One particular offender, according to a recent investigation by the Chicago Tribune, is now known as Alden Village North, but has been known under different names when connected to varied owners over the years. Regardless of name or ownership structure, however, the fact remains that 13 children have died at the nursing home in the last 10 years.
The Tribune, in its October 10th edition, cited various problems at the root of those deaths—staffing shortages at the facility, together with a lax regulatory framework utilized in for-profit facilities such as Alden.
Whatever the reasons, the tragedies remain.
Deaths include two 4 year olds who died within three weeks of one another after experiencing difficulty breathing. While alarms were in use to alert nursing staff, no one heard them. State investigators later determined that numerous alarms had not been set correctly, or the volume turned down so low, they could not be heard.
Illinois nursing home neglect, in this case, goes beyond the tragic finality of death. According to the Tribune investigation, illnesses have been ignored, life-support alarms have gone unanswered and residents with complex medical problems have been left unattended. Even basic hygiene, such as bathing children and changing diapers, has been neglected. Staff shortages have been cited. Former employees say that when workers book off sick, they are not replaced for the day. Remaining staff was allegedly required to pick up the slack, and was run ragged as a result.
The investigation found that in 2008 five children and young adults died within three months of each other. And yet Alden was found to have not thoroughly investigated the deaths. It appears that regulations do not require them to do so.
It should be noted that the Illinois Department of Health has issued fines totaling $190,000 against the facility over the past ten years. However, the Illinois nursing home has paid only $21,450 of that amount since 2000.
The Tribune reported that the parents of five children who died at the facility were not aware until contacted for the Tribune investigation that the home had been cited in the deaths.
The mother of one of the children who died has brought a wrongful death suit against the facility. Her son Derrick Black, then 12, died at Alden when he was left unmonitored—allegedly the result of his night nurse leaving early and his day nurse arriving late. The investigation also showed that a number of critical errors were committed.
On the day the boy died, he was being fed through a tube when a nurse's aide arrived to bathe him in bed. The bed was prepared flat, even though medical orders stipulated that he remain upright during feedings. The aide is also reported to have disconnected, then re-connected, the feeding tube in order to dress the boy—this in spite of medical protocol requiring that a nurse perform that task, not an aide.
The aide reportedly lifted Derrick into his wheelchair, in spite of a requirement in the boy's medical file that two people lift him to avoid accidents. The aide indicated there was no one around to assist him.
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Derrick was without nursing care from 7:15 am, when the night nurse left, to 7:29 am, when the day nurse arrived, reportedly late.
At 7:30 am, another nurse found Derrick with what was described as an unusually large amount of secretions down the front of his shirt, and he was not responding. Nurses and paramedics could not revive him.
The state of Illinois hit Alden with a $25,000 fine for Illinois nursing home neglect. Alden is contesting the fine. Stephanie Black filed her lawsuit against Alden for wrongful death in August, under Illinois nursing home law.