Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maplewood Care Fined for Failing to Supervise Resident

50 N. Jane in Elgin
FINED- August 19, 2003
Maplewood Care was fined $10,000 for failure to
provide adequate supervision to a resident who was
admitted to the facility for supervision. The
resident, who had a cigarette addiction, had offered
sexual favors to other residents in exchange for
cigarettes and was caught performing oral sex on a
resident. The woman also was physically aggressive
with other residents and often took cigarettes out of
their hands or slapped them on their arms while
demanding their cigarettes. These aggressive acts led
other residents to physically injure the woman.
Despite being aware of the resident's actions, the
facility failed to address these behaviors for several

Maplewood Care Cited for Failing to Secure Morphine


50 N. Jane in Elgin
FINED- 2002
Maplewood Care was fined $10,000 for failure to
safely store controlled substances, to maintain a
living environment free of hazards and to immediately
investigate a drug theft.
Responding to a complaint, Department surveyors
learned a female resident took morphine from a nurse's
cart and gave it to a male resident, who later died
from an overdose of the drug. Another resident had
observed the theft and reported it to a nurse, but she
did not investigate the incident or share the
information with a co-worker.
When the nurse realized 14 tablets of morphine were
missing from her cart, she called her supervisor, who
told her to write a note and slip it under her office
door and she would follow up on it in the morning. The
supervisor also told the nurse there was no need to
monitor the resident because she would not overdose.
Nearly seven hours later, the male resident given the
morphine was banging his head on a dresser and was
transported to the emergency room and admitted for a
drug overdose.
The resident had a history of substance abuse and was
admitted to the facility after attempting to overdose
on heroin. His pre-admission screening stated he was
in need of structure and supervision.
Following the incident, the female resident signed
herself out of the facility against medical advice.
She later confessed to stealing morphine and giving it
to the male resident so he could get high. She has
been charged with drug induced homicide, delivery of a
controlled substance and possession of a controlled
Surveyors found the female resident's care plan did
not address an arrest for shoplifting and her suicidal
statements and did not evaluate her medication seeking
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to review its policies regarding
administering medications and reporting of medication
errors; to ensure medications are locked in a
medication cabinet, room or cart; to take disciplinary
action against any staff failing to report, monitor or
take appropriate action in relation to medication
issues; and to have adequate staff to meet residents'

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dolton Healthcare Centre Failed to Prevent Resident from Wandering

14325 S. Blackstone Ave. in Dolton.
FINED- June 9, 2004
Dolton Healthcare Centre was fined$5,000 for failure
to prevent a resident from leaving the facility
Responding to a complaint, Department surveyors
learned a resident wandered from the facility wearing
only pants, a T-shirt and socks. The ground was
covered in snow and the temperature was in the single
digits at the time.
The facility did not know the resident had left until
a motorist notified staff that she had seen the woman
walking toward an Interstate exit ramp.
Prior to this incident, the resident had made numerous
attempts to leave the facility and was able to get
away four times despite wearing an electronic
monitoring device and being assigned one-to-one
supervision. Following these events, the facility did
not reassess the resident's care plan or strategies to
keep the resident from wandering.
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to adequately supervise residents, and to
train staff on how to assess residents for their risk
of wandering and the appropriate interventions to
prevent residents from leaving the facility

Countryside Healthcare Center Fined for Allowing Unsupervised Patinent to Drown

1635 E. 154th St. in Dolton
FINED- November 15, 2001
Countryside Healthcare Center was fined$30,000 for
failure to supervise a resident, to provide nursing
services in accordance with resident needs and to
properly assess a resident’s condition.
Responding to complaints, Department surveyors
learned that a resident, who could not sit upright
without assistance, was left alone for three minutes
while taking her bath. Upon returning to the bathroom,
staff told surveyors the resident was coughing, had
white secretions coming from her mouth and had trouble
breathing. She was transferred to the local emergency
department where she died.
A coroner’s report revealed the resident had water in
her stomach and lungs and listed her cause of death as
asphyxia due to drowning.
In a separate complaint, Department investigators
learned facility staff failed to ensure residents
received nursing care to prevent the development of
pressure sores and to ensure residents with pressure
sores received appropriate treatment to promote
healing and to prevent infection.
One resident developed 16 sores during a two-month
period and had to be hospitalized for treatment. A
review of nursing notes and hospital records revealed
insufficient documentation of the resident’s pressure
sores, a discrepancy in the resident’s weight and a
failure to implement a dietician’s nutritional
Surveyors also found the facility neglected to
properly assess the same resident’s condition after
she broke her hip. Facility medication administration
records indicated the resident, who was on a pain
management program, was given medication sporadically
and did not receive any medication on at least six
days, although she was reportedly in pain.
A Department-ordered plan of correction required
facility administration to ensure proper supervision
of its residents while bathing; to re-evaluate
pressure sore prevention and treatment programs; and
to review its policies addressing resident pain
assessment and pain management.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golfview Developmental Center Fined for Failing to Prevent Bed Sores

9555 W. Golf Road in Des Plaines
FINED- 2003
Golfview was fined $10,000 for not ensuring residents
received nursing services to prevent them from getting
pressure sores or facilitate healing of the sores. In
one instance, the facility failed to discover a
resident's pressure sore until it had reached an
advanced stage. The facility also did not have
complete and consistent documentation of another
resident's pressure sores that had not improved.

Ballard Nursing Center Fails to Maintain Door Alarm

9300 Ballard Road in Des Plaines
FINED- July 29, 2004
Ballard Nursing Center was fined $5,000 for failing
to supervise a resident who left the facility through
a back exit door that had a disabled alarm. The door
locked behind the resident and she was unable to get
back into the facility until an employee heard her
knocking. While outside, the resident sustained two
bumps on her head and a cut elbow. The facility was
unaware the door alarm was disabled.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crestwood Terrace Nursing Home Cited for Failure to Monitor Hydration

13301 S. Central Ave. in Crestwood
FINED- 2003
Crestwood House was fined $5,000 for failing to
ensure that a resident receiving tube feedings was
getting the appropriate care to prevent dehydration
and metabolic abnormalities. The resident was admitted
to the facility with an order for sodium chloride,
which the facility continued to give to her even
though lab results showed elevated levels of the
compound. The facility failed to assess why the levels
were high and failed to take corrective measures.
The resident was eventually hospitalized with
respiratory failure. The hospital physician stated
that, while the elevated sodium level and resulting
dehydration did not cause the respiratory failure, it
contributed to the resident's medical condition.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chicago Ridge Nursing Center Fined for Inadequate Supervision Resulting in Burn Injuries

Chicago Ridge
10602 Southwest Highway, Chicago Ridge
FINED- 2006
Chicago Ridge Nursing Center was fined $10,000 for
failure to adequately monitor and supervise residents
identified with unsafe smoking practices. As a result,
a resident suffered extensive burns to his face after
smoking while receiving oxygen therapy.

