Our law firm is proud to represent the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect and their families. One of our missions is to protect the vulnerable, and nursing home residents are some of our community’s most vulnerable individuals due to their pre-existing illnesses and medical conditions and their dependence upon the nursing home staff for care with dignity and respect.
We represent nursing home residents in a number of different types of cases:
Nursing home falls are not like regular slip-and-fall cases. One of the common reason that families decide to admit a loved one to a nursing home is because it is simply not safe to leave them at home. Because nursing home residents often have a series of prior physical problems coupled with dementia, forgetfulness, confusion, and/or poor safety judgment, falls are often predictable. One of the things that nursing homes are required to do is take necessary measures to assure the safety and well-being of residents. What we often find is that nursing homes either fail to recognize the extent to which a resident is at risk for falling, do not have good care plans for addressing the risk of falling, and/or fail to carry out the care plan.
Nursing home falls often have serious consequences. Many nursing home residents suffer from osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, which can lead to hip fractures. Hip fractures by themselves often result in the wrongful death of people in this patient population. Other nursing home residents take anticoagulants, or blood thinners, which leaves them susceptible to brain bleeds and other forms of internal bleeding following a fall. Regardless of the specific injury resulting from the fall, one nursing home fall frequently leads to a second and so forth. Nursing home falls are a significant cause of debility and mortality for nursing home residents.
One common type of case that we handle are case in which resident suffer from bed sores, also called pressure ulcers. These are generally the product of neglect on the part of the nursing home staff. There are three main causes of bed sores: (1) immobility, (2) incontinence – bowel or bladder, and (3) poor nutritional status. When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, the staff does a head-to-toe check of the body for any skin breakdowns. Next is an assessment of the risk of developing bed sores. If a resident is at risk for developing bed sores, then a care plan must be developed and carried out on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis. The failure to take necessary steps to prevent bed sores is a basis for a nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuit.
When a resident develops bed sores, it leaves them susceptible developing infections like cellulitis and osteomyelitis. Bed sores may require treatment with dressings, use of a wound vac, or surgical debridement. When bed sores develop on the heels or ankles, that is a situation which can ultimately result in the amputation of a limb. Bed sores lead to significant decline in the quality of life for nursing home residents, and where they are a contributing cause to the death of the resident, this can serve as a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Many nursing home residents take multiple medications. Multiple residents taking multiple medications results in risks of medication – medications given to the wrong resident, the wrong dosage being given, medications not being given, or given after they were ordered stopped. Nurses are trained to make checks to make certain that medications are being administered appropriately, but errors abound.
When we represent nursing home residents who are the victims of medication errors, we often find the systems which are put in place to prevent medication errors have failed, leading to disastrous results for nursing home residents.
One of the most horrific things that may happen to a nursing home resident is having a choking accident. Certain nursing homes are at risk of choking due to medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or having had a history of stroke, among other conditions. When residents are at risk for choking, a modified diet is required and supervision at meal times is a necessity. However, many nursing homes fail to address the risk of choking with the same rigor and same approach that is used for other types of threats to the health and well-being of the resident.
Many choking incidents end with the wrongful death of the resident. Early investigation of these kinds of accidents is often crucial because speech therapists are often key players in addressing the risk of choking and are usually not direct employees of the nursing home, but work for outside contractors.
One of the worst fears that families have is that their loved one may end up being the victim of an assault by a staff member. However, just as often as not, the perpetrator is a fellow nursing home resident. Nursing homes often contain patient populations with a mixture of conditions. Some have physical disabilities; others are suffering from psychiatric issues which leaves them unable to control their behavior. For this reason, nursing home residents are often at risk of physical or sexual aggression from fellow nursing home resident and are unable to protect themselves due to physical and/or mental limitations.
When these assaults occur (and they do with frightening regularity), we usually find that the perpetrator has a long history of aggressive or unwelcome behaviors towards staff or other residents, often coupled with noncompliance with care. Nursing homes have an obligation to keep residents safe and to decline the care of any resident whose care needs they cannot meet. Too often, nursing homes decide to keep a resident in the facility when there are obvious warning signs that the resident is not safe to keep in the nursing home.
Nursing home often hide behind the privacy and confidential rights of the perpetrator of the assault, making a full investigation of these kinds of case very difficult. It the kind of matter that requires the help and assistance of experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers like we have in our firm to investigate and prosecute this kind of case.
