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Treating Bedsores: Issues in Illinois Nursing Home Care

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.

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Recommendation Made to Change Terminology from Pressure Ulcer to Pressure Injury

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.

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Former Employee Criminally Charged for Stealing Medication from Nursing Home Patients

When a family member or a loved one is in a nursing home, it can be difficult to know whether he or she is receiving the proper care needed for any ailments or injuries. Today, the demand placed on long-term care facilities in Illinois, including nursing homes, has increased from decades’ past and will continue to increase as the American population ages. Experts agree that the increased demand on nursing homes may lead to greater nursing home abuse and neglect if homes fail to adapt and change staffing levels in response.

Nursing home abuse happening daily across the nation and Illinois is no example. With trends projected to continue into the future, these incidents of abuse and neglect threaten not only current patients of nursing homes but also those who will reside in homes in the coming years.

When abuse happens and a resident is injured, that victim may be entitled to financial compensation through the use of a civil claim for damages. The right to seek a recovery may pass to the victim’s family members or loved ones if a victim loses his or her life, but no amount of compensation will be adequate in these cases. Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Chicago may help you understand your options, including whether you or your family is entitled to relief, if you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect.

A former employee of a nursing home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin has been arrested and charged with possession of narcotics, and officials are trying to determine whether the employee gained access to narcotics through her position at the nursing home. According to officials, employees of the home reported missing medication to local authorities, who responded and spoke with the defendant, who was employed at the home, regarding the drugs. Allegedly, the defendant, a 43-year-old nurse, had narcotics in her possession, admitted to being addicted to the drugs, and admitted that she did not have a prescription for the medication; however, the defendant reportedly denied taking the drugs from the nursing home or from patients there. Following her arrest, the defendant was terminated from her position at the nursing home.

Medication in a nursing home is a critical part of care and treatment and any delay in dosage or skipped administration of medication can lead to a range of injuries from an increase in pain, worsening infection, stroke, heart attack, seizure, or even death. Yet despite these risks, there have been numerous reports of employees taking or withholding medication from nursing home patients across the country in 2014 alone.
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Nursing Home Residents Not Tested for Blood Sugar Levels, According to State Officials

In 2010, there were 787 certified nursing homes in state of Illinois. While that may seem like a large number of facilities, the aging nature of the American population continues to put a greater stress upon the existing homes to take in more residents, whether or not staff levels are adequate to handle the growth. Current projections indicate that the demand on skilled nursing facilities will not decrease for decades to come.

When a loved one or family member is placed in a nursing home, often it is because that individual needs an advanced level of care that cannot be provided at home or by unskilled family members. Trusting a facility to live up to the standard of care demanded of them by state and federal laws, family members may choose to place a loved one in a home. But too often, these vulnerable patients become the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect at the hands of care givers and employees at the facility and they may sustain injuries as a result.

The truth of these instances of abuse and neglect is that elderly, disabled victims often go ignored because they may not be able to express the suffering they experience or they may not have anyone to tell. This can lead to repeat instances of abuse and can increase the severity and intensity of the injuries suffered. When a victim is harmed in a nursing home, that victim and/or the victim’s family may be entitled to relief. Consulting with a personal injury lawyer may help you understand your options, including whether you have a valid claim, if you suspect abuse in a nursing home.

A nursing home in Tallahassee is facing fines totaling $31,000 from the State of Tennessee after an investigation revealed that employees failed to routinely test diabetics at the home. According to reports, 60 of 67 diabetic residents went weeks without receiving all the blood testing they required and officials believe that a lack of supplies was in part to blame. Reportedly, the nursing home did not have emergency protocols in place for the actions required in the event an emergency, including inadequate supplies, occurred.

As a result, numerous residents may not have received the medication they needed and may have suffered as a result. According to some residents, complaints were made to the management of the nursing home but no corrective action occurred.
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Hidden Camera Allegedly Reveals Neglect at Nursing Home

The presence of surveillance cameras in nursing homes has been hotly contested across the nation, including in the state of Illinois. Some are in favor of the presence of cameras to provide an accurate recording of the care and conditions provided within a home while others object to the cameras, arguing that a constant recording of all activities is a significant invasion of privacy to residents and their roommates. While the debate rages on, some select states have already taken action to authorize the presence of these cameras.

