If you have been abused or neglected at Willows Health Center, read about your rights below, and then contact Agruss Law Firm, LLC, for a free case evaluation.
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Who is Willows Health Center?
Willows Health Center is one of the Wesley Willows senior living communities in Illinois. The center is a Medicaid and Medicare-certified, non-profit corporation that offers comprehensive skilled nursing services for the elderly. It provides extensive, personalized treatment program for its residents along with its league of healthcare experts. Willows Health Center is located at 4054 Albright Lane, Rockford, IL, and may be reached through telephone number 815-316-1500. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act governs Willows Health Center.
Willows Health Center’s Address, Phone Number, and Contact Information
Willows Health Center
4054 Albright Lane
Rockford, IL 61103
Willows Health Center’s Overview
Willows Health Center is a small non-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Illinois. A CCRC provides three levels of care: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing. The community offers 42 certified beds, and Alzheimers unit complete with a sprinkler system in all critical areas. It also supports a resident council along with its management. Willows Health Center provides inhouse diagnostics with physicians and specialists apart from its offered 24-hour staff. The institution provides both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services like occupational, speech, and physical therapies to encourage the highest level of mobility and dependence. Willows Health Center has three fire safety citations as of August 6, 2018.
According to Medicare’s Nursing Home Care, Willows Health Center has an overall rating of five stars which is much above average. Altogether, Medicare gives Willows Health Center the following star ratings. We all know the more starts, the better the service.
- Overall rating: five stars (much above average). Medicare assigns the overall star rating based on a nursing home’s performance on three separate categories: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Each of these categories have their own star ratings, with more stars meaning better quality of care.
- Health inspections: four stars (above average). Health care professionals conduct annual inspections for Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing facilities to identify any health and safety citations. The most recent health inspection for the facility was held last August 9, 2018. The more stars means the fewer the health risks.
- Staffing: rating unavailable. The rating is based on the number of professional nursing home staff hired including the average time said professionals spent caring for residents. The rating also takes into account the needs of the residents vis-à-vis staffing requirements. The more stars means a better level of staffing per nursing home resident.
- Quality of resident care: four stars (above average). Once again, more stars are better. Nursing homes that are certified by Medicare and Medicaid frequently report clinical information about their residents to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS then assigns nursing homes a quality of resident care star rating based on their performance on 16 measures. Normally, the category measures the quality of care for short-term and long-term residents. These, and other measures, reflect how well nursing homes care for their residents.
Signs of Abuse and Neglect
If you notice that your loved one exhibits any of the following, you should act immediately:
- Broken bones,
- Bed sores,
- Head injuries,
- Medication overdose,
- Dehydration or malnutrition,
- Poor hygiene,
- Soiled bedding,
- Rapid weight loss,
- Sudden agitation or emotional withdrawal,
- Frequent crying, or
- Complaints of poor treatment.
Illinois Nursing Home Statistics
When a loved can no longer live independently, a tough decision must be made about the best option for care. Such a decision often must be made during a time of crisis, frequently when your loved one is ready to leave the hospital after a serious illness or operation. Illinois has approximately 1,400 long-term care facilities, or nursing homes, serving more than 100,000 residents, from the young to the elderly. Sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect, also known as elder abuse, is far too common. The Illinois Department of Public Health’s 24-hour a day Nursing Home Hotline receives nearly 19,000 calls a year, and as a result, staff respond to more than 5,000 complaints per year.
Nursing Home Profits Over Patients
Elderly care is a complex and a delicate issue. We are dealing with one of the most vulnerable sections of the population some would argue than even more so than children. So how are non- and for-profit facilities dealing with mounting costs and infamous mishaps, ranging from filthy conditions to negligent deaths?
There is need for 24/7 specialized attention, which can become quite expensive, depending on the extent of every individual requirement. For-profit nursing homes claim to deal with scant resources, with many stating meager or non-existent earnings. This allegation has been used to explain chronic staff shortage, among other shortcomings. Medicare and Medicaid funds channeled into nursing homes have been increasingly redirected towards multi-million expenses, and most of the time, the recipients of these expenditures are subsidiaries of the same corporation running the centers.
