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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysA large majority of nursing home patients will spend the rest of their lives in such facilities. Patients like these often have physical or mental health conditions that make them unable to live at home or even in in assisted living facility. At the risk of being too blunt, this means that death is a part of everyday operations at the average nursing home in Illinois.

Most residents who die in nursing homes eventually succumb to their existing conditions. At a certain point, there is only so much that modern medicine can do as people age and become weaker. There are, however, far too many examples of nursing home residents who have died prematurely because of the actions or negligence of facility staff. Last month, the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that it has fined two separate Illinois nursing homes over preventable patient deaths this year.

Lincoln Facility Fined $50,000

In January, a 64-year-old woman was involved in a car accident and was admitted to a nursing home in Lincoln, IL to receive treatment. An investigation by the DPH determined that the woman suffered from asthma and sleep apnea. She reportedly had been having trouble breathing for about three days, but the nursing staff did not notify her doctor until the third day—by which point her issue had become an emergency. The woman was given an inhaler, but she was found unresponsive the next day. State records show she died a few days later. The official cause of death was a Staph infection. The DPH fined the home $50,000 for failing to take timely action.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, you should know that while many nursing home staff have the residents’ best interest at heart, nursing home abuse and neglect is a sad reality. Sometimes it is due to maliciousness and other times, understaffing, poor staff communication, or inadequate staff training. Regardless of how or why it happens, nursing home abuse and neglect is unacceptable. It is up to friends and family of nursing home residents to be their advocates and watch out for signs of neglect or abuse. Physical abuse is usually easier to spot than emotional abuse. It is important, however, to learn about the main types of emotional abuse and how to notice if your loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home.

Purposely Demeaning or Humiliating Residents

Getting older and needing the around-the-clock-care that a nursing home provides can be an incredibly hard thing for some nursing home residents to accept. Many people who eventually need to relocate to a long-term care facility led vibrant, independent lives before being weakened by age, injury, or illness. This is why it is vital that nursing home staff treat residents with respect and dignity. Sadly, some staff may make fun of residents or mock them as amusement. Staff may be making what they think are private jokes among themselves at the resident’s expense, but the resident hears the ridicule. Unscrupulous staff may consider this behavior harmless, but in reality, mocking, jeering, and poking fun at residents in a type of emotional abuse.

Threatening a Resident

Admittedly, being a caretaker of elderly and sometimes cognitively-challenged nursing home residents is a challenging job. Sometimes residents refuse to eat meals, shower, or take their medicine. While this is understandably frustrating, staff resorting to making threats against a resident is deplorable and abusive. If you have a loved one in a nursing home who shows fear, apprehension, or suddenly becomes quiet around certain staff members, this may be a sign the staff is mistreating him or her.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysIt can be extremely disheartening to read about case after case of nursing home abuse and neglect. Some of the stories are mostly sad, while others are downright horrific. Even worse is the idea that only about one in 14 cases of elder abuse—including nursing home abuse—are actually reported. This means that the stories we hear about are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  

If you have a loved one who requires the type of care that is only offered in a nursing home, you may be wondering how you can prevent the unthinkable from happening to him or her. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize the risks.

Do Your Homework

Perhaps the most important way to protect your loved one from abuse or neglect in a nursing home is to educate yourself on the quality of the homes that you are considering. Keep in mind that “educating yourself” means more than a cursory Google search or simply looking at how many stars a particular facility received. Recently, both the Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare have been forced to take a new look at their respective quality rating systems, which means that it is difficult to trust even a full five-star rating.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysJust weeks after news outlets exposed the often deplorable conditions in many nursing homes managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, now a new story about inadequate nursing home conditions is making headlines. Medicare rates nursing homes on a five-star system, with five stars being the best and one star being the worst. Nursing homes' failures to keep the facilities adequately staffed with registered nurses or to provide records showing staffing information result in a lower score. Medicare just significantly reduced its quality ratings in 1,400 United States nursing homes because of concerns regarding staffing.

