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Schwartz Injury Law

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Recent blog posts

cook county nursing home lawyerStudies show that a tragic number of vulnerable adults are abused or neglected in nursing homes across the country, and that the longer someone stays in a nursing home, the likelier they are to face abuse or neglect. When stories of nursing home abuse make headlines regularly, those with loved ones in residential care facilities may be wondering how such a thing can continue to happen. 

Unfortunately, the answer lies in a problem that currently plagues a large portion of the U.S. economy and hits caregiving occupations particularly hard: difficulty recruiting and retaining quality staff. When nursing homes have a hard time hiring enough staff to properly care for their residents, they often resort to hiring subpar candidates, overlooking criminal backgrounds, questionable work histories, or a lack of appropriate qualifications. Sadly - although perhaps, predictably - inadequate staffing results in higher rates of abuse and neglect

What Should I Do if I Think My Parent is Being Abused in a Nursing Home? 

Vulnerable nursing home residents often struggle to communicate when something is wrong, and it is those patients who have the hardest time communicating who may be at the highest risk of abuse. Because you know your parent or loved one better than anyone else, it is important to stay as present in their life as possible so you can be aware when they suffer from an inexplicable change in condition. 

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Cook County Nursing Home Injury LawyerElderly and sickly residents of Illinois nursing homes are at an increased risk of many different illnesses and injuries. Because of an elderly body’s compromised immune system and slower healing times, injuries that would heal quickly for a younger person can cause serious damage and even lead to unexpected fatalities in nursing home residents. 

Some of these seemingly mild injuries that can become very serious are bone fractures. Because bone fractures are usually not as serious as outright breaks, they tend to get overlooked as a contributing factor to serious pain, loss of life quality, and increased risk of death. But it is important to take bone fractures in elderly nursing home residents seriously and to be aware of avoidable causes like nursing home neglect

Fractured Bones Can Be Caused When Unsupervised Residents Fall

While bones can fracture under many circumstances, the vast majority of bone fractures in elderly people happen when someone falls. Osteoporosis weakens bones and makes them more likely to break or fracture, making even mild falls potentially very serious. Reduced vision, balance, and energy all contribute to the likelihood of a resident falling. 

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Cook County Nursing Home Abuse LawyersNursing home residents are often elderly and physically frail, causing them to easily fall victim to diseases and illnesses which are non-threatening in otherwise healthy populations. Illinois nursing homes must meet a high standard of care to make sure that elderly residents are not subjected to conditions that could cause serious illness or death, and–if dangerous conditions are present in a nursing home–that residents are immediately treated. If your loved one has suffered or died from gastroenteritis or another serious infection, contact an Illinois nursing home neglect attorney right away. 

What is Gastroenteritis? 

Gastroenteritis is a serious condition caused by viral and bacterial infections that irritate the stomach and intestines and cause them to become inflamed. Nursing home residents are four times more likely to die from gastroenteritis and are generally infected after being exposed to another infected person or contaminated food or water. Symptoms of gastroenteritis include: 

Chicago Nursing Home Life-Threatening Injury LawyerWhen you made the decision to place your loved one in the care of an Illinois nursing home, you likely had no idea that the facility would do anything other than conform to the highest standard of care. Unfortunately, many nursing homes suffer from chronic issues of understaffing and poor training that can have a severe impact on the quality of the care that residents receive. 

One of the most traumatic things that can happen to a family is receiving a call informing them that their parent, grandparent, or other loved one has been seriously injured in an accident in a nursing home. While some of these accidents are the inevitable result of aging bodies that struggle with mobility, others are the result of inadequate supervision, a dangerous environment, and even sometimes a result of abuse and neglect at the hands of nursing home staff. If you have gotten news that your loved one has been seriously injured at a nursing home, it is important to get details about the incident as soon as possible. An experienced Illinois nursing home injury attorney can help. 

How Do Nursing Home Residents Sustain Serious Injuries? 

Nursing homes are not often thought of as hotbeds of risk and danger. Residents’ lives are typically routine and relaxed, filled with enrichment programming and other activities designed for elderly people with limited mobility or intellectual faculties. However, there are many ways serious injuries can occur in a nursing home. These include, but are not limited to: 

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Cook County Nursing Home Abuse LawyerPlacing a loved one in the care of a nursing home or residential care facility can be one of the toughest choices a family makes. Trusting in management and staff to give your loved one the care they need and deserve can feel like a risky gambit, especially when stories of understaffed nursing homes are so common. The last thing you want to worry about is whether the basic conditions at your loved one’s nursing home are sanitary and safe. Yet when a nursing home is struggling to meet staffing requirements, proper sanitation is often one of the first signs that your loved one is being neglected and needs to be given urgent attention. If you are worried about the cleanliness of your parent or grandparent’s nursing home, trust your instincts and find out whether it is time to take action. 

