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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysThe statistics regarding nursing home abuse and neglect are extremely disheartening. In one study, nearly 25 percent of nursing home residents reported that they had suffered one or more incidents of physical abuse at the hands of nursing home staff. In addition to physical abuse, residents may be mocked, internationally frightened, and otherwise emotionally abused. Financial abuse, also called elder financial exploitation, is also a problem in many nursing homes. Even if nursing home staff do not intentionally harm residents, understaffed facilities and lack of appropriate staff training can lead residents to be dangerously neglected.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you may be especially concerned about their safety during this tumultuous time. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize your loved one’s changes of experiencing nursing home neglect or abuse.

Research Nursing Home Facilities Thoroughly

Oftentimes, a nursing home facility will look perfect on the outside but is actually quite inadequate on the inside. If you are considering placing a loved one in a nursing home, make sure to thoroughly research your options. Simply reading a brochure will not tell you everything you need to know about the facility. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare issue ratings on the quality of nursing homes, but even these ratings may be skewed. The best way to find out about a nursing home facility is to visit the facility and talk to staff. If possible, it may also be a good idea to speak with other families with loved ones staying in the nursing home.

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Chicago nursing home injury attorneyThe majority of nursing home residents have physical and mental disabilities that affect their ability to live independently. Residents may be living in the facility primarily because they need help using the bathroom, showering, eating, and completing other daily living tasks. Nursing home staff members have a responsibility to evaluate the degree of assistance residents need to complete these tasks and to adequately provide the level of care needed. Because many residents have health conditions that affect their ability to eat, nursing home staff should be especially aware of choking risks. When nursing home staff do not take the steps necessary to prevent residents from choking, the facility could be held legally responsible for residents who are injured or killed in choking accidents.

Staff Have a Legal Duty to Monitor Residents

One of the biggest responsibilities nursing home staff have is to supervise residents so that they do not put themselves in dangerous situations. What constitutes a dangerous situation may vary depending on the resident’s individual needs. For example, a resident with advanced dementia may need to be more closely monitored than a resident who does not have significant cognitive impairment.

When a new resident is admitted to a nursing home, he or she undergoes assessments in order to determine the type and extent of care he or she needs. If a resident has health problems such as dysphagia that put him or her at a higher risk of choking, staff should take steps to mitigate this risk as much as possible. This may include monitoring the resident during meals, modifying the patient’s diet so that it only includes easy-to-swallow food, or other precautions. Nursing home staff should also periodically re-assess residents in order to determine if the residents need additional care and attention.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysWhen most people consider nursing home neglect and abuse, they think of abuse and mistreatment at the hands of nursing home staff. However, this is not the only way that nursing home residents can be subject to verbal and physical harm. Sometimes, a nursing home resident can suffer severe maltreatment at the hands of another resident. Nursing home staff have a responsibility to supervise residents – especially residents who have a history of violent behavior. When a nursing home resident injures another resident, it is possible that the nursing home facility will be liable for the injuries.

Keeping Residents Safe From Other Residents

Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and other neurological conditions are common in nursing home residents. These diseases can make a resident confused and frightened. A resident who is typically a kind, nonviolent person may lash out at another resident in his or her confusion. Nursing home staff should carefully monitor residents and take every step possible to avoid resident confrontations. When nursing home staff fail to uphold their duty to properly supervise residents and a resident is harmed as a result, the staff or facility may be legally responsible for the damages caused.  The injured resident may be entitled to financial compensation for medical expenses incurred by the attack as well as compensation for physical pain and mental suffering.

Nursing Home Resident’s Death Ruled Homicide

Just recently, a 45-year-old man living in an Ohio nursing home died due to the shocking actions of another resident. The coroner has reported that the man’s death was caused by asphyxiation by smothering or strangulation. Another resident has been arrested on a preliminary murder charge for the man’s death.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home residents have a number of rights that are afforded to them by the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, as well as other state and federal legislation. Nursing home staff members have both an ethical and a legal responsibility to treat nursing home residents with respect and to provide satisfactory medical care. Another provision contained in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is that nursing home residents should be free from “unreasonable restraint.” This includes both physical restraints and chemical restraints. If your loved one has been restrained through the use of unnecessary medication, he or she may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

When Can Restraints Be Used on a Nursing Home Resident?

