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CMS to Publish Additional Data Regarding Nursing Home Deficiencies in Illinois and Elsewhere

The nation’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will reportedly post additional information regarding deficiencies observed at nursing homes in Illinois and throughout the country. In July 2012, the Agency began publishing deficiency data for the previous 15 months on its Nursing Home Compare website. The information is also apparently published on a Five-Star Nursing Home Quality Rating System website. The information contained on the two websites was reportedly taken from federal reports created by nursing home investigators as well as complaint surveys.

According to a memorandum written by Thomas E. Hamilton, Director of the CMS Survey and Certification Group, deficiency report data will be available to the public for a longer duration beginning in April. In addition, Hamilton stated more detailed information will be provided regarding the conditions at each facility and the severity of each violation an institution allegedly committed. Hamilton said although the agency will not post nursing home plans of correction online, the data should be easy for consumers to locate, as each state is already charged with this task. Federal law also requires that state inspection agencies and skilled nursing facilities provide such information to the public upon request.

Most nursing homes located in Illinois are under contract to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. This means employees at such institutions must adhere to both state and federal laws. This also means the facility is subject to inspection using federal CMS guidelines. Although most nursing homes in our state provide quality patient care, there is always room for improvement.

There are currently a number of online databases that make it possible for the public to review skilled nursing facility inspection information. Regrettably, the potential for long-term care facility abuse and neglect is not always easy to identify using an inspection report. It is always a good idea for family members to visit regularly and closely monitor the quality of care a loved one receives while in a nursing home.

When an elderly or disabled long-term care facility patient is experiencing mistreatment at the hands of a caregiver, he or she may become depressed and attempt to alert relatives to the situation. Telltale signs of physical abuse include broken bones, bedsores, unexplained bruises, and an increased number of falls or other avoidable accidents. All suspected cases of skilled nursing facility abuse or neglect should be taken seriously and reported straightaway. Contact a caring nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to assist you.
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Researchers Urge Nursing Homes to Use More Effective Measures to Prevent Spread of Deadly Bacteria in Illinois and Nationwide

A study recently published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology claims that a number of strains of community-assisted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are currently present in nursing homes across the country. MRSA is a bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics normally used to combat staph infections. The bacteria are often found in hospitals and other medical care facilities where invasive procedures are performed. Community-assisted MRSA is a fairly new variation of the bacteria and can affect otherwise healthy individuals.

As part of the study, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, reportedly analyzed data regarding community-acquired MRSA that was collected from nursing homes in Orange County, California between October 2008 and May 2011. Researchers took samples from 200 nursing home patients who were residing in one of 22 different facilities. Half of the samples were taken from individuals who were recently admitted to a nursing home. Researchers allegedly found that 25 percent of the residents who tested positive for MRSA actually had community-acquired MRSA. In addition, the bacteria were found at 20 of the 22 skilled nursing facilities that participated in the study.

Study authors claim community-assisted MRSA infections are just as dangerous as MRSA infections acquired in a hospital setting. According to lead researcher Courtney Reynolds-Murphy, more effective and targeted measures should be taken in nursing homes and other facilities in order to prevent and combat the spread of the potentially deadly bacteria. In addition, researchers stated the prevalence of such bacteria is likely to increase in hospitals throughout the nation because ill nursing home residents are often admitted directly to such institutions. Reynolds-Murphy said hospital rates of community-acquired MRSA have steadily increased since the strain of bacteria was initially discovered.

The study authors reportedly found that community-acquired MRSA rates were highest in skilled nursing facilities that served a greater percentage of patients under the age of 65. Researchers purportedly believe the disparity was caused by the fact that senior citizens are generally less mobile than their younger counterparts. Younger residents are allegedly more likely to interact with others which may increase exposure across a nursing home or other population.

