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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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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have not seen the 1999 film Fight Club, you have probably at least heard about the rules of Fight Club. According to the movie, “The first rule of Fight Club is, ‘You do not talk about Fight Club.’ The second rule of Fight Club is, ‘YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.’” In the film, the Fight Club in question was a brutal, underground association of men from all walks of life who voluntarily engaged in semi-organized physical fights with one another as a violent form of cathartic release.

 

Today, two decades later, people still reference the movie and the idea of a fight club, but it is rarely discussed as a real thing. For elderly residents of a North Carolina assisted-living facility, however, the idea of a type of fight club was all too real, according to horrifying reports. Three staff members are currently facing criminal charges for encouraging dementia patients at the home to fight one another and posting the videos of the fights on social media.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a loved one who is living in a nursing home, you probably do not get to visit him or her as often as you would like. In your absence, of course, you have the right to expect the facility to provide quality care for your loved one and to treat him or her with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, nursing home residents do not always receive the care and ethical treatment that they deserve.

Horror stories from long-term care facilities across the country have left the family members of nursing home residents wondering what they can do to protect their loved ones. For some families in Illinois, the answer could be a monitoring device commonly referred to as a “granny cam.”

What Are Granny Cams?

In 2016, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure to explicitly permit nursing home residents or their family members to install surveillance devices, including audio and video recorders, in the residents’ rooms. Nursing homes are not obligated to provide the devices or any related services, such as wireless internet access, but facilities cannot prevent the installation or monitoring of such devices.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneyIt is not uncommon for workers in certain professions, unfortunately, to develop drug habits. Those who work long hours under immense stress—such as line cooks and truck drivers—may turn to illicit substances such as amphetamines and cocaine to give them the “boost” they need. Sadly, workers in the field of health care are not immune to such issues. In fact, according to the Journal of Clinical Nursing, nearly one in five nurses struggle with an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

In any nursing home, therefore, there is likely to be at least one or two staff members who use or abuse illegal drugs. Unfortunately, however, illicit drug use is not always limited to staff members, and nursing home in Connecticut was recently fined after several residents were found to cocaine in their systems.  

A Pattern of Problems

Earlier this week, news outlets reported that the Connecticut Department of Public Health had issued a fine to a skilled nursing facility in New Haven over several incidents between April 30 and May 18, 2018. According to the reports, at least four of the home’s residents tested positive for cocaine.

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneysEvery few weeks, there seems to be another sad story about an incident of abuse or neglect of a nursing home resident somewhere in the United States. All such stories are troubling, but some are downright terrifying, especially if you have a loved one living in a nursing home. Perhaps even more disturbing is the estimate that only about one in 14 cases of elder abuse—which includes nursing home neglect and abuse—are ever reported.

The good news is that it is possible to prevent your loved one from suffering the ill effects of abuse or neglect while living in a nursing home. Doing so will take some preparation, however, and careful attention to detail.

Be Educated

The most important thing you can do to protect your loved one from nursing home abuse or neglect is to do your homework on the facilities that you are considering for him or her. “Your homework” should be more than quick Google search or the cursory skimming of a brochure. Even relying on the familiar “star-rating” is not enough. In recent years, both Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs have had to restructure their star-based rating systems, which means that you might not be able to trust a “perfect” five-star score.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_nursing-home-woman-sad-neglect-abuse.jpgWhen a loved one requires the type of care that is only available in a nursing home or similar long-term care facilities, it is understandable for you to trust that he or she will be properly cared for. Nursing facilities, after all, employ trained medical professionals and other staff members whose primary responsibilities are to address the needs of the patients under their care. Sadly, many nursing home patients do not receive the care they need. Many others are subjected to treatment that might even qualify as neglect or abuse. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, there are some things you can look for that might be potential indicators of abuse or neglect.

Many Residents, Many Concerns

There are more than 100,000 Illinois residents currently living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Illinois. The figure is expected to continue to grow, as recent estimates suggest that nearly half of Americans will require a nursing home stay at least once during their lives. Unfortunately, the high number of residents translates to a high number of patients who are likely to be abused or neglected, some of whom might suffer severe injuries or death as a result.

In order to best protect your loved ones, it is important that you visit regularly and look for any of the following signs of neglect:

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Illinois nursing home injury attorneysAs this post was being prepared for publication, Hurricane Dorian was making its way from the Florida coast up the eastern seaboard to the Carolinas. Current predictions expect the center of the storm to deflect away from land as it heads northeast, possibly bound for Nova Scotia by the weekend. While many people who live in the predicted path of the storm took or are taking action to keep themselves safe, those who reside in nursing homes are not able to do so. Instead, they must rely on the facility to continue providing care despite the fury of Mother Nature being displayed around them.