Governing Bodies Cannot Rely on Self-Reported Data from Nursing Homes

Medicare began gathering and disseminating statistics on nursing home care after the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) was instituted. Before the ACA required Medicare to keep tabs on nursing homes, the program relied solely on self-reported and unverified information from nursing homes. Unfortunately, it seems as if nursing homes were not entirely truthful about the number and quality of staff at their facilities. After Medicare received payroll archives from nursing homes, it became apparent that many facilities were critically understaffed.

Medicare Requires At Least One Nurse to Be on Duty

Payroll records reveal that many nursing homes do not have an adequate number of staff supervising and caring for residents. Medicare requires that at a minimum, one registered nurse must be available for at least eight hours a day in nursing home facilities. Nurses are the highest-trained caregivers involved directly in patient care at long-term care facilities and are an irreplaceable asset. In addition to helping nursing home residents with medical needs, nurses are also tasked with supervising other caregivers and aides. Many of the nursing homes which received lowered ratings were given the deduction because the facility did not meet the registered nurse requirement.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyWhen you decide to place your loved one in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home, you trust that the staff employed in that facility have the residents’ best interest at heart. Unfortunately, just like in any other profession, some nursing home staff simply do not have their hearts in the job. Even worse, some nursing home staff actually openly ridicule or mock nursing home residents. Cruel treatment can tragically go undetected when patients suffer from debilitating illnesses and cannot report inappropriate staff behavior.

Hospice Workers Share Sick Video of Dying Woman

Three employees at an assisted living center in Georgia have been arrested after their cruel Snapchat video was discovered by authorities. The employees—three women aged 19-21—were watching over a resident who had recently suffered a stroke until the hospice nurse could arrive. During that time, they decided to create and share a video of themselves smoking a vape pen, making obscene gestures, and cursing–all while the elderly resident lay dying in the background. The shockingly callous and invasive video was titled “The End.” Local authorities charged the three young women with exploiting an elderly and disabled person, and all three have been fired from their positions at the assisted living facility.

The New York State Department of Health is also currently investigating a possible violation of residents’ rights by nursing home staff members’ use of Snapchat. The state received reports of staff members taking photos of residents in a Western New York nursing home and posting them on social media. The nursing home in question said that individuals involved were fired and that it will implement further staff training to prevent future violations.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysWhile most of the “Greatest Generation” is gone, there are still thousands of military veterans who require the type of care that is only available in a nursing home. Our nation owes the brave men and women who have served a debt of gratitude, but it seems those who are in need of skilled nursing care are often not able to get it through the government agency that purports to protect veterans. Following a scathing report by USA Today and the Boston Globe, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee announced this week that it plans to investigate the care being provided at the 133 nursing homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) nationwide.

Troubling Numbers

Last month, an investigative report by USA Today and the Boston Globe revealed that many of the VA’s nursing homes were providing substandard care to their residents. The report also pulled back the proverbial curtain on the VA’s secret ratings and quality measures. The reports’ findings suggest that Department was happy to keep its quality indicators a secret because the numbers were not good. In fact, nearly half (60) of all VA nursing homes received just one star out of five for overall quality—using the VA’s own ranking system.

Other documents obtained by the news outlets showed that patients in over two-thirds of VA nursing homes were more likely to suffer from bedsores and pain than patients in private-sector facilities. Overall, the VA’s nursing homes scored poorly against private facilities in most key quality indicators, including patients’ decline in daily living skills and the rate of use of anti-psychotic medications.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysHardly a week goes by without another headline about the poor conditions or substandard care in nursing homes in Illinois and around the country. Staffing issues and a lack of resources often contribute to the problems, as nursing facilities often to struggle to care for their patients. There is, however, a particularly heinous issue that plagues many nursing homes: the problem of sexual abuse. While it may seem hard to believe, it is not unusual for sexual predators to victimize the most vulnerable members of our society.

