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Protecting Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak

04-03-20    

We hear a lot in the news about how to protect ourselves and our communities physically during the current health crisis, but we don’t hear as much about how to protect our mental health and stability. Given the drastic changes in everyday life and the barrage of news stories on TV and in social media, everyone is at risk for increased anxiety and depression – even people who have never had such symptoms before. But what can you do to avoid getting overly anxious or depressed? We suggest trying out some (or all!) of these strategies when things start to feel overwhelming:

  1. Take breaks. Whether you are now working from home, homeschooling your kids, or working increased hours in an essential field, give yourself permission to take a breather. Get up and walk outside, pick up a magazine, take a short nap. It doesn’t have to be long, just as long as it gives your mind and body a moment to regroup.
  2. Phone a friend. Being physically distant from friends and family can heighten feelings of anxiety and depression. But being distant doesn’t have to mean being disconnected. Try a phone call, a video chat, or even writing to someone via email or snail mail. Reach out, and you may do just as much for someone else’s mental health as your own.
  3. Stick to a routine. Even with your activities being limited, you can still wake up at the same time, shower, eat breakfast, and get your day started just like before. Not only will that help you feel some normalcy, but it will make it easier to readjust once the current situation is over.
  4. Lower expectations for your kids. They may not verbalize it in the same way, but kids (even teenagers!) are feeling the stress of this situation. Instead of getting frustrated and focusing on deadlines and outcomes, focus on supporting them, listening to them, and showing them where to go to find help with questions about their school work. Most schools have teachers that miss their students terribly and would love to be able to offer some guidance and assistance!
  5. Lower expectations for yourself. You may not be remodeling your bathroom, cleaning all your closets, or learning a new language, but if you’re keeping your family and yourself healthy and safe, you’re doing great! This isn’t an easy time, and nobody expects you to be superhuman.
  6. Limit your news intake and your exposure to social media. Check the updates once or twice a day and then let your mind focus on other things like enjoying your family or reconnecting with a friend. Don’t give in to the anxiety that makes you compulsively consume every news update and comment.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many resources out there, including mental health providers that are able to “meet” you and help you with remote visits via phone, video, or internet. Help is there for you!

Check out the following websites, which list lots of helpful tips and ways to find more help if you need it. Stay well!


Group Home Abuse

10-18-19    

A group home is defined by dictionary.com as a “home where a small number of unrelated people in need of care, support, or supervision can live together, such as those who are elderly or mentally ill.” Traditionally, a group home is a private residence with specific medical care for those with complex health needs, such as young children or seniors who cannot live with their families. Unfortunately, group homes are not often regulated, and many of the owners are more concerned with money than they are for their residents and the residents’ needs. Group homes are supposed to be a safe haven, but all too often, they are not.

Group homes are ideally supposed to provide a comfortable living environment for a small number of people with similar issues, whether that be elderly persons, developmental disabilities in young children, or people with chemical dependencies that needs support for daily living. The main difference is that these are not medical facilities, but group homes do have staff available to help residents with their daily needs for survival. Unfortunately, many smaller group homes that elderly and disabled persons find themselves living in have limited regulations through both the state and federal laws. Although they must be licensed and adhere to certain rules, because of the smaller size of many of these homes, many problems are often overlooked. In a smaller home, there may be a very small staff, which means that it is easy for abuse to happen and be overlooked.

living in a group home

Group homes can have owners or staff that become abusive to their residents, using their position of power within the home to abuse those that they are trained to care for. Some of the types of abuse that are most often seen in these homes are:

  • Physical—residents of group homes can be subjected to physical abuse such as being restrained or struck by a group home staff member.
  • Emotional—group home staff can be verbally abusive and controlling, causing worsening depression and mental illness among residents.
  • Sexual—sexual predators are drawn to working at group homes where victims are both easily accessible and vulnerable due to lack of supervision and disability.
  • Financial—Caregivers in group homes are easily able to steal checks, credit cards, and more from their residents.

Group homes have an overall goal of helping children and adults gain self-confidence, personal independence, and a better quality of life. A good group home would strive to meet these objectives every day, and there are truly compassionate caretakers at many group homes to look after strangers who have been through traumatic situations, and help those strangers begin to heal. However, there are many workers with ulterior motives who see these people in need as easy prey. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation are the three most common types of criminal incidents in group homes.

