Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

Lawsuit filed after Chicago man burns to death at nursing home

One of the most difficult decisions that many Chicago families ever make is to put a loved one in a nursing home. Many people are not comfortable entrusting the care of a family member into the hands of another. However, it is often in the best interests of vulnerable family members to have professionals to take over their care.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are often well equipped to take care of such individuals. In fact, they are required by state laws to provide a certain standard of care. These laws are crucial, because when nursing facilities or staff cut corners or neglect duties this can lead to injury and even death for residents.

A lawsuit was filed this month against Lakeshore HealthCare and Rehabilitation Centre in Chicago after a patient caught fire and burned to death there in September. Disturbing security video footage of the incident has been aired on local television stations.

The man was in a wheelchair, smoking on the facility’s smoking patio, when a lighter caused his shirt to ignite. Other residents who were on the patio tried to put out the blaze, but were unable to do so. The man eventually was able to wheel himself into the facility to seek aid.

Once inside, workers frantically sprayed the man with a fire extinguisher and then moved him back onto the patio, where they then left him without having checked his pulse or airways. Five minutes later, a man in scrubs arrived on the patio with oxygen. Ten minutes after the fire began, EMS rescuers arrived and at this time CPR was finally administered; but, it was too late and the man did not survive.

The home has been cited for its failure to train the staff to properly respond to emergencies.

Of course, the victim’s family members – as well as many others in Chicago – are wondering why more wasn’t done to save this man. Shouldn’t nursing home staff be better prepared to address such a situation?

When Illinois residents place loved ones in nursing homes, they should be confident that their family members will receive sufficient care. Unfortunately, nursing home residents sometimes become victims of neglect or abuse. When this occurs, it is important that nursing homes are held responsible for their actions.

Source: CBS Chicago, “2 Investigators: Nursing Homes Patient Catches Fire, Left To Smolder Outside,” Sept. 30, 2013

Allegations of unnecessary procedures at Chicago hospital

Many people in Chicago were likely quite disturbed to learn about the alleged scandals involving Sacred Heart Hospital on the West Side. Last month, federal agents arrested the longtime owner of the for-profit hospital, in addition to another hospital executive and several physicians. Federal investigators believe that these people and others were involved in various kickback schemes that jeopardized the health of hospital patients and nursing home patients.

Authorities have accused the physicians and hospital of preying on the elderly and poor by ordering unnecessary and dangerous medical procedures in order to reap in profits by billing Medicaid and Medicare. Additionally, investigators believe that a scheme involving ambulance companies was used to unnecessarily admit nursing home patients to the hospital. Authorities say that at least four doctors – including one who was allegedly known as the “king of nursing homes” around the hospital – received kickbacks for referring patients to the hospital.

The allegations in this case are quite shocking. Federal authorities had reportedly been investigating the hospital for three years when concerns about unnecessary tracheotomies prompted them to execute search warrants on the hospital and make the arrests.

Tracheotomies are very dangerous procedures and one surgeon at this hospital had a tracheotomy mortality rate of three times the Illinois average.

One woman told the Chicago Sun-Times that her 48-year-old brother was sent to Sacred Heart from a nursing home in Englewood in November 2012. She believes that he then died as a result of an unnecessary tracheotomy at the hospital.

The woman is now considering suing the hospital. As this criminal case continues to unfold, many people may learn that they or their family members may have been victims of these schemes. Victims and the surviving loved ones of victims may also choose to pursue civil lawsuits. This is an option when negligence leads to injuries or death in a nursing home or hospital, and this allows victims to recover compensation for related financial costs as well as pain and suffering.

Source: Chicago Tribune News, “6 arrested in alleged kickback scheme at Sacred Heart Hospital,” Jason Meisner, April 16, 2013
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Sister of dead Sacred Heart Hospital patient: ‘I think they killed him,'” Kim Janssen and Monifa Thomas, April 17, 2013

Our law firm in Chicago helps victims of nursing home neglect and abuse and other types of personal injury hold negligent parties accountable and obtain compensation.

Wrongful Death Suit Settled Against Senior Housing

A wrongful death lawsuit was settled on behalf of the children of two elderly parents filed against a senior housing unit in St. Joseph, Missouri.

89-year-old Ellis Marion Stephens and his 86-year-old wife, Iris were killed in a fire at the Danford Hall Apartments.

The decedent’s children filed a wrongful death suit alleging negligence which caused their parent’s deaths.  The fire had started when a man using oxygen in another apartment who was using oxygen fell asleep while smoking.

