About the Nursing Home Law Center

The focus of the Nursing Home Law Center is to provide information to families so they can make informed decisions about their loved ones. Frequently, this means reporting on issues involving medical and legal developments in the area of nursing home negligence.

We invite you to browse the material in this ‘news’ section, where we have a virtual encyclopedia related to skilled nursing facilities and elder care.

Should you have any questions about this content or a situation involving a family member, please contact us. All consultations are free and confidential.

Our attorneys have experience representing families across the United States in matters involving abuse and neglect. Put our expertise to work for you.

Nursing Home FinesIt is a reasonable assumption for many people that nursing homes caught in the act of neglecting patient needs, disregarding safety standards and limiting their staff to levels deemed inadequate that fines and sanctions would be a deterrent from future abuses. This would be logical if the fines themselves had teeth and enforcement was both quick and consistent. For many states, however, this is not the case and civil litigation has become the only major deterrent left to motivate nursing chains into improving the quality of the care they provide. Lobbying has helped insulate many chains in certain states through the implementation of caps on compensation so that even civil action is becoming a less effective vehicle toward change.

Pennsylvania Auditor Offers Key Criticism Concerning Sanctions and Enforcement

As lawmakers in Illinois consider a bill that would propose prohibiting anonymous nursing home complaints, Pennsylvania is emerging from a three year trial of an identical measure which ended in failure. The number of nursing home complaints dropped by two thirds when the ban on anonymous complaints went into effect and the use of fines and other punitive measures was scrutinized by the state’s Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale.

Illinois Nursing Complaint Anonymity BillWhen nursing abuse victims fear for their safety due to threats and repeated abuse; their anonymity can be the difference between reporting their plight to authorities and choosing to suffer in silence. Illinois has indicated in the past that it takes abuse very seriously and is one of the states in the country that still allows unlimited damage limits for those who sue because of mistreatment. For profit nursing corporations are seeking to insulate themselves by backing an Illinois bill that would remove the ability of those who complain to remain anonymous and our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys agree with many opposed to the measure that the bill would only scare abuse victims into silence.

Ways the Bill Would Benefit Large Nursing Care Companies

Republican lawmakers are overwhelmingly in support of the nursing industry backed bill, which would require anyone who complains about nursing concerns to provide contact information. They would also be presented with a warning that they could be fined for submitting false complaints or deceptive claims. Considering all of the disadvantages for complainants, it is important also to understand the advantages that nursing homes would have if this measure ever became law.

Charges Against a NurseThe disabled and elderly patients in nursing homes often live lives at the mercy and kindness of their caregivers. Unfortunately, physical assault, sexual abuse and mental anguish are often common occurrences to many vulnerable residents at nursing facilities nationwide. One purported attack involved a 50-year-old “non-verbal” woman staying at a Bethlehem Pennsylvania ManorCare Rehabilitation Center who was an alleged victim of sexual assault by a caregiver.

Victim Unable to Consent

The incident allegedly involved 45-year-old Quakertown resident Robert Poindexter who has is facing charges of aggravated indecent assault against a woman noted to have “extremely limited movement.” The charges were filed after an extensive investigation that presented witnesses and testimony before a Lehigh County investigative grand jury. Court records indicate that the sexual assault against the victim reportedly by Poindexter occurred without her consent and that the woman would have been “unable to consent” due to her physical limitations.

Profits in Nursing HomesNursing homes are big business that provide valuable investing opportunities for private equity firms around the world. While not a glamorous business, nursing home chains can make money. In 2009, the U.S. nursing home industry provided more than $104 billion worth of health care to the elderly, infirm, rehabilitating and disabled. This number was up substantially by more than 20 percent just four years before. As the baby booming aging population grows larger every year, the demand for health care in nursing facilities is expected to grow substantially in the decades ahead.

A Profitable Private Equity Investment

Statistics indicate that nursing facilities owned by private equity investors pay more, albeit smaller, fines and receive more citations for a greater number of deficiencies then other for-profit facilities. In addition, these homes tend to have fewer registered nurses on the medical team, which tends to negatively impact residents. The nursing home care industry run by for-profit companies have long had tumultuous issues, especially multi-facility chains where the size of the parent company and their geographical scope nationwide facilities makes it difficult to control serious problems that each individual nursing home.