Preying on Patients

It is almost unbelievable that any person would engage in acts of sexual abuse of a patient in a nursing home. Of course, that is exactly why abusers feel “safe.” In most cases where sexual abuse has been alleged, nursing home staff members, administrators, and even the believe were reluctant to believe the victims or their advocates. In other cases, the victims were simply unable to remember that they were abused or could not communicate their experiences to anyone else due to conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.  

Sexual abuse in the context of a nursing home can take many forms, including:

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home residents deserve to be treated with respect and dignity at all times. Sadly, some nursing home staff do not treat elderly or disabled residents as well as they should.

The warning signs of physical abuse are generally much more obvious than the signs of psychological or emotional abuse—especially for residents with cognitive issues like dementia. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is your responsibility to be vigilant for subtle signs of abuse or neglect.

What Does Emotional Abuse Look Like?

Many residents of nursing homes find that moving to the facility is a tremendously emotional event. For a person who has been autonomous their entire adult life to now need help using the bathroom or eating can be extremely disheartening. This is why it is so important for nursing home staff to do what they can to keep residents’ spirits up and treat them with respect. Nursing home staff who are overworked, under-trained, or have hateful attitudes toward residents may purposely do things to hurt residents. Examples of psychological or emotional abuse include, but are not limited to:

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersThe arm of the federal government tasked with providing health care coverage to seniors and the disabled is taking aim at “boomerang hospitalizations” of nursing home residents. Medicare officials have begun taking steps to address high hospital readmission rates, especially for patients who already require skilled nursing care and will reportedly increase those efforts on the nursing home side by this fall.

What Is a Boomerang Hospitalization?

Many nursing home patients require acute medical attention in a hospital at some point during the stay at a nursing home. This is understandable, considering those in nursing homes are there because they are already dealing with fairly serious injuries, illnesses, and other conditions. The problem, however, seems to be beginning when patients are released from the hospital and sent back to their nursing homes. According to reports, 20 percent of Medicare patients who are discharged from a hospital to a nursing home are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. This number is 27 percent higher for Medicare nursing home patients than for Medicare patients who do not require nursing home care.

The phenomenon of a quick readmission is called a “boomerang hospitalization” as a reference to the thrown hunting tool that returns to the thrower in midair. Experts suggest that government payment policies have inadvertently led to a pattern of back-and-forth transfers between hospitals and nursing homes for far too many patients.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysYou have probably heard many news stories of nursing home abuse and neglect. Individuals staying in nursing homes generally need a higher level of care than those at other types of facilities and are therefore more vulnerable to abuse and neglect. However, mistreatment does still happen at assisted living facilities, and it is just as unacceptable as mistreatment at nursing homes. If you or a loved one has suffered due to negligence or abuse while living in an assisted living facility, you may be able to sue for damages.

Residents May Be Afraid to Come Forward

Residents of an assisted living facility are usually slightly more independent than residents at a nursing home. They may only need limited assistance with daily living activities and are less likely to suffer from serious dementia or other memory or cognition issues. Even though they are more self-sufficient than nursing home residents, those living at an assisted living facility can still be taken advantage of and mistreated. Sometimes assisted living abuse and neglect goes unreported because the victim is afraid to speak up. Other times, residents fear that an abusive staff member will retaliate if they report the mistreatment. Other residents are simply unaware of what their rights are at an assisted living facility or put up with bad care because they do not realize they deserve better.

Examples of Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect

Assisted living abuse can occur not only between staff and residents, but also among residents themselves. In cases in which a resident is being abused by another resident, the assisted living staff have a responsibility to implement interventions to prevent future abuse incidents. Assisted living abuse can involve:

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyDid you know that laws exist to define and protect the rights guaranteed to people in a nursing home? The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act was created with the explicit purpose of protecting the sick and elderly from receiving less than adequate care while living in a skilled nursing facility. The statute confirms that nursing home residents have every right that all Illinois citizens have and cannot be denied any of those rights while staying in a nursing home. The Act also establishes more specific guidelines and boundaries to which Illinois nursing homes must adhere.

