always clear. In some cases, employees may fear punishment if they disclose a fall by a resident. In other cases, a fall may happen when a staff member is not around to observe it, significantly decreasing the odds of a reporting.
To function as a nursing home in the State of Illinois, facilities must comply with both state and federal laws and regulations governing them. They must also adhere to strict standards governing the care and treatment of patients and must be licensed as a nursing home. Many people do not realize what standards should exist, what rules should be followed, and what level of care provided when they are making the decision to place their loved ones in a long term care facility, mistakenly believing that all nursing homes are the same. Unfortunately, a wide range of care is given at nursing homes and it is up to patients and their loved ones to select a home that will best meet their needs. For that reason, it is important to understand industry standards and why they matter when it comes to care provided in Chicago.
Keeping nursing homes clean goes a long way to protecting the safety of the residents who call them home. This means that germs and bacteria must be kept at bay to prevent infection and illness in patients and to control any that already exists. But a new study suggests that treating a facility itself may not be addressing the whole issue as new patients may be bringing germs into these long term care facilities upon their arrival. The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine and was conducted by researchers of the University of Michigan. They found that nearly one out of four hospital patients who were discharged to a nursing home, rehabilitation center, or hospice facility had some type of drug-resistant germs on their hands, often referred to as “superbugs.” These superbugs enter Illinois nursing homes, among other long term care facilities in our state, where they have the opportunity to spread to other patients, staff members, and even visitors to the facility.
Nursing homes, like many other medical settings, can be a breeding ground for germs. Patients are kept in close quarters and some rarely leave the home, creating an environment where germs can hop from one person to another with ease and with incredible speed. Add to that the fact that many patients have comorbities and some have weakened immune systems and it means that infections are extremely prevalent in nursing home facilities in Illinois and can be very challenging to treat. The body’s natural response to an infection is to trigger its immune system into action, trusting that the disease fighting capabilities will do their jobs and help a patient get well. In some situations, though, the chemicals released into the bloodstream to treat the infection trigger an inflammatory response in the soft tissues, called sepsis, leading the body’s immune system to attack things other than an infection and potentially leading to multi system organ failure. If a full-body inflammatory response happens, sepsis may progress to a condition known as septic shock, a life-threatening situation that leads to a significant drop in blood pressure and can be fatal even with the best medical treatment.
Odds are that you have known someone in the past, know someone presently, or will know someone soon who resides in a nursing home. As America continues to age, the demand for skilled nursing care and for long-term care facilities will explode, placing greater demand on a system to support our elderly citizens. But how much do you know about nursing homes and the rights of patients who reside there? If you think a decision to place a loved one in a nursing home will be the last major decision you make about their care, the odds are that you are mistaken and that placement in a facility will just be the first of many tough choices to cross your path. Few people realize that they have options when it comes to the care and treatment that their family members receive in an Illinois nursing home. They understand that some homes may focus on certain ailments or specialize in certain disabilities, but beyond those qualities, they may not know that they can have a choice. However, federal laws and some state regulations ensure that patients receive both the care they need and care that fits their personal objectives, meaning that family members, loved ones, and patients themselves can all have a say in the treatment received.
The employees of nursing homes and long term care facilities are required by law to care appropriately for their patients. This can include assisting patients with movement, providing the appropriate medications as the appropriate times, and addressing any needs that arise. Under no circumstances should an employee or staff member of an Illinois nursing home act with disregard or even malice towards a patient or that patient’s safety as doing so would not only violate the standard of care required but also several state laws. Yet every day, nursing home abuse happens here and the patients of these facilities are the ones left to suffer. This abuse and neglect can cause physical and emotional injuries, can lead to unnecessary suffering and anguish among patients, and can have a substantial effect for the remainder of a victim’s life.