Prairie Manor Fails to Investigate Elder Abuse Claim

Chicago Heights
345 Dixie Highway in Chicago Heights
FINED- 2003
Prairie Manor Health Care Center was fined $5,000 for
failure to investigate an allegation of abuse and to
immediately take steps to protect its residents.
Department surveyors learned a resident signed herself
out of the facility against medical advice after
telling a supervisor that she was abused by three
staff members and was afraid to stay at the center.
The resident told surveyors that she reported
sustaining bruises after staff physically held her
The supervisor said she did not believe the bruises
were caused by staff so she did not initiate an
investigation nor did she report the allegation to her
The facility also failed to immediately remove the
employees suspected of abuse from resident care.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to train its employees on reporting
incidents of suspected abuse and to protect residents
from harm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Woodbridge Nursing Pavillion Fails to Monitor Suicidal Patient

2242 N. Kedzie in Chicago
FINED- February 22, 2002
Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion was fined $10,000 for
failure to provide appropriate nursing services and
supervision to a resident.
As part of an incident report investigation,
Department surveyors learned a mentally unstable
resident jumped from a fourth floor window and died
just 24 hours after he was admitted to the facility.
According to the resident's transfer records, he was
to receive constant supervision and medications for
his mental condition, but he did not receive any of
the prescribed drugs and was left alone.
Facility employees told surveyors they attempted to
contact the resident's physician to confirm his
medical orders, but the physician "did not respond" to
the calls.
Prior to the incident, the resident's behavior had
become increasingly agitated and he had threatened to
leave the facility. After the resident broke his
window with a dresser drawer, a staff member removed
the man from his room and left him unattended in the
hallway. Once alone, the resident ran into another
room and jumped out a window.
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to take all necessary precautions to ensure
the safety of its residents and to provide proper
supervision and personal care to meet the needs of its

Winston Manor Fined for Inadequate Supervision of Patient Who Suffered Burn Injury

2155 W. Pierce Ave. in Chicago
FINED- June 3, 2004
Winston Manor Convalescent and Nursing was fined
$10,000 for failure to take the necessary precautions
to ensure the safety of a resident and to investigate
Responding to a complaint, Department surveyors
learned a resident sustained second- and third-degree
burns to 26 percent of his body while smoking a
cigarette in the restroom. Staff told paramedics the
resident's cigarette somehow caught his shirt on fire.
The facility did not investigate the incident and
made no attempt to determine the cause of the injury
or to initiate measures to ensure that another
resident is not injured in the same manner.
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to review and revise, as necessary, its
policies on resident safety, smoking and supervision;
to provide adequate supervision; and to take all
necessary precautions to ensure the safety of
residents at all times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Is the Leading Cause of Injury Death Among Seniors?

If you guessed falls, give yourself a gold star. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. And the problem isn’t getting better.

The rates of fall related deaths among older adults has risen significantly over the last decade. The increase is likely related to the fact that people are simply living longer. It is estimated that one third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States. About 25 percent of those who fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures or head traumas. These injuries may be dangerous on their own. As importantly, however, they can limit mobility.

A hip fracture, for example, may heal promptly in a younger person. For a senior, however, the same injury may confine them to a wheelchair for years. Hip fractures are the most common type of fall-related fracture. The loss of mobility associated with a hip fracture can have serious consequences. Up to one in four adults who lived independently before their hip fracture, has to stay in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury. About one out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.

Falls, however, are not an inevitable consequence of aging. Some hospitals and nursing homes treat falls as an unexpected event. Without adequate precautions, however, falls are not surprising. Each year a typical nursing home with 100 beds reports 100 to 200 falls. Good health care providers understand that falls are one of the greatest risks to senior citizens. Taking precautions to assess patients for fall risk and prevent falls, should be one of their highest priorities. When it isn’t, patients suffer.

Stores and businesses catering to the elderly also need to be aware of the risks. Simple things like clearing the snow outside a grocery store can make a dramatic difference to senior customers.

Here are some things that you can do to prevent dangerous falls for yourself and aging friends and relatives:

1. Be Aware of the Risk
Once you know that falls are common and dangerous, you can take steps to avoid them.

2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise programs like Tai Chi can increase strength and improve balance. Both are important to prevent falls.

3. Monitor Medications
Medication errors are a common cause of falls. Perhaps more common, though, are routine side effects of medications that were appropriately prescribed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines periodically to reduce side effects and eliminate unnecessary medications.

4. Have Your Eyes Checked
You aren’t going to walk well if you aren’t seeing well. Get your eyes checked at least once a year to make sure you’re on track.

5. Improve Lighting
Getting more light in your living space will help you see the obstacles more clearly.

6. Get Rid of the Hazards
By now, you probably know the things you are likely to trip over. Get rid of them. The same is true for hospitals and nursing homes. If you know a patient will need to use the restroom during the night, there shoudn’t be cords or trays or blankets on the floor.

7. Use Assistive Devices
For some, unsteadiness may not be avoidable. Things like canes and walkers may be invaluable in these situations. Hospitals and nursing homes have other options like fall pads, alarms that alert staff that a patient is getting out of bed, or hip pads. All of these can be helpful to prevent injury.

One of the most important things seniors can do to stay healthy is to stay active. Avoiding falls is a key step in maintaining an active life.

The majority of the statistics for this article were obtained from a series of articles produced by the Centers for Disease Control. If you are interested in learning more, you can find the articles at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/adultfalls.htm

Note: If clicking the link above does not work, try cutting and pasting it into your browser's address bar.

Man dies from Bowel Obstruction and Bladder Infection After Stay at Dawson Nursing Home

3500 S. Giles Ave
FINED- September 29, 2004
William L. Dawson Nursing Home was fined $10,000 for
failing to instruct staff on proper placement of
catheters, to replace a resident’s cut and damaged
catheter and to monitor urine output. Staff did not
realize a resident’s catheter was placed incorrectly
and blocked the flow of urine for two days. The man
was hospitalized with an infection and bowel
obstruction and later died.

Waterford Nursing and Rehab Fined for Failure to Supervise Patient

7445 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago.
FINED- 2003
The Waterford Nursing and Rehab was fined $5,000 for
failure to properly supervise a resident to prevent
him from leaving the facility undetected.
As part of an incident investigation, surveyors
learned a resident, who had been identified as an
elopement risk and was in need of constant monitoring,
sustained cuts and bruises after leaving the facility
The resident lived on a locked unit, which required a
code to enter the elevator but would allow someone to
exit without a code. A resident could enter the
elevator when it stopped to let someone off and then
travel to an unlocked floor.
The facility's front door did not have an alarm and
was to be monitored after 5:30 p.m. On the night of
the incident, there was only one nurse to cover the
first floor and the locked unit. Although the facility
was aware of the resident's monitoring needs, he was
left on the locked unit without a nurse.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wheelchair Bound Resident Falls Down Stairs at Washington Heights Nursing Home

1010 W. 95th St. in Chicago
FINED- 2003

Washington Heights Nursing Home was fined $10,000 for
failure to provide adequate supervision to prevent
injury to a resident.
Responding to complaints, Department surveyors
learned a resident sustained scrapes, bruises and
severe swelling to her face and scalp after falling
down a flight of stairs while in a wheelchair.
Despite obvious signs of trauma, staff put the
resident in the wheelchair and carried her back to her
room without stabilizing or assessing for injuries.
Staff did not hear an alarm sound in the stairwell
and the door alarm panel at the nurse's station was
turned off at the time off the incident. During the
Department's investigation, a surveyor found the door
alarm working, but the sound was almost inaudible.
Interviews with employees revealed there was
insufficient staff supervising the area at the time of
the incident. One employee stated she was not
supervising the area because she thought another
employee, who was at dinner, was doing it. In fact,
three of the four nurse aides on the floor went to
dinner at approximately the same time. Another nurse,
who was working on the floor because an employee had
called in, was summoned to work on a different floor
and left without notifying the nurse in charge.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to take the necessary precautions to
ensure the residents' environment is free of accident
hazards; to educate all staff in their role of
providing care to and monitoring of residents; and to
document any change in a resident's behavior.