Illinois is currently considering whether to enact state-wide legislation authorizing the presence of hidden surveillance cameras in individual patient rooms when the patient and/or the patient’s family consents. Additionally, if a nursing home resident has a roommate, that roommate must also consent to the camera’s presence. Advocates of this legislation believe that the cameras will decrease the incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect within the state of Illinois.

Two employees of a New York state nursing home have been charged with multiple counts of neglect after a hidden camera allegedly revealed a pattern of abuse against a 79-year-old resident. According to local officials in the Buffalo area, two certified nurse’s aides from a now-closed Skilled Nursing Facility, failed to follow protocol in their care of a 79-year-old woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia. The resident reportedly was unable to provide any of her own care and relied entirely upon the employees of the facility for her needs.

The allegations against the former employees include the fact that they failed to use a lift during transfers and when one was used, only one employee worked the lift instead of the required two. During other care-related activities, the patient did not receive from the proper number of employees. The employees at issue are alleged to have falsified documents to comport with standard requirements and to cover the alleged neglect.

State officials reportedly launched an investigation into the incident, during which time the facility placed both nurses on leave. Eventually, the nurses were fired and the facility was closed in early 2013 when a new facility opened and replaced the one at issue. It is not clear whether other victims suffered from care at the facility or whether any other charges may be brought as the investigation continues.
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Homosexual Seniors May be at High Risk for Abuse in Illinois Nursing Homes

According to research conducted by Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE), homosexual senior citizens are more likely to age alone, less likely to have children, and less likely to utilize available elder care services than their heterosexual counterparts. Such individuals are purportedly often afraid of being discriminated against or victimized once they disclose their sexual orientation to health care providers. Sadly, many homosexual seniors also fear being mistreated in a long-term residential care setting.

In SAGE’s report, the organization claims that elderly members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk for abuse and neglect from hostile nursing home staff members and fellow residents than other individuals. In addition, many long-term care facilities reportedly refuse to allow same-sex partners to share a room. The report also claims that because many skilled nursing facility employees are not equipped to address hostility from other patients, homosexual residents are often moved to inappropriate wards or isolation.

An online survey of 769 people that was conducted between October 2009 and June 2010 reportedly fund that most individuals surveyed do not feel that LGBT seniors can safely be open about their sexual orientation with nursing home or long-term care facility staff. Additionally, at least 500 respondents expressed concern over being isolated or discriminated against and 43 percent described instances of mistreatment at a skilled nursing facility that directly resulted from an individual’s sexual orientation. Such mistreatment purportedly included verbal abuse, refused admission, attempts to discharge, and restriction of visitors.

Long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds are required to adhere to the provisions of the federal Nursing Home Care Act. The Act provides all nursing home residents with the right to choose their own physician, the right to privacy, the right to be free from abuse and unnecessary restraint, the right to receive any visitor they choose, and the right to voice complaints regarding the quality of care provided by a facility. The Illinois Act on the Aging was also created in order to protect the rights of senior citizens, including nursing home residents.

Nursing home abuse is not always easy to identify. Skilled nursing facility residents may experience emotional abuse and distress as well as physical harm. When a patient’s rights are violated, he or she may become depressed, attempt to alert friends and family members to the situation, exhibit a loss of appetite, and withdraw. Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained bruises, bedsores, broken bones, and an increased number of accidents. Any suspected instances of nursing home abuse or neglect should be taken seriously and reported immediately.
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U.S. Senate Considering Bill That May Keep Elderly Out of Nursing Homes in Illinois, Nationwide

The United States Senate is reportedly considering a bill that would allow for an increased use of remote healthcare monitoring technologies, using funds from the federal Medicare insurance program. The Fostering Independence Through Technology (FITT) Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement pilot projects and incentivize the use of remote healthcare monitoring technologies by home health providers. The idea behind the legislation is to allow the nation’s elderly to remain in their homes and reduce hospital readmissions. Supporters of the proposed legislation also claim the law would reduce Medicare costs and lessen the need for many seniors to enter nursing homes.