The negligence alleged involved improper and insufficient fire warning systems and failure to supervise.

Grazian and Volpe if pro-active in counseling their clients as well as the general public of the potential dangers to residents of senior housing and nursing facilities. Relatives and friends of senior residents need to be vigilant in policing the care and staffing of these facilities and to educate themselves as to care and treatment plan proscribed for their loved ones.

It is always best to stay safe and avoid injury, but if you can’t stay safe-stay with Grazian & Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Nursing home may close after widespread patient neglect

Some of the most disturbing personal injury cases are those that involve nursing home neglect or abuse. Deciding to put a loved one into a long-term care facility is not an easy step, and it is important that families can trust the health care professionals at these facilities to treat their loved ones competently and with care. When this trust is breached and a nursing home resident is hurt, it can be very difficult for families to come to terms with this reality.

Some Chicago residents may have heard the unsettling story about a nursing home in the south that is now going to be shut down after numerous allegations of patient neglect and abuse.

Late last month, Tennessee state officials banned any new admissions to the nursing home and began preparing to transfer residents to other nursing homes as it moves to de-certify the facility. These extreme moves come on the heels of the state health department’s release of a telling 143-page inspection report of the home.

Several instances of neglect at this nursing home involved medication errors. In multiple instances, for reasons that are unclear, nurses delayed administering medications; medications that physicians ordered were not available; and doctors’ medication orders were incorrectly transcribed.

In one transcription error case, a patient was prescribed three units of insulin and she was then administered 28. In another case, a patient was supposed to receive a one-time dose of a certain medication but it was administered daily for 23 days.

In other cases of neglect at this nursing home that were mentioned in a news report, residents went without showers for weeks and some went without food at mealtimes due to staffing shortages.

These are just a few reported instances of the neglect and abuse at this facility. The state finally investigated the home after several residents’ families began complaining.

It is important that the state became aware of these conditions and is now intervening to prevent further abuse and neglect. Those who are aware of nursing neglect or abuse, however, do not need to wait for their state to act. Those who think that their loved ones may be receiving poor care might be wise to contact a nursing home neglect and abuse attorney. It is sometimes possible to hold nursing homes accountable with a lawsuit, which can also result in compensation for any injuries and pain and suffering.

Source: The Tennessean, “Madison nursing home gave patients wrong doses time and time again,” Feb. 26, 2013

Most Bedrail Injuries and Wrongful Deaths Suffered by the Elderly

Sixty-one percent of bed rail injuries occur at home and twenty-five percent occurred at a nursing home or assisted living facility. So states a report of bed rail deaths and injuries issued in December 2012 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The report cites 155 wrongful deaths due to bed rails from the period of January 2003 through September of 2012. While 37,000 thousand people were treated for serious personal injury sustained in a bed rail accident during the same time period.

The Commission found that nearly half of those who died in bed rail accidents had medical problems, such as dementia, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease and occurred when the person became stuck in the bed rails, mainly by his or her neck.

Consumer safety advocates have long campaigned for federal regulators to study bed rail deaths and injuries. Advocates state that oversight remained on of the biggest issues because there are unanswered technical questions about which rails are medical devices and which are consumer products.

Unfortunately, hospital records or doctor’s notes do not indicate the manufacturer of the offending bed rail making it difficult to track a defect in a design or its implementation.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission will use this report to effect better coordination between federal regulators, namely consumer and drug agencies as well as the Federal Trade Commission. The hope is that Congress will enact a task force to address the regulation of bed rails and bed systems, specifically rails that blur the line between being medical devices and consumer products.

Grazian and Volpe has represented hundreds of victims of hospital and nursing home abuse and negligent. We advise loved ones to be ever vigil in noting and addressing lapses in care and the condition of the patient. Bed rail safety appears to be another area that the bedridden and their loved ones need to be cognizant.

Remember it is always better to stay safe and avoid injury, but if injury finds you, call Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Nursing home neglect?: Maggots infest nursing home resident’s ear

You would think it would be impossible for someone living at an allegedly clean nursing home to have maggots infest her ear. Think again.

A family in Cook County has filed a lawsuit after a hospital removed 57 maggots from their loved one’s ear. They claim that the Arlington Heights nursing home failed to properly treat their loved one and did not provide “a reasonable standard of professional care.”

According to the lawsuit, the resident received medicated ear drops for an ear problem. When a nurse finally discovered the maggots the day after the last dose of ear drops were prescribed, they had been in the resident’s ear for approximately three days.