Unsanitary External Conditions May Be a Sign of More Serious Dangers

When you visit your loved one in their nursing home and notice things just do not seem to be clean, take note. Nursing home residents are often elderly and immunocompromised, which can mean that exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other diseases can quickly become dangerous. If common areas like kitchens and bathrooms seem dirty, residents’ equipment may be unclean as well. Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and catheters, requires regular cleaning and sanitizing. Without careful sanitization, residents can fall victim to: 

Cook County Nursing Home Neglect LawyerIllinois nursing homes are responsible for providing their patients with everyday care and support. From feeding and cleaning to comfortable rest and intellectual enrichment, patients are often completely dependent on the staff in residential care facilities to meet their needs. Sadly, nursing homes are often not as diligent about providing excellent staff as they should be, leading to neglect and even abuse. 

One of the first places nursing home neglect often appears is in residents’ dental care. Regular dental care requires daily attention to minute details. Symptoms of derelict dental care appear quickly, making it hard to fake quality dental care where there is none. Problems that start in the mouth rarely stay there; dental problems often snowball into further, more serious issues. Elderly people are at particular risk of contracting illness and disease through poor dental care. Here are some common oral health problems in nursing home residents without proper dental care. 

Common Health Problems From Poor Dental Care

There is a well-established link between oral health and other areas of physical health, and an unhealthy mouth is often correlated with an unhealthy body. This is because dirty teeth and gums are easy conduits for bacteria into the bloodstream. Poor dental care can cause major health problems, including: 

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Cook County Nursing Home Injury LawyerWhen a body becomes overwhelmed with an infection, it may kick the immune system into overdrive. Sometimes, this triggers a dangerous condition called “sepsis.” Sepsis is not an infection per se, but rather a full-body immune system response in which the body begins attacking its own tissues. This can rapidly lead to organ failure and death. 

Because of their vulnerable health and difficulty communicating, elderly residents of nursing homes are at increased risk of suffering from sepsis. Here are five conditions that can cause sepsis in an Illinois nursing home if proper treatment, supervision, or cleanliness is not observed. 

Bed Sores

When a patient lays in bed for too long, the pressure of their body weight on the contact points with the bed or chair can turn into bed sores. Nursing home staff are responsible for moving patients regularly and ensuring they do not develop these painful sores. If the sores do begin to develop, nursing home staff should catch them well before they become an open wound susceptible to infection.

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Cook County Nursing Home Restraint Injury LawyerNursing homes are required to provide a certain standard of care for residents under both state and federal law. The law prohibits nursing homes from using unreasonable physical, chemical, or emotional restraint methods simply because it is more convenient than providing real supportive care. Unfortunately, nursing homes are often understaffed and staff are often poorly trained or even abusive. It is essential to recognize signs of improper nursing home restraint methods so if your loved one is showing indications of improper restraint, you can take action right away. 

Physical Restraints 

Physical restraints may be the most common type of restraints because they are easy to use and readily available. Nursing home staff may restrain residents using legitimate restraint methods, such as ties, vests, or bedside rails, or makeshift restraints like belts, sheets, rope, or string. Physical restraints can cause serious injuries, including: 

Chicago Nursing Home Abuse LawyerEveryone knows that the human body requires water. However, few realize just how quickly dehydration can occur. When a person’s body is already weakened due to age or illness, appropriate hydration is essential. Consequently, nursing home residents are at an especially high risk of dehydration-related consequences. Staff must be extra vigilant for signs of dehydration. If a resident is dehydrated, action must be taken immediately to prevent serious medical complications or death.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Nursing Homes

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it consumes. Elderly individuals already have lower levels of hydration and many take medications that further lower the volume of water in their bodies. Nursing homes must carefully monitor the amount of water residents consume and look out for signs of dehydration such as:

Cook County Nursing Home Neglect LawyerAlthough it is common, diabetes is a very serious medical condition. Diabetes is especially dangerous in elderly people or those with co-occurring medical conditions. Individuals who experience cognitive decline from dementia and related illness are also at increased risk of severe diabetes complications. These individuals may not recognize the signs of dangerously high or low blood sugar or be able to express their concerns to others. This is why it is so important for nursing home staff to monitor diabetic residents and provide consistently high-quality medical care to these vulnerable individuals. Nursing home neglect can lead to severe diabetes-related injuries or death.

Residents with Diabetes Need to Be Closely Monitored

Diabetes affects blood glucose levels and is often managed using insulin shots. Because the consequences of poorly managed diabetes are so great for elderly and sick people, nursing homes must be vigilant. Staff should help diabetic residents maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevent hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Diabetes can differ greatly from one person to the next, so nursing homes should have a personalized plan for each diabetic resident. The staff should regularly monitor the resident’s blood sugars using a glucose meter. According to the Mayo Clinic, blood sugar levels should be tested multiple times a day, including between meals and before going to sleep.