Washington Heights Nursing Home Fined after Resident Dies from Choking Incident

1010 W. 95th St. in Chicago
FINED- July 19, 2002
Washington Heights Nursing Home was fined $10,000 for
failure to provide nursing services in accordance with
a resident's needs.
As part of an incident investigation, Department
surveyors learned a resident, who was to be served a
soft diet, began choking after eating polish sausage.
Staff performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
and the Heimlich maneuver, and then called 911. An
employee told paramedics the resident had choked, but
was fine and only needed to go to the hospital for an
evaluation. En route to the hospital, paramedics
removed a two-inch piece of meat from the resident's
The resident died at the hospital of acute food
aspiration and cardiac and pulmonary arrest. The
resident was assessed as having chewing and swallowing
difficulties and needed to be supervised while eating
and monitored for any signs of aspiration. Surveyors
found no evidence the resident was closely monitored.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to review and revise, if necessary, its
policies and procedures pertaining to dietary orders;
to ensure that enough qualified staff are available to
take care of residents; and to ensure staff abide by
residents' dietary restrictions.

Warren Barr Pavilion Fined for Poor Supervision and Failure to Give Prescribed Medications

66 W. Oak St. in Chicago.
FINED- 2003
Warren Barr Pavilion was fined $5,000 for an incident
in which a resident sustained a bruised and cut arm
after leaving the facility unsupervised. Police found
the resident wandering in the street and took her to a
nearby hospital. Although the resident had made
several attempts to leave the facility, an elopement
risk assessment was not performed prior to the
incident. Staff determined the resident left the
facility through a rear exit door, which was near her
room. When the door is opened, an alarm is supposed to
signal the front desk. However, there was a problem
with the door and the alarm did not sound when the
resident left.
FINED- September 16, 2004
Warren Barr Pavilion was fined $10,000 for failure to
ensure that residents receive medications as
prescribed, to train temporary nursing staff on the
administration of medications and to address
complaints regarding ongoing medication errors.
As part of an annual inspection and complaint
investigation, Department surveyors learned a resident
was hospitalized after mistakenly given his roommate's
According to interviews, an agency nurse gave the
resident his medication as well as his roommate's
pills to control blood pressure and heart rate and an
The resident said the agency nurse also had tried to
administer insulin, but he told her that he did not
take insulin. The resident experienced acute medical
changes and was admitted to the hospital for low blood
pressure and a low heart rate.
Another employee said the agency nurse did not ask
the resident his name or check his identification band
prior to giving the medication. Surveyors found there
was no consistent method used by nursing staff to
check patient identities prior to giving medications
and temporary nurses, who were not familiar with
residents, were often used to distribute medications.
A grievance log listed five complaints in a one-month
period involving medications not given, medications
not given in a timely manner or medication errors.
Although these incidents were investigated by the
facility, there was no evidence a comprehensive plan
was established to prevent medication errors in the

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Failure to Perform Heimlich Maneuver at Sheridan Shores Care and Rehab

5838 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago
FINED- April 5, 2002
Sheridan Shores Care & Rehabilitation Center was
fined $10,000 for failure to provide nursing care in
accordance with a resident's needs. Department
investigators learned a resident, who had difficulty
with swallowing, was taken to his room after he began
to choke during lunch. Facility staff laid the
resident down to suction him and, when his condition
deteriorated, began cardiopulmonary resuscitation
(CPR). The resident was transported to the hospital
where he was pronounced dead on arrival, just nine
days after being admitted to the facility.
Per interviews, surveyors determined staff did not
attempt to perform the Heimlich maneuver or to clear
the resident's airway prior to initiating CPR as
required by facility policy.
Three days before, the man had choked while eating
dinner in his room. As a result of this incident, the
resident's physician told facility staff to "monitor
the resident" and a speech therapist recommended
obtaining a physician's order for a swallowing
evaluation. Surveyors found no evidence the resident
was being monitored more closely or had a swallowing
A Department ordered plan of correction required the
facility to ensure its staff is properly trained in
performing CPR and the Heimlich maneuver to assure
residents' personal care and nursing needs are met.

Rainbow Beach Nursing Center Fails to Protect Female Resident

7325 S. Exchange Ave
FINED- September 29, 2004
Rainbow Beach Nursing Center was fined $10,000 for
failing to adequately supervise a resident found
involved in inappropriate sexual behavior in a female
resident’s room. When the woman awoke, she became
agitated and frightened and had to be given medication
to calm down.
The male resident had a history of wandering in to
female residents’ rooms and two weeks prior to the
incident the female resident had complained about him
coming into her room. Despite the resident’s history,
his care plan did not address the behavior and there
was no documentation the resident was being adequately

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

St. Paul's House and Health Care Center Fails to Prevent Patient from Wandering

3800 N. California Ave. in Chicago
FINED- December 13, 2002
St. Paul's House & Health Care Center was fined
$5,000 for failure to prevent a resident from leaving
the facility unsupervised.
Subsequent to an incident report investigation,
Department investigators learned an elderly resident,
who had a history of wandering and wore an electronic
monitor, left the facility unnoticed and was found by
an off-duty employee about six blocks away. The woman
was returned to the center unharmed.
Staff members had taken a group of residents, who
live in a secured unit on the second floor, to the
first floor auditorium to participate in a scheduled
activity. When staff returned the residents to the
second floor 30 minutes later, the woman was no longer
among the group. A search of the facility failed to
locate her.
Facility staff told surveyors they believe the
resident left through the auditorium exit doors, which
were not equipped with an audible alarm. Surveyors
determined that none of the 13 exit doors on the first
floor had an audible alarm and an employee entrance
was the only door equipped with a sensor to detect
electronic monitors.
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
home to provide residents with adequate and properly
supervised nursing care and to ensure all
resident-accessible exterior doors are equipped with
functional alarms or are monitored by constant visual

Presidential Pavilion Fined by IDPH for Unsanitary Conditions

8001 S. Western Ave.
FINED- August 27, 2003
Presidential Pavilion was fined $5,000 for failing to
prepare, distribute and serve food under sanitary
conditions. The facility failed to follow its policy
of shutting down the entire kitchen area when sewage
water backed up into the kitchen and obtaining food
from an outside source. Instead, staff stood on milk
crates to cook and continued to serve meals prepared
in the kitchen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Statute Requires Nursing Homes to Share Consumer Information

The Illinois legislature recently passed Public Act 95-823, which requires Illinois nursing homes to complete annual "Consumer Choice Information Reports." The reports, will give prospective residents and their families information about ownership of the nursing home, medical care, services, staffing, safety, security, meals, rooms, furnishings, special services and amenities. Facilities will be required to make the information available to prospective residents and to post the results on the internet. The Illinois Department of Aging and the Attorney General have the authority to verify the accuracy of the information. Violations of the act constitute a violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

The law goes into effect on January 1, 2009. Although the reports are only one source among many to check before choosing a nursing home, it will still be a helpful resource. If you or a loved one are considering a nursing home placement after January 1, 2009, be sure to ask for a copy of the "Consumer Choice Information Report."