Because residents normally live in close proximity, bacteria like community-assisted MRSA can be spread easily in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The use of effective sanitation measures is vital to maintain the health of skilled nursing facility patients. Although nursing home employees in Illinois are required by law to ensure simple precautionary measures designed to control the spread of illness are used, too many reportedly fail to do so. This can have a devastating impact on long-term care facility residents. If your friend or family member died after he or she contracted a preventable disease at a skilled nursing facility located in Illinois, you are advised to speak with a quality nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.
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Former Orland Park Nursing Home Employee Claims She Was Fired for Reporting Alleged Sexual Abuse of a Resident

A former Orland Park skilled nursing facility employee has reportedly filed a whistle blower lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. In her lawsuit, the former overnight nursing supervisor claims she was fired in 2011 in retaliation for reporting the alleged sexual assault of a 93-year-old resident to local police. The former nursing home supervisor claims she was required to take action after a fellow nurse reported the alleged incident to her. According to her complaint, a fellow nurse allegedly witnessed a male co-worker sexually abuse an elderly female resident at the Lexington Healthcare Center. The former supervising nurse stated she verified that the incident actually occurred prior to notifying local authorities.

Several months after she reported the alleged sexual abuse, the 63-year-old supervising nurse was purportedly fired. According to her complaint, the nurse believes she was fired after nine years of service for bringing bad publicity upon the nursing home. The nurse’s lawsuit seeks $30,000 in damages pursuant to the State of Illinois’ whistle blower protection law. She is also reportedly seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits.

As this sad case demonstrates, nursing home abuse can take many forms, including sexual assault. Skilled nursing facilities in Illinois are required to immediately report any suspected instances of sexual abuse of a resident. The Illinois Department of Public Health is tasked with investigating and responding to all reports regarding senior citizen neglect or abuse at a skilled nursing facility. In addition, law enforcement, healthcare, and social service professionals must notify the Health Department anytime they suspect an elderly Illinois resident who is unable to report his or her abuse was victimized by a caregiver.

Too often, seniors in Illinois and elsewhere suffer egregious abuse at the hands of their caregivers. The sexual assault of an elderly or disabled nursing home resident can never be tolerated. Fortunately, the Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act was established to respond to senior citizen abuse throughout our state. If you suspect a skilled nursing facility resident is being abused, you should discuss your concerns with a skilled nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer.
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Seniors in Illinois and Nationwide May Receive Inadequate Care from Private Medical Providers

Increasingly, patients in the United States are relying on private medical care providers. Over the past several decades, more and more nursing homes, hospitals, and other health service institutions have purportedly privatized. Unfortunately, the profit status of a health care facility often affects the care provided to patients. For example, for-profit hospitals are reportedly less likely to offer necessary medical services that do not create large profits. Although this is generally good news for shareholders, it can spell disaster for patients. According to one study, patient deaths increase sharply when non-profit hospitals become privatized. Staffing levels also allegedly tend to decline.

In the U.S., private companies purportedly provide more essential social services than in any other industrialized nation. Some believe this has resulted in lower quality care for our nation’s sick and elderly. Instead of lowering costs and eliminating waste, privatized nursing homes and hospitals reportedly now provide physicians and other direct care staff with financial incentives to maximize profits without incurring any additional expense. Sadly, this can have an effect on patient care. According to a study regarding Medicare spending, no taxpayer money was saved when private Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) were used. Additionally, another study claims the cost of Medicaid increased by about 12 percent without any increase in quality when recipients began utilizing HMOs.

A Wisconsin study found that non-profit nursing homes tend to administer fewer sedatives than for-profit enterprises. In some areas, residents at for-profit nursing facilities allegedly receive an average of four times more tranquilizers than those living in a government or non-profit managed facility. Economist Burton Weisbrod believes this disparity has arisen because such drugs are cheap and tend to incapacitate patients who may otherwise require additional care or stimulation. He said programs designed to keep skilled nursing facility residents engaged cost money. In addition, so does the staff required to administer the programs.