Caretakers in group homes who commit these atrocities often have incredibly low rates of prosecution. The Columbus Dispatch did a four-month investigation in 2015 that showed how many of the perpetrators of these crimes slip through the cracks. According to their research, 2,000 reports of sexual abuse were made over a five-year period, and only 25 percent of these reports were substantiated; when it came to physical abuse, over 8,600 reports were made, and only 30 percent of those were considered valid.

The Ohio State Bar Association also advises family members of those living in group homes to know the signs of abuse. If there are sudden changes in behavior, strange marks on his/her body, or anything noticeably different about your loved one, then it should be a red flag that something is going awry.

Rinehardt Law Firm proudly stands up for the rights of the victimized in Ohio. Abuse is becoming too common across the state of Ohio, and our firm uses all of our skills and experience to represent victims and bring them the justice that they deserve. If you or a loved one has been abused in a group home setting, contact the Columbus injury attorneys at Rinehardt Law Firm today.


Rinehardt Law Firm’s 3rd Annual ThanksGIVEaway

10-09-19    

Update: We have had an overwhelming response to our ThanksGIVEaway. We have increased the number of turkeys and trimmings to 150 Thanksgiving meals and have now reached our capacity.

For the third year, Rinehardt Law Firm is putting turkeys on tables for those families in our community who are facing adversity or hardship and need a helping hand. Thanksgiving is a time to gather around the table, share a special meal, and give thanks. Rinehardt Law Firm wants every family in our community to have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday without financial stress.

This year, Rinehardt Law Firm‘s ThanksGIVEaway will be held Friday, November 22, 2019 from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. at our Mansfield offices located at 2404 Park Ave. W. We will be giving away 125 turkeys and all the fixings for a great Thanksgiving dinner.

“We are blessed to be in a position to help the community—for us it is the ‘thanks’ in Thanksgiving,” says Attorney John Rinehardt. “Giving is the other half of the word. Putting turkeys on tables is very meaningful to the entire team here at Rinehardt Law Firm as our way to give back to the community at this family focused time of year.”

If you would like more information about the event or would like to join us in our effort, please contact Hillary Rinehardt at hillary@lawfirm2020.com or 419-LAW-2020.


Can a Car Crash Cause Tinnitus?

10-03-19    

male having ear pain touching his painful head isolated on gray backgroundTinnitus, originating from the Latin word ‘tinnire’ (‘to ring’), is a perception of sound in proximity to the head with the absence of an external source. It is usually described as buzzing, ringing, roaring, whistling or hissing. Tinnitus may be intermittent, pulsing or continuous, and is at best annoying, but more often is quite distressing. It is estimated that approximately 15–20% of the world population suffer from tinnitus. For about 25% of those affected, the condition interferes with daily activity, with 1–3% of cases severely affecting quality of life. Severe tinnitus is frequently associated with depression, anxiety and insomnia.

There are many causes of tinnitus, it commonly occurs as a result of head or neck trauma. In fact, 17% of all cases of tinnitus are associated with heal or neck injury.[1]

In a study at a tinnitus clinic, 297 out of 2400 patients reported that their tinnitus started within two weeks of a head or neck injury. The vast majority of these patients reported that tinnitus began immediately after or within 24 hours of their injury. 72% of the patients were male and 56% of the injuries occurred as a result of motor vehicle accidents.[2] The trauma patients also had significantly higher Tinnitus Severity Index scores.[3] Compared with other tinnitus patients at the clinic, trauma patients reported more problems sleeping, relaxing, concentrating, thinking clearly, and remembering things.[4]

In the study, almost all of the trauma patients experienced rapid, sometimes immediate, tinnitus onset by contrast with non-trauma patients.[5] The trauma patients in the study had experienced tinnitus, on average for 2.3 years before presenting to the clinic as opposed to non-trauma patients who, on average, experienced tinnitus for 6.9 years before presenting to the clinic.[6] The reason for this is that tinnitus of shorter duration (sudden onset) is often more severe than tinnitus that has been present for a longer time. Tinnitus in non-trauma patients is gradual onset allowing them to develop coping skills and strategies to improve sleep patterns and stress management.[7]

