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Former employees help prove nursing home abuse

Two former employees of a nursing facility in Kankakee who turned whistleblowers against their employer were recently able to help a federal civil court jury find the facility's then-owner guilty of defrauding the federal government in 2004. The jury returned a $28 million verdict against the former owner, who was found liable for abusing facility residents and filing phony Medicare and Medicaid claims.

Following the 2-week trial in Urbana, the jury found that the former nursing facility owner oversaw a home that "provided worthless services," and it levied the stiffest possible civil penalty. No criminal charges have been filed, and the current owners have had no role in what attorneys for the plaintiffs described as six years of rampant elder abuse that led to some deaths.

With the aging of the baby-boom generation, nursing homes have proliferated across Illinois. In most cases, these facilities provide good care for elders and other patients who have disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Seniors are least likely to complain about their situation when they are in nursing homes and thus are prone to elder abuse. Nursing home abuse includes maltreatment that can lead to dehydration, malnutrition and bed sores.

Families, relatives and friends of people in nursing homes in the Chicago area should regularly check the living conditions of their loved ones. What may seem to be a fine nursing home may have a darker side when no one is watching.

Chicago-area residents whose family members suffer from nursing home abuse can report incidents to authorities and also file suit on behalf of mistreated loved ones. Plaintiffs may be able to recover damages, depending on the level abuse and whether it compromised their loved ones' lives. Such legal actions will also help to prevent elder abuse from recurring inside nursing homes.

Source: Dailyjournal.com, "Momence: Whistle-blowers convince jury of abuse by nursing home," Dimitrios Kalantzis, Feb. 14, 2013

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