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122815(3)Though nursing homes in Illinois are designed to be safe places for elderly and ill residents to live, they present significant dangers to their residents as countless incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect happen in them every year. Some instances of misconduct are readily apparent and can be easily identified by family members, including physical abuse that results in burns, bruising, or broken bones. Other forms of neglect are much more difficult to discern and can be very hard to uncover unless a facility and/or its employees admit to the acts. Examples may include failing to provide adequate nutrition to a patient, failing to assist the resident with daily tasks like dressing and personal care, and failing to help the patient during transfers from a bed to a chair and back.

Falls in a nursing home setting are often overlooked as mere accidents or as situations that could not have been prevented but the opposite is true. While residents do not intend to fall down, falls often happen because staff members allow them to happen. Staff may be stretched too thin or overworked and therefore unable to supervise a patient as closely as they should. Or staff members may not review prior notes in a patient’s chart and therefore not realize that a patient is a fall risk.

Falls in a long term care facility are one of the most common manifestations of neglect.

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111815Placing a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility can be a difficult, even agonizing decision for a family to make. Often, people first struggle with the concept of a residential facility versus at-home care, and if a residential setting is deemed desirable, then families must try to determine which facility will best meet their loved one’s needs. Currently, many of the top nursing homes in Illinois have long, extensive waiting lists that prevent families from placing loved ones immediately. This makes it even more challenging to decide where a loved one should reside as the ideal home may not be accepting patients or may have a waiting list that seems formidable.

Ideally, a family would select a placement for an elderly person in need and then would be able to rest assured that appropriate care and treatment would be provided. However, the reality of nursing home care may be troubling as concerns over nursing home abuse and neglect often arise. If this is the first time that a family has placed a loved one in a home, they may be unfamiliar with the prevalence of abuse and neglect and may not understand what signs are an indication of improper care.

The signs of abuse and neglect that leave physical marks may be the easiest for families to spot. Broken bones, bruises, abrasions, scrapes, and other signs of trauma can be an indication that a nursing home resident was assaulted or otherwise was not cared for properly. These sometimes may come from a resident falling or from a patient being dropped by staff members during a transfer, both of which may be considered abuse or neglect of these patients.

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As we age, we take more medications.

We also lose muscle mass and mobility, which increases our risk for a fall accident. Nursing home falls have reached epidemic proportions in this country. Not surprisingly, those most likely to fall — those with mobility issues — are also most likely to be placed in the professional care of a nursing home. 1160103_perscription_drugs_2.jpg

But it’s the over reliance on medication — and the side effects and interactions of such medications — that an increasing number of elder care advocates are contending is to blame for a significant number of fall accidents, unsupervised injuries and other dangerous nursing home incidents. Chicago nursing home attorneys believe a significant number of such cases involve prescription medications.

The New York Times reports a recent study looking at Medicaid patients in Florida nursing homes found 71 percent — or 7 in 10 — were receiving prescription medication to treat mental health issues despite the fact that most were not on such medication before entering the home.

Fifteen percent of residents were taking 4 or more of such medications, which include antidepressants, anti-psychotic drugs, and dementia medications.

Elder care advocates say having more than 7 in 10 residents so heavily medicated is an indictment of the system and illustrative of poor resident care. However, mental-health issues are also a common reason for nursing home admittance. So officials must walk a fine line — ensuring residents receive proper medical care while guarding against overmedication.

Because the average resident is already taking 10 or more prescriptions. And such mental health drugs are known for problematic side-effects and poor reactions with other medications.

Congress has been concerned for decades about overmedication in the nation’s nursing homes. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 began requiring that new residents be assessed for mental illness and encourages use of non pharmaceutical treatments. However, patients transferred from hospitals are exempt from screening. As a result, only about half of all residents ever receive the mandated assessments.

Only about half of nursing homes have professional mental health staff, including psychiatrists and psychologists. And the fact of the matter is that over reliance on such powerful antipsychotic medications can have all sorts of unintended consequences, including falls, broken bones and joints, cognitive decline, weight loss and withdraw.

And that’s not the only way prescription medication issues can lead to neglect or abuse.Recently Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a crackdown on nursing home prescription drug theft. Prescription drug abuse has exploded in this country. As a consequence, the elderly are too often left without pain medication. DeWine reminded Ohio nursing homes of the obligation to report suspected criminal activity and noted the state will help with prosecuting offenders for prescription drug abuse.

“Every time this happens a real patient is deprived of the medication they need to get well,” DeWine said in a statement. “This is why my office is now contacting facility administrators throughout the state. We want to remind them that we can help.”

Ohio has seen a recent string of cases in which nursing home employees were caught stealing an elderly resident’s pain medications. In both Cleveland and Columbus, nurses have been convicted of stealing Oxycodone. Other medication, including Percocet and pain patches, has also been involved in cases of prescription drug theft from nursing homes.
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Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers have filed a sexual abuse lawsuit on behalf of a patient who was assaulted by a male nurse while in a coma, according to Fox News. The alleged abuse took place at a Chesapeake, VA nursing home.

The lawsuit was filed against the Chesapeake Health and Rehabilitation Center in Norfolk Circuit Court. The suit is asking for $29,000,000 in damages and also names the nurse as a defendant.

In November, 2008 the male nurse plead guilty to aggravated sexual battery in criminal court, and last week he was sentenced to 6 months in prison, with an additional 9 1/2 year suspended sentence. The abuse was brought to light when another employee observed the nurse with his mouth on the comatose woman’s breast.

In Utica, New York, the Department of Health is reportedly investigating nursing home abuse at the St. Joseph Nursing Home, according to UticaOD.com. The investigation is allegedly based on a recording of an employee repeatedly swearing at a patient, however the State has not confirmed that is the basis of the investigation.

A former employee of the facility claims to have made the recording at the end of March. It involves a resident with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The employee believes that her actions led to her being fired 2 weeks later. However, the nursing home denies that that is the reason for the employee being let go and that the facility itself notified the State after they became aware of the recording. The employee also claims that a noise on the tap is another employee striking the resident on the hand.

The nursing home scored low on a recent State evaluation. They were in the bottom twenty percent in the State of New York in 7 out of 19 categories, and they were fined $12,000.

A nursing home in Lexington, Kentucky has been cited by state officials for allegedly using cell phones to take inappropriate pictures and recordings of residents without their knowledge. Staff would then attach music with sexual lyrics to the cell photos and circulate them to other people.

The nursing home was issued a Type A citation by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Type A is the most serious citation a nursing home can receive in Kentucky.

The photos themselves were reportedly not sexually abusive in nature. Several employees at the nursing home have been fired because of the incident.