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Falls in Nursing Homes Often go Unreported

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.

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Why the Standard of Care Matters in Chicago Nursing Home Care

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.

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Nursing Assistant Accused of Stealing From Dementia Patient Residing at Chicago Retirement Home

A 62-year-old woman was recently charged with stealing approximately $350,000 from an elderly Chicago retirement home resident who suffers from dementia. According to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the woman met the 94-year-old dementia patient while working as a nursing assistant at St. Joseph Hospital. After the man was discharged from the hospital, he reportedly moved into the Hallmark Retirement Home. At that time, the 62-year-old allegedly offered to provide in-home care for the senior dementia patient.

According to prosecutors, the 62-year-old later hired her daughter and sister to provide 24-hour care for the elderly man. About three months after she began working for him, the nursing assistant allegedly enlisted an attorney to draft a new power of attorney for the dementia patient despite the man having been previously assigned a power of attorney as part of his overall estate plan. In addition, a new will and a trust instrument that named the woman as trustee and her family as beneficiaries were also purportedly created for the senior citizen. The woman’s husband was also supposedly named executor of the dementia patient’s will.

Between January 2008 and July 2011, the 62-year-old woman allegedly provided her relatives with loans and purchased a number of items including a new luxury vehicle with money taken from the elderly man. In addition, the nursing assistant reportedly received $170,000 in annual wages and prosecutors claim the woman wrote several large checks to herself using the dementia patient’s power of attorney. The woman’s husband and the lawyer who wrote the power of attorney were also purportedly charged in connection with the alleged theft.

Unfortunately, financial exploitation is a commonly overlooked form of elder abuse. Although a number of laws are in place to protect retirement home and skilled nursing facility residents, many seniors still run the risk of falling victim to financial and other mistreatment. As allegedly occurred in this case, unscrupulous direct care workers may choose to steal from senior and disabled long-term care facility residents. Sadly, more than seven percent of all financial abuse cases across the country are reportedly committed by a nursing home or assisted-living facility caregiver. If you believe a nursing home or other long-term care facility patient was physically, emotionally, or financially abused by a caregiver, you should contact a quality nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer immediately.
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Evergreen Park Nursing Home Settles Cook County Lawsuit Over Bedsores

A former nursing home patient’s family has reportedly settled a bedsore lawsuit that was filed against an Evergreen Park skilled nursing facility following her death. The 77-year-old stroke victim purportedly resided at the Evergreen Health Care Center for four months during the first half of 2007. When the woman died, she was allegedly immobile and covered in bedsores. The woman also reportedly suffered from dehydration, sepsis, and pneumonia at the time of her death.

According to the nursing home resident’s granddaughter, her bedsores resulted from neglect on the part of the care facility. In her lawsuit, the woman’s granddaughter accused the Evergreen Health Care Center of failing to prevent, treat, or monitor the stroke victim’s bedsores. She also claims such failures contributed to her grandmother’s death. The woman’s family claims that she was likely never turned, they often found her soiled, and on at least one occasion her feeding tube was dislodged. In addition, the stroke victim’s granddaughter stated that facility employees failed to discover or treat any of her bedsores.

25 lawsuits were reportedly filed against the Evergreen Health Care Center between 2001 and 2012. The for-profit nursing home also nearly lost its state license in 2010 after Illinois officials purportedly cited the facility for resident falls and other injuries, medication errors, and severe patient neglect. The nursing home was later allegedly placed on a nursing home watch list after at least 15 complaints were filed regarding the quality of care provided to residents during a two-year-period.

Although ownership did not change, the Evergreen Park facility was reportedly placed under new management in 2011. According to Evergreen Health Care Center spokesperson Liana Allison, the facility has since increased the number of registered nurses employed by the nursing home, provided more than 5,000 hours of staff training and development, and earned the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Facilities Gold Seal of Approval. Allison also said that the facility has not received a single substantiated complaint regarding resident care in more than one year.

All nursing homes in Illinois must be licensed by the state and are subject to Illinois regulations. In addition, Illinois nursing homes that receive funds from the federal Medicaid and Medicare insurance programs are considered certified facilities. Certified facilities are governed by both state and federal laws. Although the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act does not require nursing homes to be certified, most skilled nursing facilities located throughout Illinois are in fact certified.