The Dangers of Natural Disasters

Hurricanes are not a problem for the residents of Northern Illinois, but our region is still susceptible to other types of natural disasters. For example, in an average year, more than 60 tornadoes are reported in Illinois, some of which cause significant damage and injuries. Illinois is also known for extreme winter weather, including blizzards and ice storms that can lead to long-lasting power outages and other problems. Regardless of the event in question, nursing homes still have the responsibility to continue providing care to their residents and keeping the residents as safe as possible under the circumstances.

Experts say that the most important thing that nursing home management can do regarding natural disasters is to have an established emergency plan in place. An emergency preparedness plan should, at the very least, include:

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Illinois nursing home injury attorneysDid you know that nearly two million people develop sepsis in the United States each year? While the condition can be treated successfully, more than 250,000 deaths are attributed to sepsis annually. That is more than the number of deaths caused by AIDS, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined!

Unfortunately, nursing home patients are considered to be at increased risk for sepsis compared to the average person. To understand why this is true, you must first understand a little more about the condition.

Sepsis Is Not an Infection

The first thing you should know about sepsis is that it is not an infection, nor is it a bacterium, virus, parasite, or any other type of pathogen. Instead, it is a response to an infection. Put simply, a person can only develop sepsis if he or she has some type of infection.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysWhen physical and mental conditions cause an individual to be unable to live on their own or care for themselves, they may require the round-the-clock care nursing homes offer. Placing a loved one in a nursing home, assisted living home, or other long-term care facility is one of the hardest decisions a family can make. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you may wonder about your loved one’s quality of life, how their health issues are being addressed, and whether or not staff are treating your loved one with the respect he or she deserves.

While many nursing home workers are compassionate and competent, tragically, some nursing home staff are negligent or even abusive towards residents. In one recent Snapchat video, nursing home staff are seen openly mocking a resident and shoving a nightgown in her face. The family of the elderly resident is suing the facility at which the alleged abuse occurred for more than $1 million.

Family Alleges Nursing Home Staff Taunted and Frightened 91-Year-Old Resident

We expect nurses, nurse’s aides, assistants, and caregivers to treat nursing home residents with compassion and respect. Not only is this the ethical and humane way to treat the sick and elderly, it is also required by law. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act describes the rights which nursing home residents must be afforded as well as the responsibilities that nursing home staff have to residents.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_broken-bones-nursing-home-elderly.jpgIf you have a loved one in a nursing home, you probably spend a lot of time worrying about him or her. You may worry about your loved ones medical conditions, the quality of care that they are receiving at the nursing home, how staff are treating your loved one, and the risk of injury. Nursing home residents almost always have physical issues which make them more likely to trip, fall, or otherwise injure themselves. Sometimes, a nursing home resident sustains a broken bone or fracture simply due to bad luck. However, frequent injuries, broken bones which are not promptly addressed by staff, or broken bones which do not heal properly can all be signs that your loved one may be experiencing nursing home abuse or neglect.

Causes of Broken Bones in Nursing Homes

Many residents have medical issues which make them more likely to become injured. The most common cause of nursing home injuries, including fractures and broken bones, is falling. Nursing home residents over age 65 are four times more likely to die after falling as compared to elderly individuals who live who do not live in a nursing home. A fall can be caused by environmental hazards like poor lighting, walkway obstacles, slippery floors, and loose rugs. When unchecked hazards such as these cause a resident to fall and be injured, the nursing home facility may be held legally responsible for the injuries the resident sustained. A resident can also suffer a broken bone when staff make mistakes while transferring the resident in and out of bed or their wheelchair. Sadly, another cause of nursing home broken bones and fractures is intentional physical abuse.

Seeking Compensation for Mistreatment

Nursing home staff have a legal obligation to provide a certain level of competent care to residents. Although staff cannot prevent every injury-causing accident from occurring, some injuries are avoidable. When nursing home staff fail to uphold their duty of care to their residents, they can be considered negligent. If nursing home negligence caused your loved one to suffer a broken bone or other injury, you may be able to hold the nursing home accountable for their wrongdoing through a personal injury lawsuit. You may be able to receive compensation for things like medical bills, physical therapy, prescription medication costs, pain and suffering, and more.