Insulin injections can be used to regulate blood sugar. However, misuse of insulin is life-threatening. One elderly woman died after staff at a senior living center gave her four doses of insulin due to miscommunication between staff. The woman’s blood sugar was so low that it would not even register on the monitor. Her body could not survive the extremely low blood sugar and she passed away.

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Chicago Nursing Home Abuse AttorneyOne of the greatest challenges faced by any long-term care facility is managing the balance between residents’ safety and independence. The individuals living in a nursing home deserve to have the same freedoms as any other adult. However, their freedom is sometimes limited to ensure the residents’ wellbeing. This is an especially crucial issue for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other conditions affecting cognition.

A key responsibility of any nursing home is preventing wandering and elopement of residents. When residents are not monitored properly, they can roam into unsafe areas of the nursing home or even leave the premises entirely. Sadly, in some cases, wandering and elopement leads to catastrophic or fatal injuries.  

Injuries Caused by Lack of Supervision of Nursing Home Residents

Most nursing home residents are elderly adults who spent decades building families, careers, and lives outside of the facility before arriving at the nursing home. Losing some of their independence and being confined to a nursing home is difficult regardless of whether the resident suffers from cognitive decline. However, individuals with reduced cognitive abilities or memory loss may have an especially hard time adapting to life inside of a nursing home. Some try to escape the facility. Others wander around the facility and become lost. A nursing home resident who wanders into a kitchen, supply closet, or other hazardous area of the facility may be seriously injured or even killed. Injured residents may be left suffering in pain for hours before staff find them.

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Cook County Elder Abuse LawyerNursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Whether they suffer from physical disabilities, cognitive decline, or both, nursing home residents deserve to be protected. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are supposed to be safe places for elderly and disabled people to get the help and medical attention they need. Sadly, many nursing homes miss the mark.

One form of nursing home negligence that is rarely discussed is resident-on-resident abuse. Staff in a nursing home have a legal duty to supervise residents and protect them from foreseeable harm. This includes protecting nursing home residents from physical, mental, or sexual abuse at the hands of other residents.

When a Nursing Home Resident Injures Another Resident

Resident-on-resident abuse refers to abuse one nursing home resident inflicts on another. This type of abuse can happen for many different reasons. Sometimes, the abuser suffers from severe cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and does not even realize what he or she is doing. Other times, the abuse follows an altercation of some kind.

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Cook County Nursing Home Medication Error LawyerProviding medication to residents is a huge part of a nursing home’s responsibility. Elderly residents and those with serious medical issues rely on medications to manage pain and symptoms. For many, receiving their prescribed medications is the difference between life and death.

Medication errors can occur for many different reasons, but whatever the reasons, the impact can be catastrophic. Something as simple as mixing up two residents’ medications can lead to fatal consequences.

If your loved one passed away because of a medication mistake in a nursing home, you and your loved one deserve justice. The best way to hold the nursing home accountable may be to file a wrongful death claim against the facility.  

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Cook County Nursing Home Negligence LawyerThe degree of care and medical intervention nursing home residents need varies dramatically. Some residents are able to walk, talk, eat, and perform most functions with little assistance from staff. Others are completely immobile and require machines to keep them alive.

Breathing tubes are often used supply a resident with oxygen. The breathing tube is attached to a ventilator and serves as an artificial airway for people who cannot breathe on their own. Just like an obstruction in a throat, an obstruction in a breathing tube can prevent the resident from getting enough oxygen. Severe and fatal injuries can be caused by breathing tube clogs and other mistakes.   

Breathing Tube Injuries

Individuals in long-term care facilities may rely on breathing tubes and ventilators to live. It is essential that nursing home staff closely monitor residents who rely on breathing tubes because even a minor mishap can mean the difference between life and death. Negligent care at a nursing home may be caused by staffing shortages, poor staff training, or simply carelessness. When staff who do not promptly and adequately address breathing tube problems, the resident may suffer brain damage or death.

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Chicago Nursing Home Neglect AttorneyThe brain controls everything from movement to thought processes. When the brain is injured in a fall, the victim can suffer irreparable health consequences. Some are unable to survive the damage caused in a fall accident.

Nursing homes and the employees who work there have a duty to prevent falls whenever possible. Falling can be deadly for ill and elderly nursing home residents. If your loved one suffered a brain injury in a fall while living in a nursing home, you may be able to sue the nursing home.