Individuals living in a nursing home deserve to have as high a quality of life as possible. Their movements should never be restricted unless it is absolutely necessary. Both physical restraints like limb ties and chemical restraints like sedating medication should only be used if needed to protect the immediate safety of the resident. According to the law, nursing home residents should only be given medication such as antipsychotics and benzodiazepines if a medical condition necessitates it and the medication is prescribed by a physician. Unfortunately, many nursing homes administer sedating medications to residents who do not even have the condition the medication treats. They often do this in order to keep the residents docile and less likely to wander around.

Dangers of Giving Residents Unneeded Medication

Not only is it cruel to give nursing home residents sedating medication they do not need but it also puts the residents’ lives at risk. Antipsychotic medications are designed to treat mental conditions like schizophrenia but they also have a strong sedative effect. Nursing home staff frequently administer antipsychotic medications to residents to keep them sedated. Alarmingly, antipsychotic medications carry a “black box warning” which is the most serious type of warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The warning specifically cautions against administering antipsychotic medicine to elderly patients or those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs have been associated with an increased of risk among these groups.

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Illinois nursing home injury attorneysFor a young, healthy person, falling down may only leave him or her with minor bruises. However, the older we get, the more serious falling is to our health. Nursing home residents are typically elderly or have disabilities that make them especially susceptible to injures during a fall. A fall that would only cause moderate pain in a 20-year-old could easily break the bones of an 80-year-old. When a nursing home resident experiences a preventable fall injury, it may be the nursing home staff who are to blame.

Falling Is a Major Concern in Nursing Homes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1,800 residents lose their lives due to complications from nursing home falls each year. Falling can result in lacerations, broken bones, internal organ damage, traumatic brain injuries, and more. Even if a nursing home resident survives a bad fall, he or she can be left with terrible pain that significantly reduces his or her quality of life. Due to the frailty of nursing home residents, nursing home staff have an obligation to do everything possible to prevent fall injuries. Sadly, some nursing home workers do not take this obligation as seriously as they should.  

Determining Fault in a Nursing Home Fall Accident

Understandably, nursing homes cannot prevent every injury that occurs in a nursing home. However, the staff, owners, and managers of nursing home facilities do have a responsibility to reduce problems that can lead to residents falling. Objects that present a tripping hazard should not be left in hallways or residents’ rooms. Loose rugs should be taped down. Broken floorboards or other maintenance issues should be fixed swiftly and residents should not be allowed near the hazard until it is thoroughly resolved. If a liquid is spilled on the floor, it should be cleaned up immediately. Furthermore, safety aids like handrails, nonslip mats, and bathroom handles should be used throughout the facility.

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Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect attorneysNursing home residents are often very frail and vulnerable. They may have severe physical handicaps or cognitive issues like dementia that leave them unable to care for themselves. These residents rely on nursing home staff for medical care as well as help them with daily living tasks like eating and showering.

You probably already know that nursing home workers have an ethical obligation to adequately fulfil their work duties and treat residents with compassion and respect. However, you may not realize that they also have a legal obligation to provide nursing home residents with quality care. There are several pieces of federal and state legislation that prohibit mistreatment of nursing home residents. One of the most important pieces of nursing home legislation in Illinois is the state’s Nursing Home Care Act.