If you have a loved one who is currently residing in a nursing home, it is important to know and understand the rights that he or she has.

Residents Have the Right to Be Free from Neglect and Abuse

In general, nursing home residents have the right to be free from abuse or neglect. Additionally, nursing home residents have the right to:

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Chicago nursing home medication error lawyerData shows that about 1.5 million individuals are living in nursing homes across the United States. As the “Baby Boomer” generation ages, more and more people will need the intensive care that nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer. It has never been more important for those with loved ones in nursing homes to hold the facility and staff within it responsible for their actions. Many nursing homes are understaffed or have staff members who have not been adequately trained. This can result in the residents receiving poor care and consequently worsened medical conditions. One way inadequate staff put residents at risk is through medication errors.

Fragile Health Means Medication Mistakes Can Be Deadly

Those who live in a nursing home are usually there because they have numerous medical conditions, are functionally impaired, have cognitive deficits such as dementia, and are currently on medication which requires supervision. For some residents, their health issues are purely physical, but approximately 70% of residents experience cognitive impairment which makes them unable to understand and remember everything which happens to them. The combination of serious medical issues and cognitive impairment can leave nursing home residents extremely vulnerable to mismanaged medication. In fact, needing help taking their required medications is one of the main reasons some individuals end up in nursing homes. Unfortunately, nursing home staff sometimes make errors with resident’s medication which can put them at risk of injury, illness, or even death.

Examples of Medication Errors That Put Residents at Risk

There are countless ways that nursing home staff can make mistakes when administering medication to residents. MEdciation errors which most frequently occur include:

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Chicago nursing home neglect attorneysInadequate hygiene in nursing homes can be deadly to vulnerable residents. Poor hygiene is often the consequence of ineffectively trained staff members or facilities that have too high a resident to staff ratio. Other times, poor hygiene can be the result of staff who are not properly educated about safe health care practices.

Not Using Proper Hygiene Is Neglect

Elderly individuals or those with physical or mental disabilities in a nursing home deserve to be kept safe and clean. Some residents are not physically capable of doing hygiene tasks on their own while others have cognitive impairments which makes it hard for them to remember hygiene. Sadly, reports of nursing home residents left in soiled clothes, diapers, or beds are not uncommon. Nursing home residents deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and this includes cleanliness. Unsanitary conditions can increase the risk of infection, illness, and other medical conditions.

Staff May Take Unsafe Shortcuts When It Comes to Their Own Hygiene

When nursing home staff are not properly educated about caretaker hygiene, the results can be deadly. A staff member who does not wash his or her hands after helping a resident with bathroom-related tasks and then interacts with another resident can spread dangerous bacteria to the second resident. Most residents have compromised immune systems due to illness, injury, or old age and are especially susceptible to germs. When staff are not regularly cleaning common areas, kitchens, or bathrooms, the facility becomes a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and viruses. This places residents in further unnecessary risk.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyAlthough they may also have other health issues, many residents require the constant supervision a nursing home offers because they have a mental deficit such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those with cognitive disabilities often have trouble understanding what is going on around them. They may not be fully aware of their physical limitations and can take unnecessary risks when not supervised by nursing home staff. Sadly, many nursing home residents have been seriously hurt or killed because they ventured into unsafe territory while the staff’s backs are turned.

Wandering and Elopement Defined

Wandering refers to instances when a nursing home resident walks around a nursing home facility unsupervised. Nursing home staff should know the whereabouts of their residents at all times. Those residents with cognitive impairments should be closely monitored. Sometimes wandering residents slip and fall out of staff’s sight and are left suffering in pain for hours. Other times, residents wander into an unsafe area such as the kitchen or storage area and harm themselves on the equipment there.