The family brought the issue to the Illinois’ Department of Public Health, which said that the nursing home had not violated the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Frustrated, the family turned to the courts for relief. They are seeking at least $50,000 in damages.

Many wonder why the nursing home did not discover the maggots, especially since the home allegedly washed the resident’s hair.

Nursing homes have been known to cut corners and neglect patients, causing serious injury and even death. How can you prevent a similar event from happening to your loved one?

First, when looking for a facility, ask many questions. Look up the nursing home’s record and investigate any issues you may find. Second, and perhaps most importantly, visit your loved one once he or she is in the nursing home. Not only will you be able to detect problems, but you may also ensure better care for your loved one simply by being there, since the nursing home staff will want you to see that “everything is in order.”

Finally, if you do notice that something is wrong — no matter how slight — bring it to the nursing home’s attention. If the problem is greater, such as malnourishment, dehydration, improper use of restraint or abuse, you can bring a nursing home abuse / neglect lawsuit. Your loved one deserves the best. When something goes wrong and it appears the nursing home is at fault, you have every right to seek legal recourse.

Learn more by visiting our pages on nursing home neglect and abuse.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Nursing home sued after maggots found in patient’s ear,” Sally Ho, Dec. 6, 2012

$200 Million Verdict in Nursing Home Fall Involves Chicago Private Equity Firm

A tragic nursing home wrongful death occurred in Florida nursing home that is part of a large conglomerate comprised in part by a Chicago private equity company.

The facts are despicable. Elvira Nunziata was a 92-year-old  dementia resident at the Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center. Mrs. Nunziata was a resident in the facility for a little over a year when she fell down ten cement steps while belted in her wheel chair. She may have spent over an hour at the bottom of the stairwell before she was found and evidence indicated she may have drown in her own blood.

At trial, it was found that the staff knew she was active despite being in a wheel chair and was prone to wandering. Three different alarm systems were called for in her care plan-on her clothing, wheelchair and on the exit door. It appears that none were in place or activated at the time of her fall. Earlier that same day, investigations revealed that the resident had been seen attempting to get through that same day. After her death, the facility spent $5000 to install magnet locks on all of the doors.

Trial testimony revealed that the facility was chronically short-staffed and lacking sufficient levels of the most basic of supplies. Complaints had been made by former employees to their supervisors, but no actions were ever taken. Most disturbing was the testimony of the caregivers stating that staff was increased to adequete levels during state inspections of the home, and immediately decreased to dangerous levels upon the departure of the inspectors.

The defendant in this case was Trans Health Management, which was part of a large conglomerate comprised, in part, by a Chicago private equity firm. Through various mergers and acquisition the company grew to having more than 200 facilities in 20 states, making it one of the largest private nursing home chains in the United States.

Another warning to derelict nursing homes. Companies and persons charged with the care of the elderly must be held to the highest level of care and held accountable for the their negligence and disregard for the safety of their charges.

We cannot stress enough the importance of family involvement in assuring this care. Our blogsite at myaccidentlaw.com is rich with articles which will help family and friends to learn the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect and how to advocate on behalf of their loved ones. Please call with any questions-consultations are always free.

Prevention is crucial, but if you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Well Deserved $8 Million Dollar Verdict in Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

Nursing home abuse is always tragic and often compounded by the fear or inability of the victims to communicate what is happening to them. That is why we at Grazian and Volpe are always pleased to see justice served to those who do not take care for the safety and well-being of our elderly.

A state court jury in Tennessee awarded $8 million in damages including $5 million in punitive damages to the estate of a retired surgeon whose legs were broken while he was in the care of Treyton Oak Towers, a nonprofit nursing home.

Dr. David Giffen died less than two months after he was improperly transferred from a chair into his bed. After Dr. Giffin’s legs were broken he was put back in bed “like it didn’t happen” according to the court transcript. Employees were ordered to change medical records and cover up the incident. Because of a stroke, Dr. Giffin was unable to communicate what had happened or the agony he was experiencing.

After being found with the two broken bones, Dr. Giffen was treated at the hospital and later transferred to a different nursing home. He died less than 6 weeks later. Dr. Griffen had severe osteoporosis and the nursing home said doctors failed to inform its employees of this diagnosis. It was determined that Dr. Griffin was transferred without a lift and by only one nursing assistant, in violation of the nursing home’s care plan, which required two nursing assistants.