Federal regulations require skilled nursing facilities to ensure that all residents maintain the same level of health that was enjoyed upon entering the facility. If a resident’s condition worsens, the facility must work to restore the resident to his or her original condition. A common sign of nursing home neglect in Illinois and throughout the country is the presence of bedsores on a patient who has mobility issues. Bedsores are pressure ulcers that are generally caused by remaining in the same position for too long. With proper care, no skilled facility resident should suffer from bedsores.
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Grieving Chicago Family Sues Nursing Home After Unauthorized Photos of Their Dying Loved One Turn Up on the Internet

About one year after losing a beloved father and husband to Alzheimer’s disease, a grieving Chicago family unexpectedly found a photo of their dying loved one on the Internet website Craigslist. The photo, taken while the elderly dementia patient was on his deathbed at Lake Cook Health Care Center in Northbrook, was reportedly posted numerous times along with belittling and insensitive comments. In response, the man’s shocked son and widow are now suing the nursing home that cared for him during his final months of life.

The family’s lawsuit alleges that an unknown nursing home employee or agent took the photographs without permission and then proceeded to publish them without authorization on Craigslist in October 2012. The complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court also alleges that a variety of mocking language accompanied the photos. According to the lawsuit, the photos constituted an invasion of the dying man’s privacy and caused his family both sorrow and grief. The family reportedly seeks compensation for emotional distress and invasion of privacy. In addition, the complaint seeks punitive damages for violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

The photos reportedly remained online through at least the end of October. In November, the nursing home at issue changed ownership. The facility’s new owners have denied any knowledge of the photograph. The former owners of the nursing home stated they are currently investigating the allegation. The family of the dying man is reportedly attempting to ascertain exactly who posted the photos by issuing a subpoena to Craigslist.

This abhorrent situation demonstrates why Illinois has created laws designed to guard the rights of senior citizens and other individuals who reside in long-term care facilities. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act protects the rights of residents who live in long-term care facilities throughout the state. Those rights include the right to various levels of self-determination, the right to be free from abuse or neglect, and the right to privacy. Examples of such rights include freedom from unauthorized restraint, the ability to see and speak with visitors, the opportunity for seniors and other residents to select their own healthcare professionals, and the freedom to exercise constitutional rights such as voting. In addition, long-term care facilities must ensure that the rights provided to patients under the Act are not violated. If you feel the rights of your friend or loved one were infringed by a nursing home agent or employee, you should contact a competent nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to discuss your concerns.
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Rally Held to Protest Understaffing and Low Worker Pay at Chicago Nursing Homes

Earlier this month, about 200 long-term care facility workers and supporters held a protest in Chicago’s Rogers Park. The workers, who are reportedly union members involved in an ongoing contract dispute, marched along Sheridan Avenue in front of four North Side nursing homes in order to draw attention to alleged low pay, understaffing, and limited resources at area skilled nursing facilities.

According to certified nursing assistant (CNA) Tanya Pugh Rizer, low pay rates make it impossible for nursing homes to retain the number and quality of employees required to properly care for elderly and disabled residents. She said CNAs are often the first to notice when a patient is ill or requires additional care. Pugh Rizer also stated it is difficult to understand how workers are paid so little when a group that represents hundreds of nursing homes throughout the state, the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities (IAHCF), earned approximately $50.5 million in profits in 2011.

On average, Illinois CNAs earn $10.55 per hour. Although it is above the state minimum wage, CNA pay rates reportedly result in paychecks that fall below the poverty line for a family of four people. In addition, CNAs must come up with the funds to meet education, training, and licensing requirements prior to working at a certified long-term care facility. A certified nursing home is one that receives funds from Medicaid and Medicare. Certified facilities also must follow both state and federal regulations.

Many nursing home employees who attended the protest rally also sought better quality health care supplies and equipment. According to one march participant, Octavia Bradley, the facility she works at is constantly low on essential supplies such as soap. Additionally, she said the facility fails to supply sufficient resources such as bathing towels. Bradley claims residents are often dried with dirty clothing instead. Other protesters alleged that about one-fourth of IAHCF facilities violate staffing levels required by Illinois law. According to Pugh Rizer, the CNA to resident ratios at some area nursing homes is one to 17.