Elopement occurs when a resident wanders off of the nursing home campus. While some nursing home residents may be able to take walks outside of the facility safely, nursing home staff have an obligation to monitor and supervise these trips. When a resident who does not understand where he or she is due to a disease like dementia leaves the facility, the results can often be fatal. Residents may wander into traffic, trip and fall, be exposed to the elements, or even be attacked by another person.

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Illinois nursing home neglect lawyerThere are many different reasons a person may bring a lawsuit against a nursing home or medical staff member. Sometimes a nursing home harms a resident not by what they did but by what they failed to do. Residents in a nursing home are often elderly, suffering from age-related illnesses, or recovering from surgery. They therefore require a much higher level of care than a healthy person would. When nursing homes are understaffed or for other reasons cannot adequately care for their residents, the residents’ health may suffer as a result. One of the most common ailments caused by nursing home neglect is dehydration

The Sick and Elderly Are Especially Vulnerable

While a human can survive without food for an impressive three weeks or more, water is a different story. Our bodies crave water, and without it, they start to shut down. Most individuals would die without water within a mere three days. When nursing home residents do not get enough to drink, they can suffer from considerable health consequences and physical discomfort.

Dehydration is sadly quite common among elderly residents staying in nursing homes. There are a few reasons for this. Some residents have physical disabilities which make it difficult to sit up or swallow water. Other residents have trouble speaking and cannot tell staff when they are thirsty. Those residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive impairments may not be able to recognize when they are dehydrated, let alone express this to nursing home staff. Because many residents cannot do so themselves, nursing home staff have a duty to monitor residents’ hydration and make sure they are getting enough to drink. When nursing home staff fail to uphold this serious responsibility, they and the organization they work for can be held legally liable for residents’ suffering and harm.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneyA woman who lived what her family called the “American dream” died in a manner that is only fitting of the worst nightmares, according to a recent lawsuit. An autopsy reported indicated that the 93-year-old passed away in a Georgia nursing home in 2015 as the result of “septicemia due to crusted scabies.” For those who may be unfamiliar, scabies is a contagious infestation of the skin caused by burrowing, parasitic mites—a wholly unacceptable condition for a patient contract, let alone die of, while under the care of a nursing home.

A Storied Life and Tragic Death

The woman was a small-town girl from North Carolina who moved to Virginia during World War II to work in a naval yard in Norfolk. She went on to do some modeling in New York City and later worked for a television station in Chicago. As the woman got older, she began to show symptoms of dementia, and her daughter moved her into a nursing home in LaFayette, Georgia in 2010.

Records obtained from the Georgia Department of Public Health show that officials received reports of scabies outbreaks at the LaFayette facility in 2013 and prior to her death in 2015. The nursing home’s own records show additional scabies cases in 2014 as well, according to court documents.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysSometimes, a nursing home resident needs to be retrained in some way. In some cases, confusion or aggression related to a mental illness or dementia can make a nursing home resident act out in ways that could hurt another resident, a staff member, or themselves. In other situations, patients must be secured so that they do not hurt themselves while waking up from surgery or when recovering from certain medical procedures. It is understandable that doctors, nurses, and other staff have means to control residents who are acting dangerously, but too often, unfortunately, restraints do more damage than they prevent.

Physical Restraints Which Inhibit Movement

It is often necessary for nursing home staff to limit a resident’s movement. In order to do this, they may use physical restraints such as straps, belts, vests, limb ties, wheelchair brakes, and bedside rails. The misuse or overuse of restraints such as these can cause nursing home residents to suffer injuries such as:

  • Diminished muscle strength and balance;
  • Bruises and cuts;
  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Constipation;
  • Decubitus ulcers, also called bedsores;
  • Respiratory complications;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Reduced cardiovascular endurance; and
  • Feelings of agitation, depression, anxiety, and helplessness.