Methodist Home Failed to Perform Heimlich Maneuver

1415 W. Foster Ave. in Chicago.
FINED- 2002
Methodist Home was fined $10,000 for failure to
provide appropriate emergency care to a resident
having respiratory problems.
As part of an annual survey and complaint
investigation, Department surveyors learned staff did
not perform the Heimlich maneuver on a resident who
was coughing and having difficulty breathing following
Facility staff began cardiopulmonary resuscitation
(CPR) after the resident stopped breathing and had no
pulse, but they did not first clear the resident's
airway as required by facility policy. Unsuccessful
attempts were made to suction the resident with a bulb
syringe because emergency suction machines did not
work. Paramedics were unable to revive the resident,
who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Department surveyors found that the emergency suction
machine on the resident's floor was not working and a
machine obtained from another floor also was not
operational. The employee charged with maintaining
emergency equipment said he only made sure machines
were on portable carts, but did not check to see if
they were in working order.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to train staff on the importance of
following procedures related to medical emergencies
and to make sure emergency equipment is checked prior
to each shift. The facility also was ordered to make
sure it notifies the Department of an incident or
accident that has, or is likely to have, a significant
effect on the health, safety or welfare of a resident.

Lakeview Living Center Fined for Failure to Protect Residents from Sexual Abuse

7270 S. Shore Drive in Chicago
FINED- March 10, 2004
Lakeview Living Center $10,000 for failure to protect
its residents from sexual abuse. The 145-bed
intermediate care facility for the developmentally
disabled is located at Responding to a complaint,
Department surveyors learned a resident known for
sexually aggressive behavior had snuck into another
resident's room at night and raped him. The resident
was supposed to be under constant watch because of an
earlier rape allegation.
Upon further investigation, the surveyors also found
the man previously had inappropriate, non-consensual
sexual contact with four other residents that were not
reported to the Department as required by state law.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to review its policies related to
neglectful or abusive situations and to train staff on
the reporting process when there is an allegation of

Friday, November 14, 2008

Helping Hoarders to Clean Up and Live Better

One of my cousins once joked the we come from a family of “collectors.” My dad and his brothers are never as happy as when they are picking out new treasures at a garage sale. Many of us have friends and relatives like this. “Hoarding”, however, is different from being a run-of-the-mill packrat. Once you have set foot in a hoarder’s house, you know the difference immediately. In order to provide good representation to hoarders, it is important to understand the condition.

The DSM-IV lists hoarding as a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. Recent research, however, suggests that it may be distinctly different from OCD in several ways. It is most commonly driven by obsessional fears of losing important items that the person believes they will need later. It can also involve distorted beliefs about the importance of possessions, excessive acquisition and exaggerated emotional attachments to possessions. People who engage in hoarding save items that seem to have no value such as newspapers, mail or trash. In some, it can involve obsessively acquiring animals. Eventually, the mountains of trash get to the point that they can endanger the hoarder or the community.

Hoarders often do not see their condition as a problem and are sometimes loners. As a result, the situation can continue for many years. In some cases, the hoarding does not pose a risk to the individual or the community. In combination with dementia or other problems, however, hoarding can cause legal and safety issues. Some common problems that arise are discussed below.

Ignoring Important Financial Matters

The combination of perfectionism and procrastination can create havoc on the hoarder’s finances. It is not unusual to discover that property taxes have remained unpaid, tax returns have not been filed or that utility bills are far behind. Any one of these problems can cause serious consequences.

Municipal Violations

Eventually, the mess inside the house spills outside. When it does, the neighbors complain and the city comes out. They find a disaster and start writing violation notices. Common complaints against hoarders include overgrown lawns, peeling paint, broken windows, rodent infestation and excessive cats.

In addition to the urge to save, many hoarders also experience indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, difficulty organizing and avoidance. Understanding these traits can be an important to understanding the legal consequences. In the case of municipal violations, for example, it is common for the tickets to remain unpaid and the problems to continue. Only when the city begins to threaten more drastic sanctions does the hoarder seek help.


As hoarders age, and the house becomes more unmanageable, health problems can follow. If the kitchen becomes unusable, it is less likely that they will eat nutritious meals. If the bathroom is a mess, bathing can become a chore. Because they are often isolated, things like mental illness may go unnoticed for many years. Likewise, curable health conditions may remain untreated.

One of the critical points at which hoarders obtain help is when they become critically ill. Dementia, Alzheimers and stroke are common conditions that can force a hoarder to move into a nursing home. Unfortunately, at that point, it may be impossible to obtain information from the client about their legal affairs.

Getting Help for Hoarder

Understanding issues common to hoarders is perhaps the most important part in helping them. Here are some steps that you can follow to help a hoarder get the help they need:

1. Earn their trust

You cannot do anything to help a hoarder unless you earn their trust. To help them it is going to be necessary for the client to give up control over the “stuff.” This is the task that they have found most difficult over the course of their lives. Their initial reaction to giving things up will be to resist it. Many offer to start sorting through the information themselves. This simply won’t work. If they could do it on their own, they would have already done it. Still, they must be willing to allow you to help them. This requires a relationship and it requires trust.

2. Obtain Help

There are a variety of people who can help a hoarder: a social worker, a neighbor, a lawyer or a care manager are just a few examples. The title is less important than the personality of the person who is going to lead the project. Whoever is going to work with the hoarder to improve things, they will need to assemble a team. Each member of that team must be able to understand and show respect for the client’s wishes. Hiring a lawyer who has experience with hoarders and good social skills can be a big help in this process.

3. Get Control

A power of attorney or a guardianship can be an important next step. If the hoarder will agree to let somebody else work to fix the situation, half of the battle has been won. Many hoarding clients find a sense of relief in knowing that somebody is taking care of their looming problems. Of course, for clients who have decisional capacity, it is important to consult with them about major issues even when they have signed a POA.

4. Act quickly

Because many hoarders do not obtain help until their health is declining, it can be important to act fast. Clients who lack a living will, POA and basic will should have one prepared as quickly as possible. Thereafter, it is important to tackle the bigger issues first. Locating sufficient resources to pay for immediate care is obviously critical. Thereafter, resolving IRS debts is a high priority. As you develop a picture of the client’s financial situation, other priorities will become clear. A 75 year old client who is fully invested in the stock market should probably be talking to a financial planner. If the assets start to add up, the client may need to set up a living trust. Acting quickly can greatly help.

The Good News

By acting to help a hoarder, you can have a dramatic impact on their life. Many hoarders live in fear of losing their home, their assets and their health. More than a few are living in squalor, when they could be living very well. If you can play a part in getting them there, it is a good day at work.

Kenwood Health Center Fails to Perform CPR

6125 S. Kenwood Ave
FINED- December 20, 2004
Kenwood Healthcare Center was fined $10,000 for
failing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and
to call emergency services after a resident was found
unresponsive and bleeding from her nostrils. Staff
said they followed the facility’s Presumed Death
Policy, but none of the required assessments or
documentation was completed. The policy requires two
nurses, one of whom must be a registered nurse, to
assess the resident and make a final decision on the
initiation of resuscitation. There were no registered
nurses on duty at the time of the incident.
FINED- 2006
Kenwood was fined $25,000 for failure to provide a
resident with needed care and sufficient hydration for
several days. The facility also failed to follow
doctor’s orders or notify medical care in a timely
manner. The resident was admitted to a hospital and
later died. The facility has requested a hearing on
the Department’s action. No hearing date has been set.