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Chicago nursing home injury attorneysNews stories involving nursing home abuse and neglect are tragically frequent occurrences in the United States. In many such stories, residents and their families are suing nursing homes which provide poor care, or even worse, subject innocent nursing home residents to abuse and purposeful mistreatment. At the heart of many nursing home abuse and neglect cases are problems with nursing home staff. Many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are understaffed or employ staff who are not adequately trained. When staffing issues plague a nursing home, it is often the residents who end up suffering.

Understaffed Nursing Homes Put Residents at Increased Risk of Medical Complications

You may have previously heard about staffing issues at nursing homes, but few recognize how serious the problem really is. According to one report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, an incredible 90 percent of U.S. nursing homes are understaffed. Residents in facilities which do not have enough nurses, nurses’ aides, or other staff members are more likely to suffer from many preventable maladies including bedsores, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, and pneumonia.

Often, nursing home staff are simply too overworked to notice when the residents entrusted to their care need medical attention. In one survey, nearly half of the nurses who responded admitted to missing the signs of worsening patient condition due to their high workload. Lack of supervision caused by understaffing is also a major cause of resident wandering and elopement.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysAs with hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities which treat a large number of patients per day, one of the biggest concerns for nursing home residents is the risk of infection. Many nursing home residents already have weakened immune systems due to other health issues, so a bacterial infection can quickly become an immediate medical emergency. Frequently occurring infections or infections which are not property treated can be a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse.

Frequent Infections Could Be a Sign Your Loved One is Not Receiving Proper Care

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, the most frequent type of infection occurring in nursing homes is skin infection. Pressure ulcers or bedsores are a major issue for many nursing home residents. When an able-bodied person lays in a bed or sits in a chair, they are able to frequently shift their weight and avoid putting extensive pressure on certain body parts. However, a person with limited mobility cannot make such adjustments. Nursing home staff have an obligation to help residents avoid bedsores by frequently repositioning them. When bedsores are not treated, several life-threatening conditions can occur including cellulitis, septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, and even sepsis. 

Untreated Urinary Tract Infections Can Be Extremely Dangerous for Sick and Elderly

Another common cause of infection in nursing homes is the use of urinary catheters. Nursing home residents frequently have medical conditions which make it nearly impossible for them to use the bathroom. In some situations, a catheter is required to help a resident relieve themselves. Unfortunately, the use of urinary catheters greatly increases the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract and causing a bladder or kidney infection.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysMost people would agree that nursing home staff have a challenging job. While many nursing home residents are kind, cooperative, and simply want to live their lives as comfortably as possible, sometimes physical and mental health issues cause nursing home residents to act obstinately or aggressively. In some cases, a resident may require sedation through the use of chemical restraints. However, restraining a resident through the use of medication should always be a last resort and should only be used when the resident is a danger to himself, herself, or others.

Sedating Residents with Medication is Regulated By Law

Nursing home staff should never use psychiatric medication to sedate a resident unless the situation absolutely requires it. Sadly, studies show that many nursing home employees are over-administering sedating medication to residents simply for their own convenience. Even worse, some nursing home staff have been caught using restraints as a form of punishment. Not only is this practice immoral, it is also in direct violation of several laws including the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

The Nursing Home Care Act clearly states that “Neither restraints nor confinements shall be employed for the purpose of punishment or for the convenience of any facility personnel.” Furthermore, physical and chemical restrains must only be used when ordered by a physician and the need for restraints must be documented in the resident’s clinical record.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a loved one who is currently living in a nursing home, you expect that the facility will provide a high level of care based on your loved one’s needs. Many nursing home residents, as you probably know, are already dealing with a wide range of physical, mental, or behavioral conditions that necessitate the around-the-clock care that nursing homes provide. For some residents, however, things are made even more difficult. Sadly, physical abuse is not unheard of in nursing homes, and such abuse can be extremely serious.

Physical Abuse by Staff Members

It is no secret that staffing is a problem in many nursing homes. Chronic understaffing has long been associated with significant drops in employee morale, as well as concerns regarding proper training and patient care protocols. In short, far too many nursing homes are left with staff members who are overworked, underpaid, and, often, ill-equipped to handle their patients. Unfortunately, some staff members take their frustrations out on their patients.

According to research compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse, more than 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to the mistreatment of their elderly patients. While two-thirds of these admissions reportedly involved neglect, this still means that about 17 percent admitted to physically mistreating patients under their care.

