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Nursing home neglect lands facilities on federal watch list

Senior citizens and their families in Cook County often have challenging decisions to make as to where an elder relative should live and what kind of care is needed. While many families would prefer to care for the elder at home, this is often not possible in families where two spouses must work full-time jobs to make ends meet. And seniors can require closer supervision and more intensive care than a family can provide. Cook County residents depend on nursing homes in these common scenarios, which is why stories of nursing home neglect from all over the country tend to hit home especially hard.

One nursing home in Ohio recently came under federal scrutiny for a number of deficiencies uncovered by inspectors. Among the more shocking was the story of a male patient with dementia who had discovered a way to access an area of the facility where female patients lived. There, he was able to sexually abuse a female patient, also with dementia. Other issues at the nursing home included giving a patient with depression the wrong dosage of medication and failing to keep a registered nurse on duty around the clock.

As a result of these findings, the nursing home has been placed on the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' "Special Focus Facility" list. The list tracks facilities that have more problems - and more serious problems - than average, or those that exhibit an enduring pattern of serious problems. Nursing homes on the list that do not correct the problems and improve may be excluded from participation in Medicare and Medicaid. The Special Focus Facility list is maintained online at www.cms.gov and is intended to help families make informed decisions when choosing a nursing home; Cook County residents should note that there are currently a number of homes in Illinois on the list.

While an initiative like the Special Focus Facility list may warn families away from substandard facilities and may help force those facilities into compliance with the law, it will do little for those families in Cook County and elsewhere whose elder relatives have already fallen victim to nursing home neglect or abuse. Whatever violation a senior citizen experienced at a nursing home - from a case of over or under-medicating all the way to physical or sexual assault - families have the legal right to pursue a claim for damages.

Source: Fox News, "Ohio nursing home on federal watch list," April 15, 2013

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