November 17, 2011

Adults with Mental Illnesses in Nursing Homes

When most of us think of a nursing home, we picture frail, elderly, people. The reality is that an increasing number of adults with serious mental illnesses are being housed and cared for in Illinois nursing homes.

According to an analysis by the Assoicated Press, the number of mentally ill nursing home patients has jumped by 41% since 2002. In our neighboring state of Missouri, it has climbed nearly 76%.

Mentally ill patients technically should not be receiving treatment in nursing homes unless they suffer from disabilities that require extra care and supervision.

Furthermore, having mentally ill patients in the same environment as elderly nursing home patients can deter from the quality of care nursing home residents receive.

The attorneys at Ed Fox & Associates are dedicated to ensuring that nursing home residents receive the care and attention that they deserve and require. If you or someone you love has suffered from poor care at a nursing home facility, call the experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Ed Fox & Associates today.

November 11, 2011

Advancing Forensic Knowledge: Increasing Detection of Nursing Home Abuse

Elder abuse comes in many forms, including but not limited to phsyical, sexual and financial abuse. This type of abuse happens in the home, in the community, in assisted living centers and in nursing homes. In fact, according to a phone survey done by the National Institute on Justice, one in ten healthy adults over the age of sixty are victims. In addition, a study by the University of California-Irvine revealed that 47% of elders cared for by family members are abused and/or neglected and as many of 96% of cases go unreported. This is not suprising when you consider how difficult it is to detect the signs of elder abuse. People do not know what signs to look for and becasue the elder tend to bruise and facture more easily, such things as bruising on the neck, head, inner thights, etc. often do not raise red flags.

Marie-Therese Connolly, a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, discusses how foresnic science could be a way to increase detection of nursing home abuse. She says that "[a]dvancing forensic knoweldge is important so social and protective services workers, physicians, emergency room personnel and presecutors know what to look for and what kinds of questions to ask about injuries." If a person can assess the nature of a bruise on an elder individual, this could absolutely increase detection of abuse and/or neglect.

As the Baby Boomers age, the population that is most vulnerable to nursing home neglect and/or abuse is sure to increase. With the inevitable soon-to-be increase in the elder population, the public needs to be educated on how to detect nursing home-related injuries and the advancement of foresnic knowledge is an important and effective way of achieving that objective.

If you or someone you love has been injured at a nursing home, please call the experienced attorneys at Ed Fox & Associates today. We are dedicated to ensuring nursing home residents obtain the proper care and attention to keep residents healthy and safe.

November 11, 2011

OSHA Plans Inspection of Nursing Homes

Approximately 300 nursing homes can expect inspections by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The inspections are part of one of the latest agency directives aimed at long-term care providers.

Nursing homes with 20 or more employees that have a Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred rate at or over 16 days are the main target.

OSHA inspectors are focusing on workplace factors such as stressors, exposure to blood ot other potentially infectious materials, exposure to tuberculosis, as well as trips, slips, and falls.

Nursing homes workers have come to the attention of OSHA due to their high rate of injury on the job and illness.

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November 3, 2011

Winter in Chicago is Fast Approaching; Nursing Homes Prepare

It is the beginning of November. Snow is not far off and colder weather has already set in. The Chicagoland area is no stranger to winter storms and freezing temperatures. With the winter weather fast approaching, nursing homes need to be prepare their facilities and residents for the winter season.

Nursing homes are required by law to maintain safe and functioning facilities. This means nursing homes and their staff should be checking furnaces for proper function and safety which includes reviewing every resident's room to be sure the temperatures remain warm.

Nursing home residents are more susceptible to cold and flu viruses. All nursing home residents should receive flu shots in order to protect them this winter.

Furthermore, icy conditions can often leave to damaging falls and accidents. To avoid icy conditions, salt and sand may be used on outdoor pathways to ensure resident and staff safety.

If you or a loved one lives in a nursing home, be sure to ask the staff what they are doing to prepare the facility for the cold weather and winter storms.