Jackson Square Nursing & Rehab Cited for Leaving Elevator Shaft Exposed

5130 W. Jackson, Blvd., Chicago
FINED- 2006
Jackson Square Nursing & Rehab Center was fined
$5,000 for failure to ensure the environmental safety
of all residents by leaving a hazardous work area
unsecured. Residents at the facility were at risk of
falling into an elevator shaft, while the elevator was
out of service and a repairman was working on the
elevator. The facility has requested a hearing on the
Department’s action.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stotis & Baird Website Includes Helpful Information for Seniors

Visit the Stotis & Baird Chartered website for information about Elder Law topics. The firm practices in the areas of Nursing home neglect, Estate planning, Nursing home transitions, Real estate, Wills, Trusts, Living Wills, Powers of attorney and Personal Injury cases. Our web site includes articles on a number of these topics. In paticular, you may want to visit the new "Library" section of the site. The website is located at www.stotis-baird.com.

International Village Fined for Failure to Provide Emergency Treatment

4815 S. Western Ave
FINED- December 20, 2004
International Village was fined $10,000 for failing
to provide emergency services to an oxygen-dependent
resident with a tracheostomy who was experiencing
acute respiratory distress and long periods of not
breathing. Staff did not place the resident on a
ventilator nor notify the physician of the resident’s
condition until 21 hours after he began experiencing
breathing problems. The resident was transferred to a
hospital for further care after he was found
In addition, the facility failed to provide the
necessary care and services for six residents,
including not providing proper care for two residents
with a catheter; failing to obtain dialysis treatment;
not ensuring antibiotics were given as ordered; and
failing to monitor for the effectiveness of a change
in medication.

Imperial Grove Pavilion Fails to Assess Risk Patient Would Leave Nursing Home

1366 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago
FINED- 2002
The Imperial Grove Pavilion was fined $10,000 for
failure to properly assess a resident for risk of
leaving the facility.
Responding to complaints, Department surveyors
learned a wheelchair-bound resident sustained numerous
injuries, including head trauma, several fractures and
cuts, when she fell down a flight of stairs while
attempting to leave the facility. The resident was
taken to a local hospital for treatment after a nurse
found her lying in a stairwell.
About a week prior to the incident, the resident had
become agitated and, on several occasions, was
observed trying to leave the floor via the elevator
and the stairs. The resident's physician told
surveyors that, five days prior to the incident, staff
told him of the resident's attempts to leave the
Despite this change in behavior, the facility did not
reassess the resident's care plan or implement steps
to more closely supervise the resident to prevent her
from leaving the facility.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to provide adequate supervision of
residents, to document changes in residents'
conditions and to ensure staff are aware of the level
of care required by each resident.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hammond House fined for Failing to Report Resident on Resident Abuse

6701 S. Morgan
FINED- August 27, 2003
Hammond House was fined $5,000 for failing to
properly report an incident of abuse. An employee
witnessed another employee hitting a resident, but did
not try to intervene nor did she report the incident
to a supervisor or police. Once the incident was
brought to the attention of the administration,
another eight passed days before it was reported to
IDPH as required.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Medicare Website Includes Good Information for Choosing Nursing Homes

One of the many resources available to compare nursing homes is the medicare sponsored "Nursing Home Compare" website. The site allows users to view nursing homes by location or name and to obtain statistics about the care provided at these facilities. For people searching for a nursing home, the site can be quite helpful.

It is worthwhile to know, however, that the statistics may not paint a complete picture of the quality of care. For example, the site includes information about the percentage of patients requiring wound care. On the one hand, a high percentage might indicate that the nursing home has many patients with bedsores. This could be a sign of neglect. On the other hand, some nursing homes specialize in the treatment of patients with serious wounds. As a result, hospitals may send more of such patients to that facility. In that case, a higher percentage may simply reflect that the facility specializes in that type of treatment.

In addition, much of the information contained in the nursing home compare site is self reported by the nursing homes. As a result, some of the data may be inaccurate or overly optimistic.

The website is a valuable source of information. It is best viewed, however, as one way to evaluate a nursing home, rather than the only way. Upon considering a facility, you want to might look it up before visiting. At the site visit, you can ask the staff about any apparent negatives shown in their reported statistics.

The nursing home compare web site is located at: www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.

For other information about choosing a good nursing home, visit the Stotis & Baird web site at www.stotisandbaird.com

Monday, November 3, 2008

Clark Manor Convalescent Center Filed for Poor Supervision of Resident

7433 N. Clark St., Chicago
FINED- 2006
Clark Manor Convalescent Center was fined $5,000 for
failure to provide adequate supervision to a resident.
The resident was able to leave a locked unit and walk
out of the facility.

Violation Issued Against Chevy Chase Nursing and Rehab

3400 S. Indiana, Chicago
FINED- July 22, 2003
Chevy Chase Nursing and Rehab Center was fined $5,000
for not properly supervising a resident who left the
facility and walked to his home, which is more than
seven miles away, in temperatures that were below 30
degrees F. The facility was not aware the resident had
left until his wife called to notify staff of his
whereabouts. During their complaint investigation,
Department surveyors learned the resident, who had a
history of cutting off his electronic monitoring
device and of attempting to leave the facility, was
able to leave through the front entrance, which was
not alarmed or monitored between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Six days after returning to the facility, the resident
managed to elope again.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Center Home for Hispanic Elderly Fined for Poor Supervision

1401 N. California Ave
FINED- 2003
Center Home was fined $5,000 for failing to provide
adequate supervision to a resident with a history of
wandering. The resident, who wore an electronic
monitoring device, was found by a family member about
four blocks from the facility at a busy intersection
during rush hour traffic.
No alarm sounded when the resident slipped out of the
facility. Department investigators were told by an
employee that the 10 electronic monitoring devices
used by the facility were in working condition when
she left for the weekend, but not as loud as usual and
difficult to hear. The employee was given a written
reprimand by the facility for not ensuring the devices
were in proper working order and clearly audible.

Boulevard Care Center Cited for Verbal Abuse

3405 S. Michigan Avenue
FINED- 2006
Boulevard Care Center was fined $10,000 for failure
to ensure that staff implemented the abuse policy
after an incident of verbal abuse by an employee
toward a resident was witnessed by another staffer.
The failure to act quickly and begin the abuse
investigation put the resident and other residents at
harm for further abuse by the employee.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Seniors Take Care to Avoid Falls

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, falls are the primary cause of accidental death in persons over the age of 65. Compared with children, elderly people are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of a fall. Up to 60 percent of nursing home residents fall each year, and one half of those have multiple episodes. Hip fractures are the leading fall-related injury that results in hospitalization. One fourth of elderly persons who sustain a hip fracture die within six months of the injury.

Given these grim statistics, it makes sense to do what you can to avoid falls. Common causes of falls among the elderly include:

-Accidents caused by environmental hazards (such as objects on the floor)
-Medications or alcohol
-Acute illness
-Confusion and dementia
-Postural hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing up)
-Vision problems

Simply by being aware of the serious risks associated with falls can help you to be safe. Take steps to correct the things that are causing you to be unsteady on your feet. If you have a relative in a nursing home, insist that they perform a fall risk assessment and follow up with a care plan to address the risks.