Research conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago highlighted an increase in for-profit nursing home earnings, with quality of service diminishing simultaneously. The researchers, who were led by Lee Friedman of UIC’s School of Public Health, concluded that “patients receiving care in for-profit institutions were diagnosed with substantially more clinical signs of neglect than patients residing in not-for-profit facilities”. This trend appears to be worsening over time, raising concerns within officials and organizations in charge of regulating elderly care services.
There is a case for alarm, and suggestions to break this cycle within nursing homes range from implementing better financial controls in order to check how money is spent, to expanding requirements, tougher punishments and more rigorous scrutiny when it comes to giving out licenses.
Nursing Home Staffing Problems
Problems due to understaffing in senior citizen home centers have reached such alarming levels throughout the U.S., it is now considered a crime to undercut personnel. The consequences of chronic staff shortage for patients in elderly care installations range from painful and uncomfortable conditions on a day-to-day basis, to wrongful deaths in extreme situations.
Many patients in these facilities cannot fend for themselves –physically, mentally, or both. Less staff means less help to set senior citizens in motion. This specific measure is essential, in order to limit or eliminate the chance of developing pressure ulcers –those terrible painful bed sores many geriatric patients disclose. Also, restrained patients are not moved that often; there is simply not enough help available to accompany them around.
Centers are faced with difficulties even to tackle simple tasks, like adequate hygiene procedures. Cases involving maggot-infested feeding tubes and insect-ridden installations have rocked the public conscience in recent years. Authorities need to place special focus on chronic staff shortage in nursing homes. The examples of how this situation causes pain, anguish, and death are undeniable.
Types of Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes
Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms. Know the warning signs, so you can better protect your loved ones. If you notice that your loved one exhibits any of the following, you should take action immediately.
- Bed Rail Entrapment: Bed rails are commonly used to assist patients who may have limited mobility or a high risk of falling out of bed at night, and “bed rail entrapment” occurs when a patient becomes stuck between the mattress and bed rail, which can result in serious injury or even death. There are four main ways that bed rail entrapment occurs: in-between split bed rails; in-between a single bed rail’s bars; between the bed rail and mattress; and between the bed rail, mattress, headboard, or footboard. When bed rails are not properly implemented by the nursing home or particular employees, they may be legally liable if their negligence directly results in bed rail entrapment and injuries.
- Bed Rail Injuries: Portable bed rails which are commonly used in medical facilities can be dangerous for elderly patients, and one study found over 150 fatalities involving these devices between 2003 and 2012; nearly 30% of these deaths occurred in nursing homes and similar facilities, and over 80% of victims were 60 years of age or older. The FDA identifies the main risks of bed rails as: suffocation or strangulation when the head or neck is entrapped; bruising, lacerations, or fractures in trapped limbs; severe agitation and/or confusion when entrapped in the bed rail; and death, in serious cases. When a nursing home resident suffers a bed rail injury, the nursing home, a particular staff member, the bed rail’s manufacturer, or a combination of these may be legally liable due to negligence.
- Bed Sores: Bed sores are often called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. These sores originate at points of pressure. They develop inside-out, so that once the wound opens through the outer layer of skin, it is a full-blown ulcer and very susceptible to infection. These wounds range in severity from mild such as skin reddening to severe which are deep craters that go down through the muscle to the bone. Bedsores can develop quickly, and treatment is often difficult – especially among elderly patients. These ulcers tend to be very difficult to heal, requiring a continuous effort to relieve the pressure between the bone and the exterior of the body. Unfortunately, nursing home residents with limited mobility, who are confined to the bed or chair, are uniquely at risk for suffering these injuries.