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November 1, 2011

Breath of Fresh Air in Nursing Home Care

Toni Davis is the director of Green Hill Retirement Community in New Jersey. Green Hill is one of two dozen other nursing home operators who is trying to reinvent the nursing home through implementing Green Houses.

The Green House Project is dedicated to giving the elderly a more home-like environment while still being in the care of nursing home staff.

At the Green Hill Retirement Community, 4 new Green Homes have been built behind the larger nursing home facility. The homes are designed to be just that, homes. 10 residents live in each home. The front door opens to a large living and dining area that attaches to an open kitchen. Ms. Davis said the open layout allows the staff to communicate with members while cooking meals. Private baths and bedrooms circle the large living area. The homes also boast front porches and back decks for residents to socialize on or simply relax.

Ms. Davis is determined to make the nursing home community a place where residents feel little reason to leave. She put in fish tanks, bird cages, and brings dogs in for pet therapy.

In traditional nursing homes, each staff employee has a specific job; cooking and laundry are two examples. Furthermore, nursing homes operate on a fairly tight schedule. Residents are woken up in the morning, fed, and bathed.

Two certified nurses assistants work in the homes and are not assigned to specific tasks. One licensed nurse does rounds between the homes throughout the day.

The assistants do pretty much everything in the home including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and bathing residents. This allows the residents to become familiar with the staff and also allows the residents more flexibility in their schedules. One staff member at Green Hill commented that if a resident does not feel like waking up for breakfast, she doesn't have to. Instead, the staff can bring her a milkshake in bed.

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October 27, 2011

Alleged Sex Crime in Crystal Lake, Illinois Nursing Home

On Wednesday, October 26, 2011, the Northwest Herald reported that a 22-year-old certified nurse's assistance is facing felony sex charges. The young man worked at the Crystal Pines Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

A 93-year-old patient of the Crystal Pines facility is alleging that the nurse's assistance penetrated her with his fingers at around 4:00 a.m. one morning. Immediately after the alleged incident occurred, the patient notified authorities and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

The facility's administrator stated that Crystal Pine's complies with the Illinois Department of Health's rule that requires a criminal background check of all nursing home staff and residents. He stated that he was not aware of anything in the suspect's background that would have made him ineligible to work there.

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October 24, 2011

$91.5 Million Dollar Damage Award against Nursing Home Facility

A jury in Charleston, West Virginia awarded $91.5 million dollars in damages against a Heartland nursing home. The plaintiff, an 87 year-old woman, died from complications caused by severe dehydration after she was admitted to the Heartland home for only 3 weeks.

Tom Douglas, the plaintiff's son, said her stay in the home was intended to be temporary and would last until another bed opened up at a local nursing home. The lawsuit claimed that the nursing home failed to feed and properly care for Mr. Douglas' mother, resulting her death only hours after leaving the Heartland home. Mr. Douglas stated that before his mother entered Heartland, she could walk and talk. 3 weeks later she was confined to a wheelchair.

Nursing home abuse and neglect cases are litigated around the U.S. on an increasingly frequent basis. Sadly, most of the cases arise from the death of a loved one who was a resident at a nursing home facility.

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October 18, 2011

Sex Offenders Living in Kansas Nursing Homes; Illinois Legislation Combats the Threat

More than a dozen sex offenders live in Kansas nursing homes, the Wichita Eagle reported Sunday. Officials said there is not system in place to alert the facilities that the sex offenders are moving in.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation report found that 19 of the 5,868 people in the sex offender registry listed nursing homes as their current residences. The sex offenders have been convicted of crimes that include indecent exposure and rape. Shockingly, 7 of the offenders lived in a single Wichita nursing home before being transferred to different facilities.

This news caused policy makers to consider implementing a system in which nursing homes will be made aware of any resident's status as a sex offender before they move into the facility. Another option is to build nursing homes specifically for aging sex offenders.