“Elopement” is the technical term for wandering from the facility without family or supervision. The kind of resident who is at risk for this is one who does not have any significant limitations with regard to their mobility, but suffers from dementia, mental illness, or poor safety judgment. When residents wander from the nursing home, they are at risk for a multitude of harms including: falling, being struck by traffic, wandering into unsafe areas such as a construction site or rough terrain, being the victim of a criminal assault, suffering from exposure to bad weather, and a long list of other harms.
When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, assessments are done of their elopement risk and measures must be taken to address their risks of leaving the facility. Usually this take the form of placing the resident in a secure unit, using a wanderguard on the resident (a bracelet that sounds an alarm when the resident leaves a designated area), or increased supervision of the resident’s activities. These are complicated cases to investigate and requires the help of experienced counsel.
Given that nursing homes are health care institutions, it seems odd that nursing home residents are allowed to smoke, but they are. And like any other risk to the health and well-being of nursing home residents, the risks associated with smoking must be addressed by the nursing home staff.
There are two specific risks associated with smoking for nursing home residents, setting aside the obvious health concerns. One of the is mishandling of smoking materials due to dementia or movement disorders, causing cigarettes or lighters to drop onto clothing or the skin of residents. The other specific risk is the risk of flash fires due to smoking near compressed oxygen equipment or other flammables.
Fires due to the use or misuse of smoking materials is fortunately a rare event, but when it does, it is usually because the use of smoking materials was not properly supervised by the nursing home staff.
How the Nursing Home Business Model Causes Injuries and Deaths of Nursing Home Residents
At our law firm, we have a particular point of view regarding nursing home abuse and neglect cases. The overarching point of view is that the nursing home business model leads to systemic breakdowns in the care that residents receive. When we review nursing home abuse and neglect cases, we often use the care planning process as a framework for investigating and prosecuting case on behalf of our clients.
Nursing Homes are Built to Fail
Most nursing homes are for-profit enterprises, and while making money on a business venture is not inherently bad, it is when you sacrifice the quality of care for nursing home residents in the pursuit of larger profits. This manner of operation holds true even in not-for-profit facilities, so the entire industry is sickened with this virus.
At a very high level, to determine the profitability of a business, you take the revenues and subtract the expenses. In the nursing home industry, facilities are paid on a per-patient, per day basis with some adjustment made for how much care the resident needs. The bottom line is that nursing homes maximize their profits by filling as many beds as possible with as many truly sick residents as possible. On the expense side, lower expenses means greater profitability. Sadly, this often comes at the expense of the care the residents receive.
We have written a FREE report which is available for download here.
The Care-Planning Process: A Framework for Prosecuting Nursing Home Cases
When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, there is a process called the care-planning process which is initiated. This provides the framework for how most care is delivered in a nursing home, and is the framework we use for investigating and prosecuting nursing home abuse and neglect cases. There are six parts to the care planning process:
- Assessment – Upon admission to the nursing home, the resident undergoes a comprehensive assessment to identify the risks to the health and well-being of the resident;
- Care Plan – Based on the results of the assessment, a written document called a care plan is created which assigns various measures or interventions to be taken by various members of the nursing home staff which must be carried out on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis;
- Communication – The contents of the care plan must be communicated to the various members of the staff assigned to carry it out;
- Implementation – The interventions in the care plan must be carried out on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis;
- Evaluation – The effectiveness of the care plan must be evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure that it is effective in practice and that it meets the needs of the resident in light of any changes in the resident’s condition;
- Revision – If the care plan is not effective as drafted or if there are changes in the resident’s condition, then the care plan must be changed so that it meets the care needs of the resident.
Our experience has shown that this is an effective means of investigating and prosecuting nursing home cases. Often events such as falls which seem at first blush to events that happen in a flash moment in time actually have their start in events that happened weeks if not months earlier, and the care planning process exposes all of the failures that have been long-festering.
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable
Sadly, many of the nursing home cases we handle end up being wrongful death cases because the nursing home residents simply do not survive what happened to them. For families which are grieving over the events that happened, there is always the question of whether it is worth pursuing.
Our answer to that question is unequivocally, yes. We have a track record of securing significant settlements on behalf of the families we have represented. Past that, the work we have done investigating and prosecuting these cases has made a difference in how some nursing homes are operated. We have seen policies changed; we have seen staff retrained. It doesn’t happen in every case, but when families hold nursing homes accountable for the poor care they provided, they help protect other families from having to experience the same grief and the same loss that they have experienced themselves.
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