Currently, about 20 percent of elderly patients who utilize Medicare are purportedly readmitted to the hospital within one-month of discharge. Recently, the Medicare program allegedly began issuing reimbursement penalties as a result of high senior readmission rates. The use of remote monitoring technologies would reportedly allow physicians and other health care professionals to monitor senior citizens from their own homes instead. If approved, the FIIT Act would allegedly create performance targets based on Medicare recipient health outcomes as well as program savings. At this time, the American Hospital Association, National Association for Home Care and Hospice, and the National Rural Health Association have expressed support for the proposed legislation.

Many elderly Illinois residents would like to spend their golden years at home. Unfortunately, remaining in the home is not always feasible due to failing health, disability, and unexpected dementia disorders. As treasured family members age or become disabled, countless Illinois families turn to nursing homes for assistance. Sadly, even the most dedicated relative will have a tough time providing around the clock care for a severely disabled family member. Skilled nursing and other long-term care facilities are required to maintain the staffing levels necessary to monitor and maintain the health and safety of patients in the institution’s care. When a nursing home fails to ensure at-risk patients are safe, the facility may be guilty of negligence. If your loved one was hurt as a result of skilled nursing facility negligence, you should contact a qualified Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.
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Federal Report Claims One-Third of Certified Nursing Homes in Illinois and Elsewhere Provide Substandard Patient Care

According to a report released in February by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General, the nation’s Medicare program paid an estimate $5.1 billion to substandard nursing homes in 2009. Although the report did not single out individual facilities, an estimated one-third of patients who moved into a skilled nursing facility in 2009 were cared for by a facility that was not meeting basic federal requirements. The report claims residents in some nursing homes were subjected to dangerous or neglectful circumstances as a result.

The Office of Inspector General’s report was created using a sample of the approximately 1.1 million elderly patient visits to nursing homes funded by Medicare in 2009. The report sampled the medical records of 190 patient visits that lasted at least three weeks at skilled nursing facilities in 42 states. The report claims the overall findings raised questions regarding what services Medicare is actually funding and recommended that the nation’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) begin to tie federal payments to a facility’s ability to meet basic resident care requirements.

Federal law requires all certified skilled nursing facilities to create a written care plan tailored to each resident’s individual needs. Still, many nursing homes are allegedly not only failing to provide patients with the assistance they require, but are instead placing them at risk at the expense of taxpayers. The report alleges that patient health problems were not addressed in about 20 percent of nursing home stays. In addition, many residents reportedly received unnecessary therapies in order to boost the Medicare rate paid to long-term care facilities.

A CMS official stated the agency is currently reviewing its regulations in an effort to improve enforcement at skilled nursing facilities across the country. In addition, CMS agreed to consider whether Medicare payments should be tied to quality of patient care and follow up with the allegedly deficient nursing homes featured in the report. According to a spokesperson for Medicare, Brian Cook, the program has recently made significant changes to the way quality nursing home care is rewarded.

Any nursing home in Illinois that receives federal Medicare or Medicaid payments is considered a certified nursing home and is subject to both state and federal regulation. Although most nursing homes located in the state are certified, the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act does not require it. In addition, the Illinois Department of Public Health regulates the quality of care provided in all Illinois skilled nursing facilities regardless of the facility’s certified status. If you believe your loved one suffered neglect or abuse at a certified or other nursing home in Illinois, you should discuss your concerns with a quality lawyer.
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Researchers Claim Increased Use of Technology May Improve Nursing Home Resident Care and Increase Patient Privacy in Illinois and Nationwide

Researchers from the University of Missouri claim health information technology can have a dramatic impact on nursing home resident care and patient privacy. In an article published in the January issue of the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, researchers reportedly compared the care received by patients at nursing facilities with differing levels of information technology sophistication. According to lead study author Gregory Alexander, Professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing, most communication in long-term care facilities does not occur at nursing stations where computers are normally placed, but instead at a resident’s bedside. The study authors also allegedly found that face-to-face dialogue among skilled nursing facility staff decreased when more sophisticated information technology was utilized by caregivers. Researchers reportedly believe that using information technology tools instead of written notes and verbal dialogue to coordinate resident care allows nursing home staff to not only avoid potential misunderstandings, but also increase patient privacy.