Bellhaven Nursing Home Fined for Improper Supervsion

11401 S. Oakley, Chicago
FINED- 2006
Belhaven Nursing Home was fined $20,000 for failure
to implement/monitor and provide supervision for a
resident who displayed aggressive and harmful behavior
toward staff and other residents during a two week
period. The resident attacked another resident causing
a fractured left jaw, a fracture of the sinus cavity,
a fractured nose, and trauma to the eyes, impairing
vision to the resident's eyes.
FINED- 2006
Belhaven Nursing Home was fined $5,000 for failure to
provide adequate supervision to a resident with
Alzheimer's disease, who was identified as at risk for
leaving the facility. The resident left the facility
without staff knowledge and was re-admitted the next
day with multiple abrasions and bumps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ambassador Nursing Center Fined for Inadequate Supervision

4900 N. Bernard St. in Chicago
FINED- June 23, 2004
Ambassador Nursing Center was fined $5,000 for
failure to prevent a resident from leaving the
facility unsupervised.
Responding to a complaint, Department surveyors
learned a resident left the facility unnoticed and was
found about 4.5 miles away outside a hospital
emergency department. The temperature at the time was
10 degrees Fahrenheit and the resident was only
wearing a T-shirt, pants and sandals with no socks.
The resident was treated for frostbite.
When staff realized the resident was missing, they
began a search of the building. About 50 minutes
later, a police officer called the facility and
informed staff that the resident was at the hospital.
The resident, who was fitted with an electronic
monitoring device, told surveyors she left the
facility by walking through the front door. Staff said
they did not hear a door alarm at the time of the
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to provide adequate supervision and to train
staff on appropriate actions and interventions to
prevent a resident from leaving the facility

All American Nursing Home Fined for Public Health Violation

5448 N. Broadway St
FINED- December 20, 2004
All American Nursing Home was fined $5,000 for
failing to supervise a resident who had a history of
smoking in non-designated areas. The resident fell
asleep while smoking in his room and caught his
mattress and linens on fire. Prior to the incident, an
employee saw the resident in bed with cigarettes
nearby and warned him not to smoke, but did not
confiscate the cigarettes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Illinois Citizens for Better Care Has Info Re Nursing Homes

If you or a loved one are looking for a nursing home or seeking better care in a nursing home, the Illinois Citizens for Better Care is an excellent resource. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping improve the quality of care for nursing home residents. Their website, located at www.illinoiscares.org has a wealth of resources. Among other things, it includes information about where and how you can obtain information about nursing homes in Illinois.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alden Wentworth Fined for Nursing Home Violation

201 W. 69th St. in Chicago
FINED- 2006
Alden Wentworth was fined $10,000 for failing to
provide the necessary supervision and assistance to
prevent accidents. A resident, who was blind and
considered a high risk for falls, broke his neck and
several vertebrae after getting up from a chair and
falling. He died two weeks later.
Despite a care plan that stated the resident was to be
continually supervised, the man was left alone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do I Need a Will or a Living Trust

Do I Need a Will or a Living Trust?
By Eric Parker

This is one of the most common questions that elderly clients ask their attorneys. Although the details can become complicated, you should be able to answer the basic question by the end of this article.

A will is a basic legal document that allows you to state whom you would like to receive your property when you die. A trust accomplishes the same goal. The primary difference between the two is how your assets are transferred.

With a will, when you pass away, the will is filed in court and a probate judge is appointed to oversee the distribution of your estate. Typically it is necessary for your executor to hire an attorney to represent your estate. The law requires your executor to notify all of your heirs of the process and provide detailed information about your debts and assets. The judge then ensures that your debts are paid, and the remainder is distributed according to your will. The process can take up to a year. If you have a large estate, some estate taxes may be owed.

With a trust agreement, you retitle your assets in the name of the trust while you are still alive. For example, if your house is owned by John Doe, you would retitle it to “The John Doe Trust Dated 6/10/08.” During your life, you remain the “trustee” and make all decisions regarding the property, just like if you owned it yourself. At your death, however, the trust assets automatically transfer to your designated beneficiary. Because your assets continue to be owned by the “John Doe Trust Dated 6/10/08” there is no need for your estate to go through probate. It is still necessary for your trustee to pay your debts. Just like a will, if your estate is larger, it will be subject to estate taxes.

In most cases, a trust is preferable to a will. The trust will usually save money for your beneficiaries because it is not necessary for them to go through the probate process. The trust will allow the transfer to occur more quickly. Unlike probate, the trust agreement is also completely private.

The down side to a trust agreement is that it costs more to set up. For a small estate a simple will can often be prepared by a lawyer for $500-$1000. A trust agreement is typically more complex to prepare. There is also some cost involved in retitling your assets to the name of the trust. This work is done on an hourly basis by most lawyers and can cost several thousand dollars. The cost can be greater if you have a large estate.

So who should consider a trust agreement? If your total estate is less than $100,000 and you do not own real estate, it will probably not be necessary to probate your estate, and a simple will is probably the best bet. If you estate is between $100,000 and $300,000 or includes real estate, a trust agreement begins to make more sense. Beyond $300,000 a trust agreement is almost always the best bet.

Of course, these are only guidelines. There are specific situations where one or the other might be preferable. It is wise to consult with an attorney to decide on the best option for you. Fortunately, many attorneys will agree to a free initial consultation to discuss the options.

Eric Parker is an attorney with the law firm of Stotis & Baird Chartered. Eric primarily represents elderly clients and victims of personal injuries. The firm practices in the areas of Estate Planning, Medical Malpractice, Real Estate, Personal Injury and Business Consulting.

This article was first published in the Keenager News Published by Catholic Charities and is reprinted here with their permission.

Alden - Princeton Fined by Illinois Department of Public Health

255 W. 69th St. in Chicago.
FINED- May 1, 2002
Alden-Princeton Rehabilitation and Health Care Center
was fined $5,000 for failure to prevent a resident
from wandering away from the facility unnoticed.
After staff discovered the resident was missing, the
buildings and grounds were searched to no avail. About
30 minutes later, the resident was found unharmed by
police a couple blocks from the facility.
The resident had been able to leave the third floor,
which has an elevator with a key pad that requires a
code to operate, and pass two nurses' stations and the
receptionist's window at the front door without being
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to provide residents with adequate
supervision and to train staff on how to assess
resident risk of elopement and to identify and monitor
high-risk patients. The facility also was ordered to
ensure all exterior doors are equipped with functional
alarms or are constantly monitored.

Alden Morrow Rehab Fined for Nursing Home Violation

5001 S. Michigan Ave.
FINED- 2003
Alden Morrow was fined $5,000 for an incident in
which a resident disappeared from her unit and was
found unharmed six hours later in a locked
mechanical/boiler room. The room was filled with
equipment and supplies, including a corrosive
chemical. Staff determined the resident left the unit
by riding an elevator, which did not have an audible
alarm to alert staff. Prior to the incident, the
resident had made several attempts to get on the
elevator and leave the unit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stotis & Baird Proud Sponsor of NCCNHR Annual Meeting

Stotis & Baird was proud to be a sponsor of the 2008 annual meeting of the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR). NCCNHR was formed to address concerns about substandard care in nursing homes. The group works on a national level to make positive changes in conditions at nursing homes. NCCNHR provides information and leadership on federal and state regulatory and legislative policy development to improve care for nursing home residents.