Rights Afforded to Residents in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act

The Nursing Home Care Act was adopted in Illinois after many people became concerned about the substandard level of care some nursing home residents were receiving. There were also reports of residents being severely mistreated and even abused. One of the most important components of Nursing Home Care Act is the residents’ “bill of rights.” These rights include:

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysTragically, news stories involving nursing home abuse and neglect are not uncommon. It seems as if every week, there is another article describing the way nursing home staff mistreat the vulnerable residents in their care. According to one survey, a shocking 44 percent of nursing home residents reported that they had been abused at their facilities and 95 percent said that they had experienced neglect or seen other residents neglected. Even more disturbing, in another survey conducted of nursing home workers, more than 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to neglecting or abusing residents within the prior year.

Staff members who neglect, mistreat, or abuse residents should be held accountable for their actions. If your loved one has suffered at the hands of nursing home staff, one way to hold the negligent party accountable is through a personal injury lawsuit.

Bedsores Must Be Treated Immediately

Decubitus ulcers, or bedsores, are painful wounds caused by unrelenting pressure on the skin. The first sign of a bedsore is often a red or purple discoloration on an area of the body which is exposed to long periods of pressure. If nursing home staff see evidence that a bedsore is developing, they should take immediate action to relieve pressure and watch for signs the wound is worsening. Bedsores that are not treated lead to open wounds which can quickly become extreme painful and dangerously infected. If the infection is not treated soon enough, it can spread to the blood or vital organs and cause death.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysWhen most think of nursing home neglect and abuse, they think of a resident who is being mistreated physically or emotionally. However, these are not the only types of abuse to which nursing home residents are vulnerable. Financial abuse or exploitation of individuals staying in a nursing home is sadly common. Nursing home residents, especially those who have cognitive issues caused by age or illness, can be easily taken advantage of by ill-meaning nursing home staff. If your loved one has suffered from financial exploitation in a nursing home facility, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to learn about your legal options.

How Common is Financial Exploitation Among Elderly and Disabled Individuals?

Unfortunately, elderly people and those with mental and physical disabilities are often targets for financial exploitation. Anyone involved in the victim’s life may be a perpetrator of financial abuse including family members, caretakers, and even doctors and nurses. Elder financial abuse is more common than many people realize. According to a report from the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 elderly adults have experienced some type of financial exploitation in the previous year. Adults who need help with daily living tasks like eating and bathing and those who have cognitive impairments are the most likely to be financially manipulated.

Examples of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Even nursing home staff such as nurses and nurses’ aids can be perpetrators of financial abuse against vulnerable residents. A nursing home that is experiencing financial distress may overbill residents or bill them for services that the resident did not actually receive. Nursing home staff may deceive residents for personal gain by

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysWhen a person has been able to move about freely his or her whole adult life, it can be extremely difficult to lose that independence after being admitted into a nursing home. Nursing home residents may wander around the nursing home and get into very dangerous situations. A resident who wanders to an unsupervised area of the nursing home could slip and fall, wander into kitchens containing hot stoves, be exposed to hazardous cleaning chemicals, and more. When a resident actually leaves the nursing home facility, this is called elopement. Some nursing home residents have been seriously injured or passed away after being exposed to the elements outside of a nursing home facility.

Residents with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Are Especially at Risk

A great deal of nursing home residents suffer from cognitive diseases that affect their ability to understand what is going on around them. A person with advanced dementia may not understand that he or she is living in a nursing home for his or her own safety. The resident may attempt to “escape” the nursing home facility and go home. A fragile resident who goes outside may become lost or severely injured before nursing home staff even know they are gone.

There are many ways in which a wandering or eloping nursing home patient could be injured. He or she could slip and fall, or the resident could fall down unsecured stairs. If the resident leaves the facility, he or she could be hit by a car or become victim of a crime. Any of these injuries could leave the home itself liable for damages.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a family member or a loved one residing in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, you may have concerns about how he or she is being treated by the facility’s staff. Is your loved one getting enough food and water? Are medications being given at the right times and in the right dosages? Are staff members kind and caring? To allay such concerns, many families have installed surveillance cameras—sometimes called “granny cams”—in the rooms of their loved ones in nursing homes. Unfortunately, not everyone likes what the cameras show, as was the case for a North Carolina woman late last summer.