The research came about as part of a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services project designed to reduce rehospitalization rates among skilled nursing facility patients. Researchers reportedly hope the information obtained from the study will provide insight into the best way for direct care staff to communicate nursing home resident needs to one another and medical professionals. In the future, the study authors purportedly plan to examine how a decreased reliance on face-to-face communication affects not only patient care but also skilled nursing facility employee relationships.

Most skilled nursing facilities located in the State of Illinois are under contract to receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. As a result, nurses, direct caregivers, and others who are employed at such nursing homes are required to adhere to both state and federal laws. Despite that most nursing homes in Illinois provide quality patient care, there is always room for improvement. In addition, some long-term care facilities choose to cut corners through personnel expenses. When a nursing home fails to employ a sufficient number of qualified staff or when direct care workers fail to communicate with one another, patient neglect or abuse often results. If you believe a friend or family member was the victim of abuse or neglect while residing in a skilled nursing facility in Illinois, you should discuss your concerns with a quality attorney.
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Database Claims Illinois Ranks Third in Number of Five-Star Rated Certified Nursing Homes

In 2013, about 3.3 million senior and disabled Americans are expected to reside in one of the almost 16,000 skilled nursing facilities across the country. This means about one in seven individuals over age 65 will live in a nursing home this year. In addition, at least one in five elderly citizens over age 85 is expected to reside in a long-term care facility in 2013. A Best Nursing Homes database recently compiled by U.S. News & World Report was allegedly designed to make selecting a quality nursing home easier on American families.

The Best Nursing Homes database was purportedly created using information from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Nursing Home Compare website. The searchable database reportedly utilizes CMS inspection data and federal ratings for certified nursing homes across the country to provide consumers with pertinent information regarding the various facilities. A certified facility receives federal Medicaid and Medicare funds and is subject to both state and federal regulation. Although not required, most long-term care facilities in Illinois are certified.

According to the database, more than 3,000 nursing homes across the country currently enjoy a five-star rating from federal inspectors. Unfortunately, a large disparity in the number of highly rated skilled nursing facilities exists across state boundaries. With 312, California has the most nursing homes with a five-star rating from the federal government. Illinois currently ranks third in the nation with 156 five-star facilities. Sadly, four states and the District of Columbia reportedly have fewer than 10 highly rated skilled nursing facilities.

CMS inspection ratings are based upon a number of factors including health inspection results, nurse staffing levels, and 18 clinical data indicators. Skilled nursing facilities are normally inspected once every 12 to 15 months and in response to specific complaints. In order to achieve a five-star rating, a nursing home must provide almost 4.5 hours of direct care to each resident every day. Approximately 45 minutes of such care must reportedly be provided by a registered nurse. Any time spent in physical therapy is also included. Additionally, nursing homes are rated based upon quarterly information submitted to CMS such as the use of physical restraints, patient infections, resident mobility, and pressure ulcer rates.

Although a number of online databases make it possible for families to review nursing home inspection information, the best way to determine quality care for a loved one is to visit a facility, ask questions, and listen to residents. Unfortunately, long-term care facility abuse and neglect is not always easy to identify. When an elderly or disabled nursing home resident is experiencing mistreatment at the hands of a caregiver, he or she may become depressed, exhibit a loss of appetite, and attempt to alert family members to the situation. Signs of physical abuse may include bedsores, broken bones, unexplained bruises, and an increased number of falls or other accidents. All suspected cases of nursing home abuse or neglect should be taken seriously and reported immediately. A quality nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can help.
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