Unfortunately, inadequate staffing levels are a common factor in nursing home abuse or neglect in our state and throughout the nation. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act required skilled nursing facilities to increase staff numbers in an effort to adequately meet the needs of all residents. The law required all nursing homes to provide 2.5 hours of direct care staffing for every skilled care resident by July 1, 2010. Additionally, it mandates that all long-term care facilities in Illinois must provide 3.8 hours of direct care staffing for every resident by January 1, 2014.
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Chicago Doctor Sued Over Anti-Psychotic Drug Use in Nursing Home Residents

A Chicago physician was recently accused of submitting false claims to both Medicare and Medicaid and taking unlawful kickbacks from pharmaceutical representatives in connection with antipsychotic drugs he prescribed to Illinois nursing home residents. The civil fraud lawsuit filed in federal court by the United States Attorney’s Office alleges that Dr. Michael J. Reinstein not only submitted as many as 140,000 false Medicare and Medicaid claims, but also lied about providing pharmacologic management to patients at more than 30 long-term care facilities in the Chicago Metro. According to Gary S. Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney, the lawsuit is the largest prescription drug fraud case ever brought against a single person in the Chicago area.

In 2009, ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune conducted an investigation into Dr. Reinstein’s care of mentally ill nursing home patients. The investigation reportedly found that the 69-year-old doctor was previously accused of over-medicating such patients with clozapine despite the drug’s black box safety warning. A black box warning is the highest warning the nation’s Food and Drug Administration will issue without removing a pharmaceutical product from the market. Additionally, at least three of Dr. Reinstein’s patients allegedly died while taking the reportedly potent drug.

In 2007, Dr. Reinstein purportedly prescribed drugs to more than 4,000 Medicaid patients. He was also receiving federal reimbursement checks for alleged patient care visits. According to Medicaid records, Dr. Reinstein wrote more clozapine prescriptions for his Medicaid patients in 2007 than all of the physicians in the State of Texas combined. The federal lawsuit alleges the high number of clozapine prescriptions were largely written based on pharmaceutical company kickbacks rather than actual patient needs.

Dr. Reinstein reportedly began providing psychiatric services in Chicago in 1973. More recently, the physician’s office was moved to the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. According to federal prosecutors, more mentally ill nursing home residents reside in the area than any other part of the state. Despite that most physicians use the drug sparingly, at one point Dr. Reinstein was allegedly the largest prescriber of clozapine throughout the nation. At one nursing home, Dr. Reinstein reportedly prescribed the drug to three-fourths of the facility’s approximately 400 residents. At one point in time, although only four percent of schizophrenia patients nationwide received a clozapine prescription, about half of Dr. Reinstein’s schizophrenia patients were taking the drug.

Most Illinois nursing homes and other long-term care facilities receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. This means they are considered certified skilled nursing facilities. Physicians who treat patients at certified Illinois nursing homes are required to adhere to both state and federal laws and regulations. Like over-medicating in order to compensate for inadequate staff, prescribing drugs to nursing home residents based on financial gain or in conflict with a patient’s best interests is also unacceptable. Because most mentally ill long-term care facility residents cannot advocate on their own behalf, you should always discuss any suspected over-medication or other resident abuse with a skilled attorney.
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Malnutrition a Concern in Chicago Nursing Homes

Malnutrition is not a sign of normal aging.

Our body may not move the way it once did. We may become frailer, less agile. We may even start to shrink a little in stature. Our mind may not be as whip-sharp as it once was.

But we shouldn’t be starving.

That, our Chicago nursing home lawyers know, is the result of poor or negligent care. Nursing homes are unfortunately notorious for providing poor or improper nutrition to patients – with sometimes deadly consequences.

Each nursing home resident, before they are admitted, should have a thorough evaluation of his or her nutrition needs. A plan should be tailored specifically to meet those needs.

This will include allergies, of course, and hopefully preferences. But it should also include how much they need to eat on a daily basis, as well as their ability to consume.

For example, a 180-pound man will need more nutrition than a 90-pound woman.

Also, if someone doesn’t have their teeth, they probably can’t eat corn on the cob. Many nursing home residents and long-term care patients require diets designed so they don’t choke. Often, this means having food that is mashed or pureed. Some have to be monitored closely throughout the entire meal, and others have to be fed through a tube.

However, it is far too often the case that nursing homes do not heed these instructions, usually because of carelessness or lack of proper training or not having enough staff on hand to ensure nutrition plans are carried out.

This has resulted in tragedies throughout the country.

In Connecticut, for example, three nursing home residents choked to death in as many months because they were fed solid foods (ranging from meatballs to marshmallows) when their diets had been restricted for various reasons.

Additionally, nutrition plans need to be updated and reviewed on a regular basis. As people age, needs change. What was fine two years ago may no longer be adequate – or safe.

It’s been more than a decade since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began sending out packets of information to nursing homes, aimed at training caregivers to spot malnutrition – and how to address it. When a facility is trusted with the care of someone, there is no excuse for not providing care as basic as meeting a patient’s nutritional needs.