Surprising Footage

According to local news outlets, the woman installed a hidden camera inside a picture frame and placed the frame on a countertop in her mother’s room at a Cherryville, NC, nursing facility this past August. The woman was concerned that her mother was not being fed properly or checked in on often enough. Her mother is reportedly blind and has Alzheimer’s disease.

The woman, however, said she got the surprise of her life less than 24 hours after installing the camera. She said that footage revealed a nursing assistant yelling at her mother while changing her mother’s clothes. The assistant also reportedly moved the resident “violently” across the bed while changing her. The next day, the camera captured a similar incident involving a different employee.  

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home neglect and abuse are sadly common in many nursing homes across the United States. Nursing homes are often badly understaffed or employ staff members who have not been properly trained for their job duties. Even worse, some nursing home staff intentionally take their frustrations out on residents. Many of these residents have physical and mental health problems that leave them unable to stand up for themselves. Residents instead must depend on concerned loved ones to advocate on their behalf.

Threatening or Intentionally Scaring Residents

Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and other illness that affect an individual’s ability to understand what is going on around them are prevalent in nursing homes. Unfortunately, these illnesses can turn a mild mannered, sweet grandmother or grandfather into someone who is hostile or downright mean. Properly trained staff members should know that when a resident with mental decline is rude or uncooperative, it is the illness speaking and such behavior is not reflective of the resident’s true nature. However, some nursing home workers instead respond combatively to residents who are simply afraid or confused. Threatening, intimidating, or yelling at a nursing home resident is just one example of unacceptable nursing home abuse.  

Ridiculing or Mocking a Resident

Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Sadly, some nursing home staff use this as an opportunity to bully residents instead of offering the compassionate care they should. In December 2018, a Snapchat video surfaced that showed Illinois nursing home workers mocking a 91 year-old nursing home resident who suffers from dementia. The two staff members were arrested and a lawsuit was brought against the facility for violating both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Signs that a loved one is being emotionally abused can include significant changes in the resident’s demeanor, childlike behaviors such as thumb sucking or rocking back and forth, and staff members refusing to let you be alone with your loved one.

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Illinois nursing home medication mistakes attorneysA person would not be staying in a nursing home if he or she did not have physical or mental health issues that necessitate around-the-clock care. The majority of nursing home residents are on one or more medications in order to manage the symptoms caused by their health issues. When nursing home staff fail to give residents their medications on time or in the correct dosages, serious complications can result. In some cases, medication errors can even result in a resident’s death. If your loved one has suffered because a negligent nursing home facility failed to properly administer medication, you may have a valid personal injury claim.

Medication Mistakes Can Seriously Harm vulnerable Nursing Home Residents

While some minor medication errors may not cause the resident harm, other medication mistakes can cause severe damage. There are federal regulations that prohibit nursing home staff from making serious medication errors. Some of the most concerning nursing home medication-related mistakes include:

  • Giving the resident the wrong medication or mixing up two residents’ medications
  • Improperly administering the medication
  • Giving the resident medicine that is expired or spoiled
  • Administering too much or too little of a medication
  • Prescribing the wrong medication for the resident’s health concern

Why Do Medication Mistakes Occur?

A great deal of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are understaffed. One recent study showed that a deplorable 75 percent of nursing homes do not have enough registered nurses. Working at a nursing home can be grueling work and many nursing home staff are compensated very little for their time and effort. Unfortunately, this means that many facilities have trouble maintaining enough staff to care for residents’ needs. However, this is not an excuse for a nursing home to provide substandard care. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act obliges long-term care facilities to provide adequate medical treatment to residents. When a nursing home fails to uphold its duty to properly care for a resident, the facility may be legally responsible for the damages that result.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysA large number of nursing home residents cannot move around without help. They may be confined to a bed or wheelchair for long periods of time and unable to shift their weight to different parts of their bodies. When a body part experiences persistent pressure, pressure ulcers, also called bed sores, can develop. Nurses, nursing aids, and other nursing home staff members should take special precautions to prevent the development of bed sores in their patients. Unfortunately, some nursing home workers are not as vigilant about bed sores as they should be. When nursing home staff fail to follow procedures for stopping the development bed sores, it is the residents who end up suffering. Frequent bed sores may be a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse.