- Burns: While burn accidents in nursing homes are entirely preventable, nursing home patients are unfortunately at greater risk of injury when these accidents occur due to decreased mobility or diminished hearing or eyesight, which can potentially result in delayed reaction-times. Common causes of burn accidents include: smoking hazards, such as when a facility allows indoor smoking; unsupervised candles, which can increase the risk of a fire; flammable medical hazards related to electrical equipment, flammable gases, or pressurized oxygen; or even faulty or exposed electrical wiring in the facility itself. The nursing home and/or particular staff members should be held accountable when negligence directly results in a burn accident and injuries.
- Choking: Choking accidents can occur with medications, especially larger pills, but occur primarily during meals when nursing home patients and/or their food intake are not properly supervised by professionals. Some patients require restricted diets due to difficulty swallowing, which can result from neurological damage or disorders, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other conditions, and are at greater risk of choking when eating unsupervised, while choking can also be a general risk for many elderly patients regardless of particular conditions. The nursing home may be considered negligent when lack of supervision or proper restriction of a patient’s diet directly results in a choking incident.
- Clogged Breathing Tubes: Nursing home patients who need assistance with ventilation typically use an “endotracheal tube,” which is inserted through the nose or mouth and connects to a mechanical ventilator. Maintaining these tubes requires quality nursing care, and negligence can result in clogged breathing tubes, which can have serious and even fatal complications. These include clogging by secretions or mucus plugs, which can potentially result in respiratory distress, arrest, or complete or partial collapse of the lung; hypoxia, meaning a lack of oxygen from limited airflow; and sudden death. As such, these cases can be serious and result in medical malpractice or wrongful death claims to hold the nursing home and/or particular employees accountable for their negligence.
- Dehydration and Malnutrition: Between 1999 and 2002 alone, over 10,000 nursing home patients lost their lives due to dehydration and/or malnutrition. Nursing homes must ensure that all residents have proper access to food and water, and negligence can occur when nursing homes have insufficient staffing to address each resident’s needs in a timely manner, while deliberate withholding of food and water from a resident is considered abuse and also grounds for a lawsuit. Elderly residents are especially prone to dehydration and malnutrition, which can result in serious health complications and even death, and nursing homes should be held accountable when their negligence results in starving or thirsty residents.
- Dropped Patients: Some nursing home residents need assistance when standing or walking, and accidents and serious injuries can occur when staff members use bad judgement or do not follow the facility’s protocols. These drops can occur due to negligence when transferring a patient from a wheelchair to the shower, bath, or bed (or vice-versa) or from one chair to another, and resulting injuries may include fractured bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), damage to internal organs, or even death. In addition to not following protocols, other risk factors for drops include poor training, understaffing, lack of equipment, or faulty equipment, and the most common root causes are the negligence of one or more particular employees and/or the facility’s failure to properly assess the patient’s needs.
- Elopement: Wandering in a nursing home is a common risk for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other psychological disorders, and “elopement” occurs when a wandering patient leaves the facility entirely. This can be very dangerous for patients who aren’t physically and/or psychologically fit to be by themselves, especially when unsupervised and out in public, and patients who have eloped due to a nursing home’s negligence have suffered serious injuries and even death. If a patient leaves his/her nursing home due to inadequate supervision, the nursing home and/or particular staff members may be legally responsible if an injury occurs.
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse of nursing home patients can come in many forms, including insults, harassment, threats/intimidation, yelling/screaming, and other behaviors. While emotional abuse is often the fault of one or more particular employees rather than the nursing home itself, the facility may also be legally liable for this abuse if inadequate background screening resulted in the hiring of an abusive employee who shouldn’t have received the position. Unfortunately, patients who are more vulnerable and/or require more care than others may be at greater risk of emotional abuse, and in all cases nursing home employees should be held legally accountable for their negligence.