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October 14, 2011

Illinois Nursing Home Nurse Pleads Guilty to Criminal Neglect

Marty Himebaugh, dubbed the 'Angel of Death', plead guilty on Thursday to criminal neglect of a long-term care facility resident. Himebaugh worked at a Woodstock, Illinois, facility that has since changed ownership.

Himebaugh is accussed of arbitrarily administering morphine and anti-anxiety medications to patients at the Woodstock home. Prosecutors say that her conduct recklessly endangered the patients' lives by giving unprescribed medications and excessive levels of morphine.

An investigation by the Illinois Department of Public Health found that she gave the residents drugs to ensure that the nurses' had a quiet shift.

On at least one occassion, Himebaugh gave a resident Avitan. Avitan is a medication used to combat anxiety and the side-effects include drowsiness and decreased balance. The resident fell on his head and suffered from a head injury as a result of being given the Avitan.

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October 13, 2011

Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Part 4: What are the Responsibilities of Nursing Homes?

We have already addressed many of the rights of residents under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The Act not only establishes the basic rights of nursing home residents but also sets forth responsibilities of nursing home facilities. Many of the below listed responsibilities may seem common place however, any violation of these responsibilities is a serious matter.

Responsibilities of Nursing Home:

- A nursing home must always have a resident advisory counsel. The counsel is to be made up entirely of residents. The counsel must meet at least once a month and is intended to be a forum where residents can obtain and disseminate information, solicit and adopt recommendations for facility programs or improvements, and identify and recommend orderly solutions to problems.

- Records of all residents must remain confidential. All health records and documentations must remain completely confidential and cannot be released without consent of the resident or his or her guardian.

- A nursing home is required to have a system of policies and procedures. The polices and procedures must be written and available to all residents to staff members. It must include the procedure for the investigation and resolution of resident complaints. It must be clear and unambiguous. A written copy of the policies and procedures must be made available to every resident and representative.

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October 4, 2011

Chicago Area Budget Cuts Leave Transfer Patients at Risk

An Oak Park Charity hospital closed its doors to long-term care patients at the end of Summer 2011. The closure is blamed on the massive budget deficit that is plaguing Cook County.

The hospital was home to patients who required high levels of treatment and care. One such individual, Michael Yanul, was forced to transfer to a local area nursing home after the hospital shut down. Mr. Yanul had muscular dystrophy and required a ventilator to breathe. Mr. Yanul feared he would not survive the transfer and sadly, his fears became true.

Just three weeks after transferring to a local nursing home, Mr. Yanul died of pneumonia and a blood infection after a number of issues with his care arose at the home. Tom Yunal, Michael Yunal's brother, has filed a complaint against the nursing home claiming that the home lacked the necessary equipment to care for his brother and that the staff was not trained on how to care for him.

Transfers of this type are extremely complex and communication between the sending and receiving facilities are essential. Even minor changes in types of equipment used can prove fatal.

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September 30, 2011

Illinois Nursing Home Care Act Analysis. Part 3: What Rights Do Residents Have?

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act establishes a number of rights granted to any resident who lives in a nursing home facility in Illinois. All residents maintain the Constitutional rights granted to them as individuals living in the United States. However, given the unique circumstance of an individual living in a nursing home facility, the Illinois legislature imposed mandatory rights for nursing home residents, above and beyond those basic rights granted by the Constitution. These rights cannot be violated by any member of a nursing home staff.

Article II of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act lists the rights of nursing home residents. Below is a summary of some of the most notable rights in the Act:

1. No resident shall be deprived of any rights, benefits, or privileges gauranteed by law, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, or the Constitution of the United States solely on account of his status as resident of a facility.

2. Residents may manage their own financial affairs.

3. Residents are free to retain, use, and wear their own personal property.

4. Nursing homes must provide adequate storage space for residents' personal property.

5. Residents can retain the services of their own personal care doctor.

6. Residents and/or their guardians can inspect and copy all clinical and other records concerning their treatment and care kept by the facility.