Over-medicating nursing home residents or employing an inadequate number of direct care staff in an effort to increase a company’s bottom line is not acceptable. An inadequate number of well-trained nursing home employees is a common cause of abuse and neglect at skilled nursing facilities throughout Illinois and the country. Fortunately, the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act was established to increase the quality of care received by nursing home residents in our state. Pursuant to the law, all skilled nursing facilities in Illinois must provide at least 2.5 hours of direct care per day for each patient. Additionally, all nursing homes operating within the state must provide 3.8 hours of direct care staffing for every resident prior to January 1, 2014.
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Study Finds Anti-Psychotic Drugs Are Over-Prescribed in Veterans Affairs Nursing Homes Located in Illinois and Throughout the Nation

A study recently published in the journal Medical Care reportedly found that anti-psychotic drugs are being overused in Veterans Affairs (VA) nursing homes at about the same rate as other long-term care facilities. According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, about 25 percent of elderly and disabled veterans who are living in VA skilled nursing facilities are currently taking anti-psychotic drugs. The study claims that at least 40 percent of the individuals who are prescribed anti-psychotic medications while residing in VA nursing homes are taking the drugs unnecessarily.

As part of the study, researchers reportedly compiled information regarding almost 4,000 patients who were admitted to one of the 133 VA nursing homes across the nation for at least 90 days between January 2004 and June 2005. Study authors purportedly found that only 59.3 percent of the elderly and disabled veterans who were administered an anti-psychotic medication had an evidence-based reason such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder for the prescription. According to one study author, University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Walid Gellad, veterans who were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease were 66 percent more likely to receive an anti-psychotic than other facility residents. In addition, patients who exhibited aggressive behavior were allegedly three times more likely to receive an anti-psychotic drug than other nursing home residents.

Anti-psychotic drugs allegedly do little to alleviate behavioral issues in individuals who suffer from dementia. In addition, the nation’s Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that use of such pharmaceuticals in dementia patients is associated with an increased death rate. Gellad reportedly believes the overuse of anti-psychotics results from the difficulty many nursing home employees have in dealing with the behavioral symptoms often associated with dementia disorders. He said although skilled nursing facility staff may be attempting to maintain the safety and comfort of residents, better alternatives than sometimes dangerous anti-psychotic medications should be used.

Sadly, nursing home neglect or abuse is not always easy to identify. Administering inappropriate medications to a skilled nursing facility resident in order to make caring for them easier on untrained or insufficient staff is not acceptable. Similarly, the over-medication of long-term care facility residents is generally a recipe for abuse. If you believe a nursing home patient was the victim of abuse or neglect, you should speak to an experienced attorney regarding your concerns.
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Top Nursing Home Violations in Illinois and Nationwide Now Available Online

Last month, non-profit corporation ProPublica updated the organization’s Nursing Home Inspect tool to include more than 250,000 deficiencies identified by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at nursing homes across the nation over the last three years. The information was reportedly taken from detailed narrative reports of problems uncovered following annual long-term care facility inspections. The Nursing Home Inspect tool was purportedly created in an effort to make it easier for the public to search for problems or other care trends at skilled nursing facilities in Illinois and across the nation. Normally, a long-term care facility will be inspected by a state agency only once per year unless the agency receives a complaint regarding nursing home conditions. Any deficiencies noted are then ranked based upon the deemed level of severity.

The top five violations listed in the Nursing Home Inspect database include failure to ensure a skilled nursing facility is free from accident hazards, failure to ensure an effective infection control program is in place, failure to provide the best necessary resident care as is practicable, unsanitary food preparation or distribution, and failure to create comprehensive patient care plans. In addition, other failures such as meeting professional standards with regard to services and record-keeping, employing individuals who have committed abuse, maintaining a drug regimen that includes unnecessary patient medications, and failure to ensure the dignity of residents is protected were also allegedly noted frequently by nursing home inspectors.

