Keeping a Watchful Eye on Nursing Homes

Nurse Marty Himebaugh is accused of overmedicating patients in her care while she worked at the nursing home. Information published by the Chicago Sun-Times indicates former Woodstock Residence nursing director Penny Whitlock acknowledged that she nicknamed Himebaugh the “Angel of Death.” The chilling facts of this case emphasize the need for loved ones to check on elderly relatives regularly, lest they become within of nursing home abuse.

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Partners in Crime
According to statements Ms. Whitlock made to the Sun-Times, Ms. Himebaugh overmedicated patients who were unruly or difficult. Director Ms. Whitlock was charged with obstruction of justice and criminal neglect. Staff members of the nursing home testified that Ms. Whitlock knew Ms. Himebaugh was over-medicating patients with medications such as morphine. The court stripped Himebaugh of her license and accepted a guilty plea from her in exchange for dropping five other felony counts against her.

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
Sadly, patients at Woodstock Residence suffered from neglect and abuse. In addition, patients appear to have received doses of morphine not prescribed by a physician. It was Ms. Whitlock’s duty to address suspected abuse and neglect. However, testimony by other staff members indicates she chose to look the other way. Morphine is a powerful pain medication that requires a prescription by a physician. Unfortunately, one patient who died at the nursing home in 2006 died of a morphine overdose.

The Dangers of Morphine
Morphine is commonly prescribed to cancer patients to help ease the severe pain associated with cancer. Morphine is known to cause respiratory depression. Most recently, Steve Jobs died of respiratory arrest related to his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Respiratory arrest is a common cause of death in cancer patients due to the use of morphine. While morphine provides the benefit of pain management, it has severe side effects that may result in death.

Signs of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse
Unfortunately, many families cannot visit loved ones as often as they would like. Neglect and abuse in nursing homes is a common problem. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you should visit at least two times each week. During your visits, check for bedsores, bruises, proper hygiene, coherence and alertness. If you suspect abuse or neglect, contact your loved one’s doctor immediately.

Time is of the Essence

If you suspect that your loved one has been neglected or abused, you will need to act quickly. Especially if your loved one is suffering from over-medication, time is crucial. This is particularly true if he or she is receiving morphine for pain relief. If possible, request an evaluation by a second doctor. While you will not want to make false accusations, you will want to ensure your loved one is receiving proper care.

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If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of the nursing home staff, contact our experienced attorneys today to find out if he or she is eligible for compensation. We offer a free consultation during which we will discuss your legal rights and options.

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