7. Residents are permitted respect and privacy in medical and personal care programs. Every consultation, case discussion, exam, and treatment are confidential. Individuals who are not directly involved with the resident's care must have the resident's permission to be present.

8. All nursing homes must have an established grievance procedure and all residents are permitted to present grievances to the nursing home staff and/or board.

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September 27, 2011

Asbestos Found in Illinois Nursing Home

Hallmark House, located in Pekin, Illinois, is the subject of an Illinois Department of Health investigation involving the finding of asbestos in the building. Hallmark House, built in the early 1960's, is home to nearly 70 elderly residents.

In mid-April, the home contracted to have tiles removed and replaced in the laundry room area. The tiles were found to contain asbestos, an extremely harmful, cancer-causing material that was used frequently in construction prior to the 1980's. Hallmark House's administrator said last week that she was not told the tiles contained asbestos until last week. Evidently, an anonymous individual reported the asbestos tiles to the Department of Health in April.

The administrator's lack of knowledge regarding the asbestos does not save her from scrutiny. The Illinois Department of Public Health requires a licensed health inspector to check for asbestos before repairs or renovations are begun in older nursing homes such as Hallmark Home. Hallmark Home failed to inspect the tiles before work was done and now may face a heavy fine from the Department of Public Health.

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September 23, 2011

Illinois Nursing Home Care Act Analysis; Part 2: What Constitutes Abuse?

In Part 1 of our blog, we discussed what constitutes neglect under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Today, we examine what constitutes abuse under the Act. Most commonly, cases brought against nursing homes are caused by the home and/or its staff abusing or neglecting a resident.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act defines abuse as "any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means in a facility."

Physical injuries that constitute abuse are most often characterized as incidents in which a nursing home staff member intentionally causes physical harm to a resident. The key word here is intentional. Accidents that result in physical injuries are best analyzed under the "neglect" standard of the Act. An example of when a physical injury amounts to abuse is an incident where a staff member intentionally hits or pushes a resident. A slip and fall accident caused by slick floor conditions would not constitute abuse under the Act. However, it may constitute neglect under the Act if the nursing home was aware of the slick conditions and failed to properly warn or assist residents passing through the area (refer to Post 1 for more information on what constitutes neglect).

Mental injuries can bring just as much pain and distress as physical injuries. Unfortunately, mental injuries are underreported and are often not taken as seriously. The Illinois courts have recognized that words and actions directed towards a nursing home resident that were embarrassing and derogatory towards the resident can constitute mental abuse under the Act.

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September 22, 2011

The Tragedy of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

An article in U.S. Politics Today highlights the difficulties facing an aging person and his or her family in deciding whether it is time for such person to enter a nursing home. This already difficult decision is compounded by the very real tragedy at play in many of this country's nursing homes: nursing home neglect and abuse.

While many nursing homes offer exemplary services and staff, there are equally as many nursing homes where abuse and neglect are rampant. This reality makes the difficult decision to enter a nursing home that much more heart wrenching.

One of the most pervasive problems with nursing home neglect and/or abuse is that it often goes unreported and at best, it is under reported. The National Elder Abuse Study reports that only 16% of nursing home neglect and abuse cases get reported to the proper government agency. Perhaps this is because a vast majority of the population is unaware of this very real problem and/or do not know how to spot it.

The article, " Confronting the Tragedy of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse" lists the many forms of nursing home neglect and abuse that affect this country's nursing home residents. Some of those are:

1. Not giving a nursing home residence adequate food or liquids;

2. Failure to properly dispense medication;

3. Failure to take reasonable steps to prevent nursing home falls;

4. Failure to turn bed-ridden residents;

5. Physical abuse;

6. Sexual abuse and/or rape; and

7. Theft of residents' personal property.

The existence of these problems is very frightening, but knowing what to look out for can prevent the exacerbation of already occurring abuse or prevent such abuse before it happens.

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