This verdict should serve as a warning to all nursing homes. Once again, Grazian and Volpe strongly recommends that family members be ever vigilant for the care and safety of their loved ones in nursing homes. It is always better to stay safe, but if you can’t stay safe-stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

More Information on the Prevention of Bed Sores in Nursing Home Patients

Many of our clients at Grazian and Volpe and readers of our blogsite at myaccidentlaw.com appreciate as much information as possible to help them take care of their loved ones who live nursing homes. As our population ages, more and more families are having to make the decision whether to place their loved one in a long term care facility.

Family members justifiably have concerns about the adequacy of care in nursing home facilities – there is certainly no shortage of horror stories of patients falling, being malnourished and maltreated. As we have stated repeatedly -it is imperative that family members become active in monitoring the care plan and carefully observing the patient for signs of abuse, malnutrition, and cognitive abilities.

Bedsores are a serious danger for nursing home patients are ulcers or “bedsores” which may appears most commonly on the feet, backs and buttocks of patients who may required to spend hours in bed such as patients who are fall risks and often secured in one position.

Family members should observe whether the patient is in the same or similar position on each visit. Bed bound patients should be rotated or turned every two hours. Diabetic patients or patients with wounds or sores are more vulnerable and this practice along with skin massages to increase blood flow are crucial.

Be vigilant for signs of soiled linens or diapers that are not changed frequently. Adequate nutrition and hydration are absolutely necessary to maintaining good skin quality. Family members should assure that proper padding and cushioning should be provided at pressure points such as joint bones.

Once a patient develops bedsores, the cure can be difficult and long term. A nurse specializing in wound care should be assigned to the patient. The wounds should always be cleanly dressed and appropriate antibiotics and medications administered.

Grazian and Volpe strongly recommends that family members closely monitor their loved ones, which should included having a nurse assist with moving the patient for you to inspect the skin for signs of red or irritated skin. Unfortunately, we are often called in after the patient has developed bedsores to such an extent that a bacterial infection or sepsis has set in and the prognosis for recovery are poor.

Prevention and staying safe are always best but if you can’t stay safe stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.

Effects of Hospital Delirium in Nursing Home Patients May Linger

Delirium in the elderly is often treated as inevitable and untreatable. Nursing home patients may grow confused and irrational and sometimes violent during stays in the hospital. In previous blogs on this site (myaccidentlaw.com) it has been noted that many deliriums may be attributed to the after-effects of anesthesia and can be fully treatable as such. In any case, conventional wisdom has thought of such cases as a transient condition. The delirium fades and people return to themselves.

Current evidence increasingly shows that the mental effects of delirium linger. In particular, a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that it takes a terrible long-term toll on those who can least afford to lose cognitive ground: people with Alzheimer’s disease.

In this investigation, a team from Hebrew Senior Life in Boston followed a group of Alzheimer’s patients for median 3.2 years during which all of them were hospitalized for various reasons. The researchers continued tracking them for up to five years after the hospital stays.

The findings are rather sobering:

  1. The incidence of delirium among this vulnerable group whose average age was 78, was 56 percent during their hospital stays.
  2. The group that developed delirium deteriorated much more rapidly in the year after hospitalization than the group that didn’t. In fact, their deterioration, as measured by memory and concentration tests proceeded at more than twice the rate of those who hadn’t experienced delirium.
  3. The study found that when the cognitive effects of a delirium episode remain evident five years later, it’s safe to call them permanent.

This study stands as a stark warning of the potential long-term dangers of hospitalization and delirium. Unfortunately, in most cases the condition goes unnoticed by doctors and nurses.

It is important that not only the medical professionals be careful to scout for the signs but also family members. Small efforts made by the family like keeping clocks and calendars in the hospital room, preventing sleep disruption and bringing familiar objects from home help to keep the patient from becoming disoriented.

In fact a Chilean study in the journal of Age and Aging in which family members were able to significantly reduce delirium in at-risk hospitalized patients over 70. All it took to give families that ability was education: a discussion of delirium that took less than 10 minutes and an explanatory pamphlet.

Nursing home patients can often be admitted to the hospital due to infections, falls and injuries. We like to think of hospitals as the safest place for our elderly to be when they are in need of full medical attention. Yet, hospitals too, are fraught with risks and it is important for family members to be cognizant of the level of care and attention given to the elderly and to be proactive in assuring good treatment.

Remember, it is always better to stay safe but if you can’t stay safe stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicagoland’s Injury Lawyers for over 30 years.