The NCCNHR web site includes a great deal of helpful information for nursing home residents and their families. It can be found at www.nccnhr.org

Monday, October 20, 2008

Burnham Healthcare Fined by Public Health

14500 S. Manistee in Burnham.
FINED- October 5, 2004
Burnham Healthcare was fined $5,000 for failure to
investigate an incident involving a resident who was
sexually aggressive toward another resident.
As part of an incident report investigation,
Department surveyors learned a resident reported to
the facility’s security guard he heard his roommate,
who had a history of inappropriate sexual behavior,
scuffling with a female resident. The guard went to
the room and found the resident trying to get the
woman to inappropriately touch him.
The facility did not conduct a thorough investigation
of the incident, protect the resident from further
abuse or refer the resident for medical evaluation.
The facility was aware of repeated inappropriate
sexual behaviors toward female residents and staff,
but made no effort to implement effective treatments
or monitoring to manage his behaviors.

Burnham Healthcare Nursing Home Fined for Violation

14500 S. Manistee in Burnham.
FINED- 2003
The Illinois Department of Public Health has fined
Burnham Healthcare $10,000 for failure to properly
assess the needs of a resident and to take the
necessary precautions to ensure her safety.
As part of an incident investigation, Department
surveyors found a resident, who had Alzheimer's
disease and was frequently confused, sustained four
fractures to her legs after getting them caught in the
side rails while attempting to get out of bed.
Staff put the resident back in bed and did not
transport her to the hospital until 45 minutes after
the incident. The emergency department nurse told
surveyors that the resident had obvious fractures and
The resident had fallen out of bed twice before this
incident, but the facility failed to remove the side
rails and to reassess the resident for the use of
alternative methods. The facility failed to follow its
own policy, which stated that a confused resident
should not have side rails but should be given a low
bed instead.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to assess each resident for his/her need of
side rails and restraints and to write care plans
reflecting resident safety.

IDPH Violation Issued to Burnham Healthcare

14500 S. Manistee in Burnham.
FINED- December 27, 2001
Burnham Healthcare was fined $5,000 for failure to
provide adequate supervision to prevent a resident
from leaving the facility unsupervised.
The resident left the facility unnoticed and was
discovered the next day during the evening rush hour
lying in the middle of a busy highway about 19 miles
from the facility. The woman, who was awake but
unresponsive, was transported to a local hospital by
paramedics and the next day taken to a mental health
The resident was listed as a "Jane Doe" for nearly
two weeks until the state Guardianship and Advocacy
Commission identified her as the missing Burnham
resident and contacted the facility.
Staff were unable to explain how the resident left
the facility unnoticed and told investigators the door
alarm system was working.
In the months prior to the incident, staff said the
resident had become restless and aggressive, but the
facility did not take any steps to address the
behavioral changes.
The Department-ordered plan of correction required
the facility to properly supervise residents; to
monitor changes in a resident's condition and treat
accordingly; and to ensure all resident-accessible
exterior doors are equipped with functional alarms or
are closely monitored.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nursing Home Violation - Bridgeview Health Care Center

8100 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview (Cook County)
FINED- 2003
Bridgeview was fined $10,000 for failing to provide
care to a resident whose blood glucose levels were
above normal for five days and who displayed other
signs and symptoms of elevated blood sugar levels.
Despite some unusual behavior, staff did not assess
the changes in the resident's condition to determine a
need for medical evaluation and treatment. On the
sixth day, the resident was transferred to a local
hospital and was diagnosed with a diabetic coma.

Nursing Home Violation Report - Blue Island Nursing Home

2427 W 127th St., Blue Island
FINED- November 28, 2001
Blue Island Nursing Home was fined $5,000 for failure
to provide adequate supervision to prevent a resident
from leaving the facility unsupervised.
Responding to a complaint, surveyors found a
resident, who had a history of wandering, left the
facility unnoticed. The nursing home is located in a
high traffic area.
During the investigation, surveyors learned the
resident made frequent attempts to leave the facility.
Despite a history of wandering, the facility did not
revise her care plan to address the behavior. In
addition, a staff member on duty at the time the woman
left the facility said she did not hear a door alarm
sound and commented there had been problems with the
A Department-ordered plan of correction required the
facility to provide adequate supervision of residents
and to ensure all resident-accessible exterior doors
are equipped with functional alarms or constantly
The Pros and Cons of Reverse Mortgages
By Eric Parker

Over the last few years, reverse mortgages have been growing in popularity. They can be an excellent tool allowing seniors to stay in their homes. They are, however, complex financial transactions which should not be entered into lightly. Here are a few thoughts on the topic.

What is a reverse mortgage?

Basically, a reverse mortgage is a loan which you are taking out against the equity in your home. In a typical loan, you make payments each month, and the debt that you owe decreases a little with each payment. With a reverse mortgage, the bank makes payments to you each month, and the amount of your loan increases each month. The payments are calculated to continue for a number of years until you have reached a maximum loan amount (60-80 percent of your home’s value). At that point, you would not receive any further payments, however you are also not required to pay back the loan. It may also be possible to receive a lump sum or line of credit instead of monthly payments. The loan is due only when you move out of the house. When the house is sold, any equity remaining in the house after repaying the loan is yours to keep.

What are the advantages of a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage can allow you to stay in your house by removing your monthly mortgage payment and instead giving you a monthly income. That income can be used to maintain the house, pay for in home care, property taxes or anything other purpose. This can allow seniors to live a long healthy life in their own home.

What are the disadvantages of a reverse mortgage?

Although reverse mortgages are a great product, they are not for everyone. First, you should understand that you are borrowing against the value of your home. As a result, when you do sell your home, you will receive less equity or your heirs will inherit less money. Second, there are some fees at the outset of the loan which are comparable to the fees associated with purchasing a home (about 5% of your home’s value). Therefore, it may not make sense to obtain a reverse mortgage if you are only planning to stay in the house for a couple of years. Third, it may not be the right thing if you are ready to move into assisted living or a nursing home. If nursing home care or assisted living is what you need, it would be better to sell the house and make the move.

How do I get one?

You must be over the age of 62 and have paid off quite a bit of your mortgage. Not all lenders offer reverse mortgages. Lists of reverse mortgage lenders in Illinois are available on the web. Once you have located a lender, they will explain how much they can lend you and over what period of time. You will be required to meet with an FHA approved housing counselor for about 45 minutes. Finally, you should have a lawyer or financial planner review the terms of your loan to ensure that you understand the details of the agreement.

How can I learn more?

There are a number of independent organizations that provide information about reverse mortgages. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) publishes a list of things you should know about reverse mortgages. AARP also produces several articles on this topic. Links to some of these resources are available on our firm’s web site at www.stotisandbaird.com. The important thing to remember is to make sure that you receive information from independent sources and not just the lenders themselves.

Eric Parker is an attorney with the law firm of Stotis & Baird, Chartered in Chicago. He specializes in injury litigation, nursing home neglect and issues facing the elderly. He has no interest in any reverse mortgage company or broker.