Tinnitus is associated with marked irritability, agitation, stress, depression, insomnia and interference with daily life.[8] There is no approved drug in the market that provides replicable, long term reduction of tinnitus impact in excess of placebo effects.[9] Current treatment strategy is aimed at controlling underlying disorders and suppressing the perception of tinnitus with the primary goal to improve quality of life rather than absolute cure. Unfortunately, there is no regimen that has shown complete efficacy.[10]

[1] Atik, Alp; Pathology and Treatment of Tinnitus: An Elsusive Disease; Indian J Otolayrngol Head Neck Surg (January 2014) 66(Supp 1): S1-S5; Attached hereto.
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] Id,
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Atik at S2.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.


Understaffing in Nursing Homes

09-24-19    

wheelchair in empty hallThe majority of nursing homes (both across Ohio and across the United States) have staffed fewer nurses and caretakers than what they have reported to the government, proving the long-held suspicions that nursing home staffing is incredibly inadequate across the nation.

According to recent federal data, there are frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing at nursing homes. On the lowest staffed days at an average facility, each staff member had to care for twice as many patients as s/he would care for on a fully staffed day. However, there are facilities that fall much below this line, leaving staff members to care for many times the number of patients than they are equipped.

This data came from daily payroll records that Medicare recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes. Previously, Medicare simply rated each facility’s staffing levels based on each home’s own unverified reports, leading to many homes reporting staffing as being far more adequate than what was reality. These payroll records provide strong evidence that the previous system for rating nursing homes—the five-star rating system—more than often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely identified the daily periods in which inadequate staffing was common.

Nearly 1.4 million people across the United States are cared for in nursing facilities. When nursing homes are short of staff, the nurses and aides are often found scrambling to deliver meals, help residents carry out daily tasks, and answer calls for medication. Essential tasks in a nursing home can be overlooked when the staff is overburdened, which can lead to injuries and hospitalizations that could have been avoided with a proper staff.

In addition to this, in a desperate search for staff in order to meet standards for Medicare’s new reports, homes often find themselves hiring underqualified and undertrained staff. These staff members, untrained and unqualified as nurses and aides, can harm the nursing home patients more than help them. While Medicare does not set a minimum resident-to-staff ratio, it does require the presence of a registered nurse (RN) for eight hours per day, and a licensed nurse (LN) on the home’s property at all times. However, this could lead to one nurse (either RN or LN) becoming responsible for up to dozens of patients at a time.

However, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that it is “concerned and taking steps to address fluctuations in staffing levels” that have emerged in new data. Recently, it said that it would lower ratings for homes that have gone more than seven days without a registered nurse in the home and on-the-clock.

In April, the federal government started using these daily payroll reports to calculate average staffing ratings in an attempt to put a stop to nursing homes “gaming the system” and covering when they were understaffed. These new records show that at least one day during the last three months of 2017, a quarter of nursing homes reported no registered nurse at work. Furthermore, out of the 14,000 homes that submitted daily payroll reports, 70 percent had lower staffing than they had reported with the previous method of self-reporting.

With all good things comes a downfall, and this new Medicare system is no different. Medicare still assigns stars (on a five-star system) by comparing homes to each other, rather than to a set scale, which leads to a curved grading system. As a result, a vast number of homes have kept their star rating, despite acknowledging the decrease in staffing levels.

The staff members who work at nursing homes who are not trained nurses—namely, the nursing assistants—earn an average of $13.23 per hour. Nursing homes compete for these workers with each other, and with better paying employers such as hospitals and retailers. This leads to an incredibly high turnover rate for both nursing assistants as well as trained nurses. It seems to be a vicious cycle that never ends: understaffing leads to more responsibility for the remaining staff members, which leads to a high turnover rate, et cetera.

One resident at a nursing home claims that he would roam the halls in search for an aide who was not already bombarded with work, seeking assistance with putting on his shirt. He claims that it is “almost like a ghost town.” Obviously, this is unacceptable and if your loved one needs assistance, they should be able to get it. If you suspect that your loved one is not getting the care they need in a nursing home, the Columbus nursing home abuse attorneys of Rinehardt Law Firm are prepped to help you. Contact us at (419) 529-2020 for a free consultation.

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