Preventing Falls is Safer for ResidentsA single fall that a younger, healthier person might brush off could turn into a long-term hospital stay for elderly nursing home patients. If we consider that every 100+ bed nursing home reports between 100 to 200 falls (with many additional falls going unreported) and that between 50 and 75 percent of nursing home residents experience one fall every year, it is obvious that nursing homes need to do everything possible to avoid/reduce these dangerous, possibly even deadly accidents.

One example of unusual falls

When people talk about elderly patients falling, they often assume that these falls are because of environmental hazards or obstructions. However, these types of falls only account for 16 to 27 percent of nursing home falls.

The-Cost-of-Medication_errors-in_Nursing-HomesIt is startling to think of the number of medication errors in nursing homes that occur repeatedly and go unnoticed. These errors can result in complications such as suppressed appetite, incontinence, dementia, confusion, fractures and falls. Errors in the delivery of medications have become too common and the incidence of repeated errors is most concerning. Patients who are subject to repeated medication errors are much more likely to suffer serious complications than those who are only given the wrong medicine once or twice.

The Cause of Improper Medication In The Nursing Home Setting

There are numerous factors that contribute to the issue of patients receiving the wrong medications or receiving the wrong dosage. Around 63% of errors are the result of the wrong dosage being administered and 83% of repeated errors are the result of nursing homes failing to monitor the patient on the medication in order to detect the side effects of an overdose or drug interaction. 22% of the doctors who prescribe medications fail to consider the possible drug interactions with the medications that patients are currently taking. This task is extremely daunting, however, due to the fact that 68% of nursing home patients are on nine or more medications and 32% take more than twenty medications.

Wrongful Deaths in Nursing HomesBy legal definition, wrongful death is any incident in which a person dies either due to an intentional act or negligence, which is classified as carelessness or inaction that has caused harm. Unfortunately, poor care in nursing homes is responsible for many premature deaths in elderly patients. However, many of these premature deaths are never investigated because the attending physicians usually assume that an elderly patient’s death is related to an existing medical condition. Some facilities may even deliberately attempt to cover up the cause of a patient’s death if it is known that some form of negligence may be at fault.

Fear of Litigation

The greatest motivation for facilities to conceal a patient’s cause of death is to avoid a civil lawsuit in which the facility would be required to pay a large sum in damages. Malnourishment, dehydration and infection can be symptoms of common illnesses in the elderly, but they can also be evidence of neglect and improper care. Rather than perform a thorough investigation into the cause of patients’ deaths, facilities with much to lose may try to cover up the cause of death if only to prevent the families of the deceased from seeking damages.

Elderly and FallsOne of the largest concerns for the elderly is preventing falls. They are the largest cause of injury death for people 65 years and older, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  In 2008, 19,700 older adults died from fall injuries and in 2009, 2.2 million fall injuries were treated at emergency rooms across the country.

Causes Of Falls

Falls occur more often with the elderly for various reasons, most of them linked to

Judicial System OperationA Canadian nursing home chain, Extendicare, has decided to do business anywhere but in Kentucky, where it just leased all 21 of its facilities to another company. The decision was made after the company failed to sway the Kentucky legislature to pass a measure into law that would make it more difficult to sue nursing homes for negligence and neglect. Some people see the action as evidence that Extendicare officials are aware of its own wrongdoing and have pulled the company out of the state in order to avoid being it being held accountable for its actions.

Previous Incident

In 2008, three nurse’s aides were involved in the abuse of a nursing home patient in a facility that was owned by Extendicare at the time. The incident was caught by the placement of a hidden camera and the defendants received diverted sentences for their crimes by 2010. Since the incident, Extendicare has shown a greater interest in politics— by attempting to persuade lawmakers to make it more difficult for the abused and neglected to file lawsuits against nursing homes.

Nursing Home Verdict against Nursing HomeElderly people who have succumbed to a disease or illness are vulnerable and frail. They are in a very precarious state, where the slightest aggravation to their body can cause severe health damage. Family members are usually not equipped with the expertise and resources to care for their ill loved ones, so they decide to admit their elderly family members in nursing homes.

When an elderly individual is admitted to a nursing home, family members are assured that their loved ones will be taken care of. The nursing home staff guarantees optimal care and tells the family members not to worry. However, once the family members leave, the situation becomes quite different.

The Reality of Nursing Homes

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