This article was first published in the Keenager News Published by Catholic Charities and is reprinted here with their permission.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How You Can Stop Nursing Home Neglect

Most nursing homes provide quality care to their residents. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be concerned about nursing home neglect. According to Medicare, the average nursing home in the U.S. will be cited for 8 health deficiencies at each state inspection. In 2001 a study for the House Committee on Government Reforms found that in a two year period, nearly one third of all certified facilities had been cited for some type of abuse violation.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to ensure that you, or your family members receive good care:

1. Good support from family and friends

Patients who are in relatively good health may be able to advocate for themselves. For patients with dementia or Alzheimers, however, this may not be possible. Perhaps the best protection against neglect is the active involvement of friends and family. If your parent is in a nursing home, visit regularly and ask questions. Visiting at different times of the day and night will help you to determine if staffing and care are consistently sufficient.

2. Work with the nursing home

Before resorting to more aggressive measures, it is wise to attempt to work out any issues with the nursing home directly. Often a polite request is all that is necessary to ensure that a problem is corrected. The director of nursing is typically a good person to speak with about quality of care. Remember that nursing is a difficult and often thankless job. When the facility staff is doing good work, be sure to praise them for their efforts. When a lapse occurs, politely inquire.

3. Know your rights

During the time a person is in a nursing facility, it is their home. As such, they deserve the same dignity and respect as any other person. A resident who has stayed up late her entire life, should not be required to go to bed early simply because it is more convenient for the facility. Residents have the right to receive needed treatment or to refuse unwanted treatment. Knowing these rights is important. Some of the rights guaranteed to nursing home residents can be found in the “Patient Bill of Rights” which is often posted somewhere in the home. It is also available in a number of places online, including through the National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform at www.nccnhr.org.

4. Participate in family / resident councils

Many nursing homes have “Resident Councils” where residents can gather and discuss concerns about the care they are receiving. Similarly, some homes have “Family Councils” at which family members can discuss common issues. These councils can provide an excellent way to advocate for improved care. If the facility does not have such a council, there are many organizations that can help you to establish one. One such organization is Illinois Citizens for Better Care, which can be contacted at www.illinoiscares.org.

5. Contact your local ombudsman

Every region of Illinois has a long term care ombudsman, whose job is to monitor nursing homes and advocate for good care. The ombudsman can provide a wealth of information to residents and families. They can provide assistance with everything from locating a good nursing home to negotiating improved care. You can locate your local ombudsman by calling the Illinois Department on Aging Senior Help Line at 1-800-252-8966.

6. Call Illinois Department of Public Health

When a nursing home violates a health or safety standard, you should report the violation to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The department maintains a hotline for any suspected violations. The investigation of these complaints can help to prevent further violations. It also establishes a record of any violations. The hotline number is 1-800-252-4343. Information about past violations by a particular nursing home are also publicly available from the department.

7. Call the police

Residents sometimes forget that they have a right to call the police. Anything that would be a crime outside the nursing home is also a crime in the nursing home. Anything from theft to physical abuse can and should be reported to the police department. Physical abuse by staff or other residents is not just unfortunate, it is a crime. It should be treated as such.

8. Call a lawyer

Calling a lawyer should be one of the last options to pursue. Nevertheless, some injuries are so severe that there is no other option. Likewise, there are some nursing homes that will not improve conditions unless it will affect their bottom line. Illinois has a number of laws that can protect neglect and abuse victims. It is important to locate a lawyer that is experienced in nursing home litigation.

Receiving good care is a process. By knowing your rights, demanding good care and knowing when to reach out for help, you can help to stop nursing home neglect.

Eric Parker is an attorney practicing in the areas of nursing home neglect, personal injury, and issues facing the elderly. He works with the firm of Stotis & Baird, Chartered in Chicago. Links to some of the resources described in this article can be found on the firm’s web site at www.stotisandbaird.com

This article was first published in the Keenager News Published by Catholic Charities and is reprinted here with their permission.

7 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Aging Parents

If your parents are still healthy and active, be grateful and enjoy their company. Then take a little bit of time to plan for future. The time you spend now will save you and them countless headaches in the future. Here are seven things you can do to help them through their golden years.

1. Prepare a Will or Trust

When you are healthy and happy, preparing a will or trust agreement is no big deal. It is not terribly expensive and allows your parents to decide how they want their assets distributed. Choosing the right estate planning tool, however, can save thousands of dollars in probate costs for their heirs. It is particularly important in small to moderate sized estates. $20,000 in probate expenses is not the end of the world if you are leaving a million dollar estate, but if it is $100,000 it is.

2. Prepare a Durable Power of Attorney

Powers of attorney for health care allow a trusted person of your choice to make health care decisions if you cannot make them yourself. They are similar to a living will, but more flexible. A Power of Attorney for finances allows someone else to make financial decisions for you. The trick is that a power of attorney must be prepared while a person is competent to make their own decisions. Many families seek out a power of attorney only after their parent has Alzheimers or severe dementia. At that point it is often too late. A much more expensive guardianship procedure is necessary instead. A few hundred dollars and an hour of time is all it takes to avoid this problem if you do it when they are healthy.

3. Make Sure that their Finances are Well Managed and Protected

Financial abuse is surprisingly common among the elderly. Sadly, the abuse is frequently at the hands of friends and relatives. The best way to protect your parents is to encourage them to discuss things with you. We tell our elderly clients to call a couple of people before signing anything or transferring any property or money. Regularly reviewing account statements can also help to spot fraudulent or abusive transfers.

4. Plan far in Advance for Nursing Home Care

Most people do eventually wind up in a nursing home. Yet, it is surprisingly common for the family to decide on nursing home care, pick the nursing home and discuss payment, only after the situation has become critical. Financially, it is possible to do many things to plan for this if you start early. Options range from good Medicaid planning (3-5 years in advance), long term care insurance (5+ years in advance) to investing for the cost (5+ years in advance). Likewise, you should allow plenty of time to pick the right nursing home. There are many good resources for choosing a good nursing home. If you don’t rush the process you’ll make a better choice.

5. Find them a Good Geriatrician

When it comes to the elderly, not all doctors are created equal. A doctor specializing in geriatrics is much more likely to focus on the things that matter. They are also likely to avoid tests and procedures that may be more harmful than beneficial. Good medical care will help your parents to live independently for the longest possible time.

6. Plan for Emergencies

As we age there is an increased chance of a life threatening incident. Such incidents include stroke, heart attack or even a simple fall. There are things you can do to plan for these eventualities. Set up an alarm or signaling system that allows them to easily call 911 for help. Prepare a list of their medications, medical conditions and emergency contacts that is located in an easily accessible location. Some communities provide a “File of Life” kept in a magnetic sleeve on the refrigerator. Paramedics in those communities know to look for these sleeves and bring them along to the hospital.

7. Insist on Good Care

At some point you may recognize that you need help caring for your parents. It is good for you to recognize your limitations and get that help. It may include at-home care, assisted living or nursing home care. Even good facilities, however, sometimes neglect patients or make mistakes. Do not hesitate to ask questions, report problems or insist upon better care. Be polite but persistent. Take the time to praise people who go the extra mile to care for your parents.

Considering these options may seem a little depressing. Nobody wants to contemplate their own death, or the death of a loved one. Ignoring the situation, however, will not improve things. Good planning, on the other hand, can allow your parents to live long, healthy independent lives.

By Dan Hill at www.stotisandbaird.com

Welcome to Elder Law Blog

Hi Everyone! Here is a test of the Elder Law blog. We are going to talk about issues that effect the elderly, including nursing care, wills/trusts & estates, and more!