Unfortunately, nursing home patients risk serious injury and death when long-term care facilities fail to maintain an environment that is free from fall and other accident hazards. Additionally, residents are placed at risk for abuse or neglect when a nursing home does not employ a sufficient number of well-trained direct care staff. In Illinois, the Nursing Home Care Act requires skilled nursing facilities throughout the state to employ enough workers to meet the needs of all patients. Sadly, inadequate or poorly trained staff commonly factor into nursing home abuse or neglect cases. If you feel your friend or loved one was harmed or died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should contact a skilled nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to discuss your concerns.
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Senate Bill Seeks to Protect Elderly Dementia Patients in Illinois, Throughout Nation

In September, Senate Bill S. 3604 entitled Improving Dementia Care Treatment for Older Adults Act of 2012 was introduced by Senators Kohl, Grassley, and Blumenthal. The bill is reportedly aimed at limiting the use of antipsychotic medications in senior citizens who suffer from dementia and reside in certified skilled nursing facilities throughout the United States.

According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, antipsychotic medications are frequently misused in elderly Americans who suffer from dementia. The drugs are reportedly often used as a means to control a nursing home resident’s behavior when a care facility lacks a sufficient number of well-trained staff. Despite that antipsychotic drugs are not approved for use in patients who suffer from dementia, an estimated 40 percent of nursing home residents diagnosed with the disease allegedly receive such drugs. Additionally, the nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a black box warning regarding the use of antipsychotics in senior patients. A black box warning is the highest warning the FDA issues without removing a drug from the market. When used in the aged, antipsychotics may reportedly cause stroke, confusion, increased falls, and death.

If passed, Senate Bill S. 3604 would require informed consent from a nursing home resident or personal representative before a facility could administer an antipsychotic. Additionally, it would require long-term care facilities to track antipsychotic drug use in residents on a monthly basis, create a national physician education program about drug use in elderly dementia patients, and direct a long-term study regarding the use of antipsychotics in senior citizens in a variety of settings including nursing homes and hospitals.

In Illinois, most nursing home and other long-term care facilities are held to a high standard of care by various laws and regulations. Facilities that receive funds from Medicaid and Medicare programs are considered certified skilled nursing facilities and must adhere to federal regulations. Because most nursing homes in Illinois are certified, laws such as the one proposed by Senate Bill S. 3604 would offer additional protections to elderly dementia patients in our state.

Abuse and neglect in a skilled nursing facility is not always easy to identify. Improperly medicating a resident in order to make up for staff shortcomings is wholly unacceptable. Likewise, over-medication is normally a recipe for abuse. If you suspect a long-term care facility resident was the victim of elder abuse or neglect, you should discuss your concerns with a capable lawyer.
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Chicago Nursing Assistant Jailed in Cook County Over Alleged Nursing Home Resident Abuse

In late October, a Chicago nursing assistant was arrested after he was accused of slapping and choking a 92-year-old long-term care facility resident. Following the incident, the 51-year-old West Side man was charged with aggravated battery to a senior citizen and is currently being held in the Cook County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

The nursing assistant was taken into custody after local police responded to a call from the Park House, Ltd. nursing home located in the Little Village neighborhood. A co-worker reportedly witnessed the man slap the wheelchair-bound senior resident twice in the face. The nursing assistant then allegedly grabbed the resident, who suffers from dementia, by his neck and pulled him up after the elderly man cowered away from him. The co-worker reportedly yelled at the alleged abuser and insisted that he immediately leave the resident’s room. Following the incident, the co-worker purportedly notified supervisors who then summoned law enforcement officers to the facility. A Sergeant from the Area Central Violence Crimes Division also investigated the alleged abuse incident.

The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act was passed in 1988 and was designed to respond to any instance of abuse of a senior citizen who resides in the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for investigating and responding to reports of elder neglect or abuse in a long-term care setting. Since 1999, medical, law enforcement, and social service professionals are required to report all instances of suspected abuse or neglect of a senior citizen who is unable to self report. Additionally, such personnel may also choose to provide a voluntary report regarding any suspected elder mistreatment.

In 2010, the Illinois Governor signed into law nursing home safety measures designed to protect the residents of long-term care facilities from abuse. In addition to increased nurse staffing requirements, the law requires nursing homes to perform thorough background checks on new residents and mandated the hiring of additional state nursing home inspectors.