How Do Bed Sores Develop?

Decubitus ulcers, more commonly known as bed sores, are caused by prolonged periods of pressure on the skin. Bed sores often develop on a resident’s tailbone, hips, buttocks, shoulder blades, spine, backs of arms and legs, ankles, and heels. The first warning signals that bed sore is developing include changes in the resident’s skin color, temperature, texture, swelling, and tenderness. If these warning signs are present and nursing home staff do not reposition the resident to relieve the pressure to the affected areas, the bed sores will worsen. Untreated, bed sores can become deep, open wounds that are extremely painful and prone to infection.

Nursing Home Staff Have a Duty to Prevent and Treat Bed Sores

Patients who cannot advocate for themselves are at an especially high risk for bed sores. Many nursing home residents have cognitive issues such as dementia that leave them unable to effectively communicate. Nursing home staff should pay special attention to these residents and be watchful for signs of bed sores. They should be repositioning the residents at regular intervals, routinely checking for signs that a bed sore is developing, using pressure relieving devices such as special cushions, and ensuring that the resident is getting adequate water and nutrition.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysThe majority of people living in a nursing home must stay there because they have mental and/or physical ailments that make it impossible for them to live alone. Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other illnesses that affect cognition are especially common in nursing home resident. These illnesses can sometimes cause a nursing home patient to become extremely confused or hostile.

In some cases, a resident may believe that nursing home staff or other residents are trying to hurt them so they act out aggressively. In order to keep residents from harming themselves, other residents, or nursing home staff, physical restraints are sometimes used. However, excessively using physical restraints to confine a nursing home resident can constitute nursing home abuse.

Common Types of Physical Restraints

Restraints are anything that restricts the movement of a nursing home resident. Examples of physical restraints include:

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysAround the beginning of 2019, various news outlets reported on the horrific story out of Phoenix, Arizona, where a disabled nursing home patient had surprisingly given birth. The woman was allegedly raped by a licensed practical nurse who worked at the facility. The former nurse pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult, and he is currently awaiting trial.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is not terribly uncommon in nursing homes around the United States. However, the perpetrators are not always employees or staff members. In some cases, residents have been sexually assaulted and abused by other residents of the home. When sexual assault is committed by another resident, criminal charges are possible, and the victim could seek compensation from the home itself for negligent supervision.

Florida Nursing Home Patient Arrested and Charged

According to a report by Florida Today, a female resident of a Palm Bay nursing facility was sexually assaulted by another resident in September. The woman was allegedly sleeping when she woke to find a 65-year-old male resident touching her inappropriately. She reportedly pulled the cord near her bed to let the home’s staff know that she needed help. When staff members entered the room, the man was still in the room and groping the female patient, arrest records indicate.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_choking-swallowing-danger-nursing-home.jpgFor those who live in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, swallowing food is often difficult. There are many different conditions that could affect a person’s ability to swallow, including neurological disorders, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Simply getting older can also wear down the muscles and nerves of the throat, making it hard for some elderly patients to swallow normally. Issues with swallowing dramatically increase the risk of choking, which means that nursing homes must take precautions to protect at-risk patients.

Not Just an Accident

For a healthy person, an incident of choking is usually just an accident. A piece of food may “go down the wrong way” or a person might be talking or doing something else while eating, which could lead to choking. For a resident of a nursing home, it is possible for a choking event to occur as an accident, but many cases are caused by a lack of proper monitoring. In short, the facility staff should have taken steps to prevent the resident from choking but failed to do so.