- Falls: Falls in nursing homes result in more than 1,800 deaths and many more injuries per year – among elderly patients, an estimated 10 – 20% of falls result in serious injury. Although nursing homes generally have “fall prevention programs” in place to mitigate these accidents, the negligence of nursing home staff can increase these risks in many ways. Common examples include: physical hazards, such as wet floors, inadequate lighting or security, obstructed stairways or walkways, or defective equipment; improper prescription or dosage of sedatives, depressants, or similar medications which affect the central nervous system; improperly-fitted shoes or walking aids; inadequate supervision; and failure to provide necessary assistance.
- Fractures: Elderly nursing home residents – especially those suffering from osteoporosis – are more prone to suffering broken bones or fractures in accidents, and residents aged 75 years and older are at the greatest risk of any age group. These injuries include spontaneous fractures, stress fractures, and traumatic fractures, and common causes include improperly moving or lifting a patient, inadequate supervision for patients in wheelchairs, inadequate training for handling a patient’s mobility requirements, and hazardous conditions within the facility which can result in slip-and-fall accidents. Fractures can require months of physical and psychological recovery, even when treated as soon as possible, and the nursing home may be legally liable when its negligence directly results in an accident and injury.
- Infections: There is an unfortunate epidemic of infections acquired not outside of medical facilities, but within them, resulting in over 1.7 million cases per year for infections acquired within hospitals alone. Nursing homes are also vulnerable to these infections, which often come from blood transfusions, catheters, patient-rooms, surgical incisions or hardware, ventilators, and other medical equipment. Nursing homes must have comprehensive infection-control policies to protect everyone within the facility, including patients, staff, and visitors, and these policies cover hand-hygiene, personal protective equipment, quarantine protocols, environmental cleanliness, and other factors. The nursing home may be legally liable for an infection acquired within the facility due to negligence.
- Inadequate Supervision: Inadequate supervision in nursing homes is often caused by understaffing and/or improper training of staff and can result in a wide range of problems for patients, from dehydration/malnutrition and bed sores to medication errors, mobility accidents, bed-related injuries, and even infections or medical complications. Nursing homes must always be properly staffed to address patients’ needs and respond to emergencies in a timely manner, and serious injuries and even death can result when patients aren’t properly supervised by staff members. If a patient suffers an injury or illness as a direct result of inadequate supervision, the nursing home may be legally liable.
- Medication Errors: Preventable medication errors result in hundreds of thousands of adverse drug events (ADEs) per year, and in nursing homes they can result in serious injuries/illnesses and even death. These errors include prescribing the wrong medications or dosages, mislabeling medications, failure to take a patient’s complete medical history, and failure to note patients’ reactions to particular medications. Adverse drug events cost our society an estimated 98,000 lives and $3.5 billion per year, and nursing home residents are especially prone to irreversible damage or death from medication errors: about 800,000 adverse drug events occur per year in long-term care facilities.
- Overmedication: Overmedication refers to a medication error in which a nursing home patient is prescribed too much of a medication, either in quantity or dosage. Unintentional overmedication can occur due to understaffing or inexperienced improperly-trained staff, and intentional overmedication can occur when a facility wrongfully intends to sedate a patient for extended periods of time – also known as a “chemical restraint” – rather than address the root of the patient’s problem, which often results from a flawed caretaking philosophy which regularly resorts to overmedication. This practice can result in serious injury, illness, or death whether intentional or not and nursing homes should be held legally accountable for these errors.
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse in nursing homes involves violence or physical force and can come in many forms. Common signs of abuse of a patient include scratches, bites, bruises, burns, or even inappropriate restraints. Statistics show that citizens over 80 years of age are at the highest risk of physical abuse in nursing homes, and unfortunately much of this abuse goes unreported: only one out of every six patients who are physically abused report the incident afterward, according to some estimates, resulting in organizations such as the CDC and NCPEA labelling elder abuse an “invisible problem.” As such, it’s important to understand both the physical and behavioral signs that abuse may be taking place.