As this unfortunate case demonstrates, abuse still occurs despite a number of laws designed to protect nursing home residents. Nursing home abuse may include physical violence, withholding of food or medication, or simple neglect. Too often, long-term care facility abuse results from a lack of competent, well-trained staff. If you suspect a nursing home resident is being abused, you should speak with a quality nursing home abuse and neglect attorney about your concerns.
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Research Study Finds Seniors With Bedsores at Increased Risk of Death in Illinois, Nationwide

A common sign of nursing home abuse in Illinois and nationwide is the presence of bedsores on a resident. Bedsores are pressure ulcers normally caused by remaining in the same position for too long. With proper care, nursing home and other long-term care facility residents should not suffer from bedsores. Research that was recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society demonstrates that pressure ulcers can signal much more than patient abuse. The study, led by Dr. Courtney Lyder, Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of California, Los Angeles, reportedly found that bedsores are also associated with increased hospitalization and patient death.

The study analyzed the impact of bedsores acquired in hospitals on more than 51,000 randomly chosen Medicare patients nationwide. The research study, which utilized data taken directly from patient medical records created in 2006 and 2007, was reported to be the first of its kind. Investigators found that seniors and other patients who acquired bedsores during their hospital visit had longer hospital stays, were more likely to die during their stay, and were more likely to be readmitted within one month of being discharged.

According to Dr. Lyder, the research study demonstrated that bedsores acquired in hospitals were a direct risk factor in patient death. Dr. Lyder stated patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, pulmonary disease, and others are at the highest risk for developing bedsores when placed in a medical care setting. He also reportedly believes hospitals and other care facilities have a responsibility to identify patients who are at an increased risk for pressure ulcers upon admission. Dr. Lyder said such information should be utilized to prevent patient bedsores before they have the opportunity to develop.

Researchers stated they chose to use Medicare claim data because the national surveillance system was designed to identify adverse events such as pressure ulcers among hospitalized Medicare patients. Such data was analyzed to determine the pattern and cause of patient bedsores. According to the research, about 4.5 percent of patients evaluated acquired bedsores during their hospital stay. Additionally, a 16.7 percent of patients who entered the hospital with a pressure ulcer acquired another one during their stay.

Bedsores can have life-threatening consequences for not only hospital patients, but also nursing home residents. The recently published study found that bedsores most commonly began on a patient’s tailbone, hip, buttocks, and heels. Reasonable standards of care demand that such areas be closely monitored by nursing home and other long-term care facility staff. Steps should always be taken to lower the risk of pressure ulcers and treat them appropriately if they do develop.
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New legislation aimed at reducing Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect

Authorities are moving forward with proposals aimed at improving safety and reducing instances of neglect and abuse in Chicago nursing homes and nursing facilities elsewhere in Illinois.

The Chicago Tribune reports that 48th Ward. Ald. Mary Ann Smith introduced several proposals last week that would strengthen inspections of Chicago nursing homes, enhance enforcement and penalties and require nursing homes to provide more details to the public regarding their financial and safety records.

As reported recently on Abels & Annes’ Illinois Nursing Home Abuse blog, the state moved to close a Chicago nursing home amid neglect and abuse allegations. Meanwhile, the Tribune reports 1 in 4 sexual assaults in Chicago nursing homes go unreported or uninvestigated amid large numbers of convicted felons being housed in nursing homes in Illinois.

Smith’s proposal will now be considered by City Council’s Health Committee before being taken up by the full council.

Meanwhile the office of Gov. Pat Quinn has announced it will introduce legislation aimed at implementing the recommendations of the governor’s Nursing Home Safety Task Force.

The task force was formed in response to an investigative report by the Tribune, which examined reports of rapes, attacks and murders in nursing facilities that house elderly residents alongside violent offenders.

Among the proposals made by the task force are tightening background checks on new residents, increasing staffing and toughening sanctions against facilities with chronic safety issues. The task force has also recommended moving thousands of mentally ill residents into smaller settings with better treatment options.

Some lawmakers are concerned the reforms will not go far enough and have announced a separate proposal with the backing of a number of influential groups, including the AARP, Illinois Citizens for Better Care, and the trial lawyers association.
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