The Duty of the Nursing Home

Upon admission to a nursing facility, a new resident must undergo a series of assessments so that the staff understands the resident’s condition, along with his or her needs. The results of these assessments are used to create a care plan customized to address the resident’s specific risk factors.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysThe Illinois State Police estimates that more 100,000 elderly individuals currently live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities throughout the state. This figure is expected to increase in the years ahead as Americans are generally living longer than they did in previous generations. In fact, a recent study found more than half of American adults will stay in a nursing home at least once during their lives.

A person who requires the type of care that is offered by a nursing home or skilled nursing facility should be able to receive that care without having to fear that will be forgotten about or mistreated by the facility’s staff. Unfortunately, instances of neglect are far too common in nursing homes around the country, including in the greater the Chicago area.

Patients Often Show Signs of Neglect

A recent post discussed some of the things associated with a nursing facility that might raise concerns that neglect is occurring within its walls. Indicators of understaffing or a lack of motivation on the part of staff members should encourage you to check in with your loved one to ensure that he or she is receiving the proper care and attention.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_wheelchair-broken-down-neglect.jpgIf you have a loved one in nursing home, deciding which facility to use was probably not an easy decision. While you might have struggled to find a place that was affordable that worked with your loved one’s insurance coverage, you were also likely concerned about the quality of the care offered by the home. After all, you have the right to expect that your loved one will receive proper care, as well to be treated with dignity and respect.

Sadly, such is not always the case for nursing home patients. On almost a weekly basis, it seems, there is another story making headlines about patients who were abused or mistreated by staff members or other patients. While nursing home abuse is certainly horrific, the issue of neglect in nursing homes is equally troubling and much more common. Abuse, in this context, refers to active mistreatment or intentional behaviors directed toward a patient, while neglect refers to patients not receiving proper care of attention.

What to Look For

Experts say that, in most cases of nursing home neglect, many warning signs exist, and anyone who pays close enough attention should be able to see them. Many such signs involve the patients, of course, but the facility itself may also have its share of red flags, including:

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Illinois nursing home attorneysThose who work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are tasked with keeping residents safe and comfortable. When a family makes the difficult decision to place a loved one in such a facility, they do so under the assumption that the home’s staff will provide appropriate medical care while looking after their loved one’s needs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

In many nursing homes, staffing levels are alarmingly low, and training is often inadequate. These issues lead to serious problems, including the improper use of medication as chemical restraints.

A Scary Report

Last year, the watchdog group Human Rights Watch released a report that examined the prescribing of medications to nursing home residents. The report estimated that each week, approximately 179,000 residents of nursing homes are given antipsychotic medications despite not having conditions for which the drugs are approved. Antipsychotics, including olanzapine, aripiprazole, and quetiapine, are intended to manage psychosis in patients who suffer from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or severe disassociation from reality. In most cases, such patients have been diagnosed with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysA person may come to reside in a nursing home, rehabilitation hospital, or assisted living facility for a wide variety of reasons. He or she might need care on a temporary basis while recovering from a serious injury, illness, or surgical procedure. Alternatively, the person might need to live in a nursing home for the rest of his or her life.

Many residents in nursing homes are afflicted with conditions that require care and supervision 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, patients suffering from cognitive deficiencies such as those caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease often struggle to remember to eat and drink on their own. Such residents can quickly become malnourished or dehydrated if the staff does not pay proper attention. If your loved one is currently living in a nursing home, it is important to look for signs that he or she is not getting appropriate food and water.

Dehydration Warning Signs

According to most medical experts, the majority of Americans are at least partially dehydrated, despite virtually unlimited access to clean water. For the average person, however, it is relatively easy to get a glass of water when he or she is thirsty. This is not always the case for the resident of a nursing home. In many cases, nursing home patients might barely even register feelings of thirst. For those that do, getting a glass of water is difficult, if not impossible, due to physical limitations. Thus, they rely on staff members and orderlies to provide them opportunities to get a drink.

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