- Physical Assault: Assault and battery is the most blatant form of physical abuse in nursing homes and is among the most egregious violations of patients’ rights. Physical assault may include punching, slapping, kicking, shaking, and other forms of force, and while most victims in nursing homes were assaulted by staff members, assault among residents of the facility can also occur due to the staff’s negligence, particularly inadequate supervision. There are many risk factors for physical assault in nursing homes: some facilities do not properly screen their employees and may hire individuals who are unstable or have violent tendencies; inadequate staffing can place great stress on employees who then act irrationally; and some residents’ physical or psychological limitations make them unfortunate targets for violence.
- Physical or Chemical Restraints: Patients’ dignity and ability to move freely in nursing homes must be respected. Sometimes, nursing home employees may utilize physical or chemical restraints to handle an agitated individual, but this should only be a last-resort option that is absolutely necessary. Unnecessary or excessive use of restraints not only violates a patient’s rights, but can also result in injuries to the patient, ranging from head injuries to bone fractures and internal bleeding. Patients who have a history of falls, low cognitive performance, or are taking antipsychotic medications may be at greater risk of negligent use of restraints, and the employee and/or facility should be held accountable for the resulting physical and/or psychological pain and suffering.
- Sepsis: Sepsis can occur when bacteria infect the bloodstream and often develops from bedsores and similar medical complications. Severe sepsis, also known as “septic shock,” can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible, so it’s important that these conditions are closely monitored, and the root causes are identified. A nursing home may be legally liable if negligence resulted in the condition which led to sepsis, such as bedsores, or if negligence directly resulted in sepsis or septic shock. If a patient passes away from septic shock resulting directly from negligence, the nursing home or employees may be liable in a wrongful death claim.
- Sexual Assault: Sexual assault in nursing homes is a widespread and often-underreported problem. Common signs of sexual abuse of a patient include bleeding or bruising in the genital area; stained or ripped clothing, linens, or bed sheets; unusual fear or anxiety, especially in the presence of a particular staff member; and depression or changes in mood. While nursing homes and their employees are fully legally obligated to ensure that residents are safe, and their rights are protected, it’s important to maintain open communication with your loved one to determine as soon as possible if such horrendous abuse is taking place.
- Wandering: Adequate staffing and supervision for patients is essential in nursing homes, and some patients suffering from psychological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, may be prone to wandering when left unsupervised. This can be dangerous, as unassisted patients may be at risk of falling, which can result in serious injury or even death. Other risk factors include unfamiliarity with a new environment, recent changes in medication, and unmet physical needs related to hunger or hygiene. If a patient wanders in a nursing home without proper supervision and suffers an injury, the facility and/or particular staff members may be legally responsible for the injury due to negligence.
- Wheelchair Accidents: While almost all wheelchair accidents are entirely preventable, they typically occur when a patient is being transported from a wheelchair to a chair or bed (or vice-versa) and can result in serious injuries or even death. These accidents can occur when staff members are inexperienced, improperly trained, or in violation of the facility’s standard protocols for transporting patients, each of which may be considered negligence on behalf of the employee and/or nursing home itself. Other common causes include inadequate supervision, failure to apply brakes when the wheelchair is not in motion, or improper securement of the wheelchair in a vehicle.
- Wrongful Death: Wrongful death in a nursing home is the ultimate negligence for which no compensation is ever fully sufficient. The most common causes in these cases are dehydration and malnutrition, which can also make patients more susceptible to infections and illnesses; and medication errors, which typically consist of prescribing the wrong medication, improper dosage, or multiple medications which should not be mixed, all of which can be fatal in certain cases. When a patient’s wrongful death was a direct result of the negligence of a nursing home or particular employees within it, the surviving family has a legal right to pursue compensation and hold the negligent party accountable for their wrongdoing.
Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Help You
If you believe a loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home, contact us for a free consultation. Agruss Law Firm, LLC, represents victims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout Illinois. We will handle your case quickly, advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. This litigation strategy will provide you with the best possible compensation. Plus, we do not get paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. Therefore, you have nothing to risk when you hire our firm—just the opportunity to seek justice. Protect your rights by contacting us today.