If you a loved one has suffered one of these injuries after being restrained by nursing home employees, you may have a valid personal injury case.

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Illinois nursing home neglect lawyersThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in any given year, almost three-quarters of all nursing home residents suffer a fall. Furthermore, many of these patients fall more than once per year. While a slip and fall may not be injury-causing to a young, healthy person, seemingly minor falls can have serious consequences for someone whose body is weakened by illness, injury, or old age. Sadly, falls cause around 1,800 nursing home resident deaths each year.

What Causes Falls?

People staying in nursing homes generally are there because they are at least partially unable to care for themselves. For some residents, this is due to a mental incapacitation such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Other residents are recovering from major surgery or other invasive medical procedures. Many nursing home residents experience muscle weakness or gait problems. These factors can make a person much more likely to slip and fall. Sometimes, hazards such wet floors, incorrect bed height, poor lighting, and inadequate equipment further increase risks of falls.

CDC Says Many Falls Go Unreported

Approximately 36 percent of preventable emergency room visits by nursing home patients are caused by falls. An average-sized nursing home—one containing about 100 beds—generally reports about 100 to 200 falls a year. Unfortunately, the CDC says that this information may not accurately reflect the number of falls actually happening in nursing homes across the country. Realistically, many falls are never reported, so the real number is likely to be much higher.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneyWhen you place a loved one under the care of a nursing home, you expect that they will be treated with the care and dignity they deserve. You probably understand that a nursing facility may be more institutional than “homey,” but such facilities are designed to give patients around the clock access to medical care and personalized attention. Unfortunately, nursing home residents face a variety of dangers—some related to their own health conditions and some that may be caused by negligence on the part of the staff. For residents who are bedridden or wheelchair bound, bed sores are among the most common nursing home injuries, and many are the result of substandard care.

What Are Bed Sores?

Bed sores are also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. These injuries are areas of skin that become inflamed due to pressure on the skin that prevents normal blood flow. If not addressed, the inflammation can transform into blisters and eventually open sores. In the most serious cases, the ulcers can continue to worsen and expose underlying muscle and bone.

Pressure ulcers are especially common among patients who are confined to bed or a chair and unable to move themselves easily. Friction caused by contact with clothing or bedsheets and moisture from sweat or urine can accelerate the development of bed sores. Patients with more fragile skin and those with circulatory problems are at a particularly high risk. Bed sores can form on any part of the body, but they are most frequently found on the parts of the body that remain in contact with a bed, including heels, elbows, shoulders, hips, and tailbones.

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Illinois nursing home neglect lawyerNursing home abuse and neglect can sometimes occur not because of what caretakers do, but because of what they fail to do. Whether it is due to being an understaffed facility, inadequate staff training, or lack of oversight, nursing home negligence is sadly common. There are certain standards of care which nursing home staff must meet to ensure the safety of their residents. Unfortunately, when these standards are not met, the result can be devastating to residents as well as their families.

Elderly Woman Denied Essential Medication

A Bartlett, IL  nursing home may be forced to pay millions to a family of a former resident. In February of 2011, the 89-year-old resident was admitted to the facility after suffering a hip fracture. She was meant to stay in the nursing home while undergoing physical therapy to help her recover from her injury. As part of her treatment, the elderly woman was prescribed a medication called Coumadin which thins the blood and can help prevent clotting and strokes. Unfortunately, the woman did not receive this medication on a timely and consistent schedule. Records show that the woman did not receive her stroke-preventing medication for a period of two weeks.

Stroke Causes Significant Decrease in Quality of Life

 In March of 2011, just a month after being admitted to the facility, the woman suffered a stroke with left her almost completely incapacitated. According to family, the woman lost the ability to speak and walk on her own after the stroke. The attorney for the family explains that the stroke left the woman unable to “enjoy life in any realistic manner.” The woman passed away four years after the stroke. Her family believes that her final years would have been much more pleasant had she been given her medication on a consistent schedule.

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