In rare cases, malnutrition may be a malicious act. In Oregon, for example, two employees were recently charged in the death of a patient who died of malnutrition. They’ve been charged with criminal mistreatment and criminally negligent homicide.

Nursing homes have a responsibility to:

–Serve nutritious foods that the patient like and which are within his or her religious or cultural preferences;

–Serve foods that taste good and are prepared to a proper temperature;

–Ensure that food items have been safely prepared;

–Serve meals in a timely manner and provide prompt and courteous help with eating;

–Provide eating utensils that are specifically designed to meet a patient’s special needs;

–Provide another equally nutritious food if you don’t like what is offered.
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Chicago Nursing Home Nelgect: About Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers

Bedsores are a common sign of Chicago nursing home neglect and an often misunderstood medical condition that can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Our Illinois nursing home attorneys continue to monitor moves by the state and federal legislature and the nursing home industry as it relates to staffing levels and the supervision and care of state nursing home residents.In July, Abels & Annes announced a $300,000 settlement on a case the firm served as co-counsel with another law firm against a Chicago nursing home, where an elderly developed bed sores after not receiving the proper care. Her son had become concerned about her treatment and the facility had received several complaints about the development of bedsores due to the resident being left immobile.

Staff was instructed to inspect the patient’s heels on a weekly basis after blanchable redness was detected, commonly the first sign of developing bedsores. The home failed to properly monitor her condition, failed to care and treat the sores and failed to timely seek additional medical care once sores developed.

The truth of the matter is that bedsores are not unavoidable, even with elderly, infirm or immobile patients. Inadequate care, soiled linens and poor hygiene can exacerbate a patient’s condition.

Left untreated, bedsores and pressure ulcers can lead to disfigurement and even death.

Bedsore Stages:

Stage I: blanching, change in skin sensation, temperature or firmness. Uncared for, the condition worsens quickly.

Stage II: Sore, blister or abrasion forms. Bedsores or pressure ulcers become harder to treat if allowed to progress.

Stage III: Deep craters form, resulting in substantial skin loss.

Stage IV: Sore may involve bone or muscle and resembles a deep wound.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found more than 10 percent of nursing home patients — nearly 160,000 residents nationwide — suffered from pressure ulcers, with Stage II ulcers being the most common. The same study found as many as one-third of all nursing homes had patients with bedsores.

New nursing home residents were also more likely to develop bedsores, compared to those who had resided at a home for 12 months or longer.

The National Institutes of Health reports bedsore neglect often leads to a worsening of the condition by stages and can ultimately be life threatening. Primary treatment is release of pressure, which for wheelchair bound patients can lead to bed rest, which in turn presents it’s own risk factor for bedsores.

Infection may result, including sepsis, which can result in organ failure. And surgery to repair Stage IV ulcers may be complicated by bone infection.

Proper daily patient care can prevent bedsores from forming. And early medical treatment can reduce severity and prevent medical complications. There is no reason nursing home residents should be made to suffer with advanced bedsores.
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Chicago Nursing home lawyers reach $300,000 settlement

Nursing home abuse & neglect attorneys at Abels & Annes, working with co-counsel, have reached a $300,000 settlement with a Chicago area nursing home due to the negligent care of one of it’s residents.

The plaintiff had been admitted to a nursing facility in September, 2008 after having suffered a stroke which left her with right side paralysis and very little mobility. With a patient who has such limited mobility it is necessary for the residential healthcare provider to beware of the risk of pressure sores and ulcers and to take preventative measures to stop such injuries from occurring. The steps to be taken would include, but not be limited to, regularly turning and moving the patient, the use of float pillows. When admitted, she did not have any sores or pressure ulcers.

Nonetheless, within several weeks records indicate that there was blanchable redness on her heals and instructions were given to inspect the patient’s heels on a weekly basis. In addition to her immobility upon admission, this was the home’s second warning of the potential risk of bed sores and that she was not being given the care she needed.

The plaintiff’s son became concerned that she was not being turned enough and complained several times to the attendants on duty, the nurses on duty as well as to the Director of Nursing.

Over the next few months, despite many warning signs, the plaintiff developed significant and painful bedsores that could have been prevented with proper care.

The nursing home was negligent, by and through its employees and agents, in their care of our client. They failed to properly and adequately move and turn her to prevent the formation of a bed sore on her right heel. The defendant failed to properly and adequately monitor her condition. Once the bed sore presented itself the facility failed to properly monitor, care and treat the sore. Finally, they failed to timely seek and obtain additional medical care and treatment of her bedsore.
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