Consequences of Brain Injuries Can Be Devastating

Most people living in a nursing home are older and suffer from multiple health aliments. This makes falling especially dangerous. The CDC reports that fatal fall accidents resulted in the deaths of 34,000 people over the age of 65 in the year 2019 alone. There were an astounding 3 million emergency room visits for elderly fall victims in the same year.

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Cook County Nursing Home Abuse LawyerAs anyone who has interacted with children can attest, children are bundles of energy. They love to run around and play. It seems like they never stop moving. As people age, they become less and less mobile. Many elderly people are confined to a wheelchair or their bed. They cannot move around or even shift their weight from one body part to another without help. Because being in one position for long periods of time can be very hard on the body and lead to bedsores, caregivers must regularly reposition elderly and sick individuals with low mobility.

Nursing home staff are expected to take the steps necessary to prevent bedsores in vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, some nursing homes neglect this crucial responsibility leading to painful, dangerous, and potentially deadly bedsores.

Pressure to the Skin Can Cause Wounds that Become Infected

When skin is under pressure for long periods of time, the skin is damaged and may even begin to die. This is called a bedsore or pressure ulcer. The best way to prevent bedsores is to avoid being in the same position for more than a couple of hours at most. Cushions and padding on wheelchairs can also help prevent bedsores.

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Chicago Nursing Home Negligence LawyerHip fractures are one of the worst outcomes of a fall accident. While any type of fracture can be painful, hip fractures are particularly incapacitating. Over 300,000 elderly people are hospitalized with hip fractures every year. Women suffering from osteoporosis are at the highest risk of hip fractures but anyone can suffer a broken hip in a fall.

Broken hips take a massive toll. Most sufferers require surgery and must endure long, painful recoveries. Studies show that the 12-year mortality rate doubles after a hip fracture.

Sadly, many hip fractures are preventable. Nursing home neglect, mistakes, and substandard care increase the risk of preventable fall accidents.

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Chicago Nursing Home Injury LawyerThe top priority of any nursing home should be to keep residents safe. Nursing home staff must carefully balance the need for safety and residents' desire to be independent. Many nursing home residents have cognitive illnesses that can make them a danger to themselves. For example, an elderly person with Alzheimer's may get confused and try to leave the facility. Elopement from the nursing home can be deadly, especially in high-traffic areas or extreme weather conditions. Consequently, doors to the outside may be locked and require a key card to go in and out. Illinois nursing homes may put certain limitations on residents. However, Illinois law makes it clear that unreasonable restraint of a nursing home resident is illegal.

Illinois Law on Nursing Home Restraint

There are times that a nursing home resident's independence may need to be limited. Residents with certain medical conditions can become confused or even violent, putting themselves, other residents, and the staff in danger. However, cognitive decline does not excuse unreasonable restraint. Nursing home staff are expected to ensure a resident's safety while also preserving their dignity.

Physical restraints are devices that restrict a resident's movement. Leg restraints, soft ties, hand mitts, and body vests are examples of physical restraints. Everyday objects may also be used as physical restraints. For example, staff may tuck in a resident's bed sheets so tightly that the resident cannot move or get out of bed.

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Cook County Nursing Home Neglect LawyerThe majority of people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities take one or more medications each day. They may need the medicine to mitigate pain, lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, or treat infections. When used correctly, medications can be lifesaving. When used incorrectly, medications have the potential to seriously injure or kill a nursing home resident.

Most Common Types of Medication Errors

It is no secret that many nursing homes are understaffed and underfunded. Many facilities do not have enough staff to provide residents the high-quality care and attention they deserve. Employees are often overworked, underpaid, and undertrained. Staffing issues like these increase the chances of medical mistakes.

Research shows that preventable adverse drug events are common in nursing homes. Approximately 16 – 27 percent of nursing home residents will be victims of medication mistakes according to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Frighteningly, studies show that the number of medication mistakes in nursing homes is increasing.

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Cook County Nursing  Home Abuse LawyerDementia affects over 55 million people across the globe. The illness causes reduced cognitive function, confusion, changes in personality, and altered mood. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 70 percent of dementia cases.

Individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease not only must deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of the illness, they are also at increased risk of abuse in a nursing home.

Abusers Target Nursing Home Residents Who Are Vulnerable

Taking care of sick and elderly residents in a nursing home takes a great deal of compassion and resiliency. It is not an easy job. Sadly, some people take these jobs for the wrong reasons. Individuals who hope to exploit or take advantage of vulnerable people may even seek out nursing home positions because it gives them access to individuals in poor mental and physical health. This is one reason that it is so essential for nursing homes to properly vet job applicants through background checks and references. Any nursing home resident can find himself or herself the victim of abuse or neglect. However, residents with cognitive decline caused by dementia may be less likely to report the mistreatment due to communication barriers and confusion.

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