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Chicago nursing home injury lawyersIf you have placed a loved one in a rehabilitation facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home, you know how difficult this transition can be. You probably worried about how your loved one would adjust to living in a hospital-like environment or had concerns about the quality of care your loved one will receive. Unfortunately, these concerns are often justified. Nursing home neglect and abuse is an issue in long-term care facilities across the country. One major problem which nursing home neglect can lead to is dehydration.

Nursing Home Patients at Increased Risk for Dehydration

When a person without physical and/or mental disabilities gets thirsty, they can simply walk over to the faucet and pour themselves a glass of water. However, the same is not true for most nursing home patients. Many nursing home residents suffer from physical conditions which make it hard for them to care for themselves. Residents who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other health concerns which affect cognition may not be able to recognize when they are not drinking enough fluids.

Another reason dehydration is a major issue in nursing homes is because many residents take medications which make them urinate more often and become dehydrated more quickly. For example, diuretics are medications which increase the amount of water which is excreted from the body. If a nursing home resident is on these types of medications, nursing home staff should be extra vigilant for signs of dehydration. Nursing home staff who do not help residents maintain proper hydration can be held liable for damages caused by this neglect.  

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Cook County nursing home neglect and abuse lawyerSometimes, nursing home abuse and neglect goes unaddressed because residents and their families simply do not know what rights a nursing home resident has. Several federal and state laws were designed to prevent the mistreatment of nursing home residents and those staying in other long-term care facilities. The Nursing Home Care Act was created with the purpose of preventing elderly and disabled individuals from receiving substandard care in a nursing home.

This statute reinforces the rights that every Illinois citizen enjoys and confirms that nursing home patients cannot be denied any of these rights. Additionally, the Nursing Home Care Act establishes further instructions as to how nursing homes in Illinois are to operate and how nursing home staff must treat residents. If your elderly or ill loved one currently lives in an skilled nursing facility or a nursing home, read on to learn about his important piece of legislation. 

Defining Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Anyone staying in a nursing home has the right to be free from abuse or neglect. Abuse generally refers to intentionally harmful actions while neglect most often refers to negligence and carelessness. More specifically, the Nursing Home Care Act gives residents the right to:

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Illinois nursing home neglect injury attorneysMany nursing home residents have physical and/or mental disabilities which limit their mobility. Residents who are not able to move themselves or who spend long periods of time in a wheelchair or bed are especially prone to getting decubitus ulcers, more commonly called bed sores. These sores are also referred to as “pressure ulcers” because the painful wounds are caused by extensive pressure to one or more body parts.

Nursing home residents who have limited mobility must rely on nursing home staff to help them prevent bed sores. When a resident is frequently developing bed sores, it may be a sign that nursing home staff are not providing the care the resident needs and deserves.

Pressure Ulcers Can Quickly Become a Serious Medical Condition

When a person with normal mobility is lying in their bed or sitting in a chair, they are able to relieve pressure on their body by getting up and moving around or changing positions. Sadly, many nursing home residents do not have this ability. They may not have the physical strength to move themselves or they may suffer from a cognitive condition which prevents them from understanding that they should occasionally reposition themselves. Pressure ulcers are not only extremely painful, they can also develop into a dangerous or even deadly medical condition. Untreated bed sores can quickly become infected and lead to cellulitis, sepsis, or even death.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneyNursing home residents are often weakened by physical and cognitive illness. This can make them especially vulnerable to abuse. While many nursing home staff members are dedicated, caring individuals, others exploit this vulnerability and take advantage of nursing home residents. When someone lives in a nursing home, they have contact with numerous individuals including nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, nutrition specialists, activity aids, facility administrators, other nursing home residents, and visiting guests. Any of these individuals may attempt to manipulate nursing home residents for their own financial gain.

Nursing Home Financial Abuse

There are many different strategies that unscrupulous people use to illegally obtain money and property from nursing home residents. Sometimes, nursing home staff, other residents, or even guests to the nursing home steal property or money outright. Cash, credit cards, debit cards, checkbooks, or valuable property may be stolen from nursing home resident’s room – especially if the resident has a condition which makes him or her less aware of his or her surroundings.

Another very common form of nursing home resident or elder financial abuse is fraud. Individuals can trick residents into giving them money and property through several means. They may tell a fabricated story to the resident about why they need money, trick the resident into paying nonexistent fees or medical costs, or even convince the resident to include the fraudster’s name in financial accounts or estate planning documents. Some people invent made-up charities or other nonprofit organizations to trick residents into giving them money.  

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