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Schwartz Injury Law

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illinois nursing home neglect lawyerNeglect of nursing home residents is a common and serious problem in Illinois. Most of the incidents occur in the facilities where the residents live, perhaps because of issues like overcrowding or insufficient staffing or training. However, nursing home staff may also be responsible for the care and safety of residents while they are outside of the facility. If you or a loved one suffers an injury at any time while under the care of a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation.

Nursing Home Employees Charged After Recent Illinois Incident

An ongoing case in Illinois illustrates a possible example of how neglect can occur when a nursing home resident is away from the facility. In February of this year, a woman died in a transport van after receiving off-site medical treatment at a hospital. Upon returning to her residential facility, the woman was left in the van overnight in below-freezing temperatures. Now, the driver and the residential care manager at the facility are both facing felony neglect charges.

Risks of Off-Site Injuries for Care Facility Residents

There are a number of situations in which a nursing home resident could be at risk of injury while outside of their care facility. Some examples include:

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chicago nursing home abuse lawyerThe problems of nursing home abuse and neglect are ever-present in Chicago and throughout Illinois, and the state government has made efforts to provide a variety of resources for victims and their families. One such resource is the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which provides many services to those living in nursing homes and similar facilities. Recently, Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced an increase in funding for the Chicago region of this program, with the goal of ensuring that it is adequately staffed to meet residents’ needs.

What Does the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Do?

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is responsible for providing a variety of services that benefit nursing home residents. Regional branches of the program have been established throughout Illinois to support residents of different counties, and the services they provide are offered at no cost.

Some of the services the program provides include:

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Chicago nursing home understaffing attorneysHeadline-making stories regarding nursing home neglect and understaffing are tragically common. Residents may have a serious fall, choke on food, or miss their medication because of critical understaffing issues. The staff who are available are chronically underpaid and overworked, leading to exhaustion and sometimes fatal mistakes. 

No-Strings Attached Funding

Recent Illinois news coverage has focused on requests for an increased amount of state funding for private nursing homes. But at the same time as the Health Care Council of Illinois (HCCI) has asked for $486 million dollars, they have made it clear they want it with no strings attached. The primary lobby group for for-profit nursing facilities opposes legislation from Governor Pritzker’s administration allocating at least some of that money on hiring more staff and eliminating ward-style rooming, where many patients can share the same room. 

Investigations Show Multiple Problems

Journalists covering the blight of poor care in nursing homes have expressed concern over the industry’s myriad failures: Failure in transparency and accountability in how public funds are put to use, failure to hire enough staff, failure to reduce hazardous overcrowding. In fact, in 2019, Illinois ranked last in nursing home staffing. These problems tend to be exacerbated for Black and Hispanic residents. 

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Illinois nursing home neglect lawyersIn the United States, it is an unfortunate reality that many nursing homes and long-term care facilities fail to provide the standard of care that their residents deserve, and that is required of them by state and federal laws. Nursing homes that fail to meet required standards can face financial, legal, and professional sanctions. However, if you or a loved one has been negatively impacted by substandard care in a nursing home, you will have a higher legal standard when it comes to holding the nursing home accountable and recovering compensation for your damages. Specifically, you will need to demonstrate negligence or neglect on behalf of the nursing home or its staff.

Causes of Insufficient Care in a Nursing Home

There are a number of reasons why the care provided to nursing home residents may fall below standards. Some of the most common include:

  • Overcrowding - A nursing home may take on more residents than it has the capacity to care for, leading to cramped conditions that may contribute to safety hazards or the spread of illnesses.
  • Insufficient staff - When a nursing home fails to maintain an adequate staff, residents are likely to receive rushed or less frequent care, or to be left unsupervised.
  • Insufficient training - Staff who are not properly trained in their duties can be more prone to medication errors and mistakes when moving or assisting residents, and they may be less likely to recognize a resident’s needs in order to promptly address them.
  • Environmental conditions - Residents can be exposed to hazardous conditions if the nursing home fails to maintain a clean and safe environment.

If you recognize any of these issues in the nursing home where you or your family member resides, you can take preventive measures to avoid harm, like filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Services or arranging to leave the facility.

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Chicago nursing home fall injury lawyerFall injuries are a serious problem for older Americans, and in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of fatal fall injuries among the elderly has steadily increased in recent years. While it is true that people over the age of 65 typically experience a decline in strength, balance, coordination, and other physical abilities, this does not mean that older people are to blame for their own injuries. In nursing homes, for example, falls are often the result of neglect on the part of facility staff. In these cases, you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.

Common Injuries From Nursing Home Falls

According to the CDC, about 20 percent of falls result in serious injuries. The most common include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) - When an older person falls and their head strikes the ground or another hard surface, they may suffer a concussion or contusion, or even a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain. In addition to the immediate risks of these injuries, they can sometimes have long-term effects, including memory loss and other cognitive impairments.
  • Broken bones - Hip fractures are the most common among older Americans, with more than 300,000 requiring hospitalization every year. Bones in the arms, wrists, and ankles can also break or fracture in a fall. Among older populations, broken bones can take especially long to heal, and injury victims may suffer from permanent impairment of their mobility.

The mental effects of fall injuries are also noteworthy, as victims may suffer from fear, anxiety, and depression, causing them to withdraw or avoid any kind of physical activity in the future.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have reason to believe that your parent or loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you need to act quickly to prevent further abuse from happening. Depending on the situation, this could mean helping them leave the nursing home, or even calling for emergency medical help. In many cases, it is also a good idea to call the Nursing Home Hotline operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to file a complaint. However, you may have questions regarding how to do so and what will happen next.

The Process of Filing a Complaint

The IDPH Nursing Home Complaint Hotline can be reached at 800-252-4343, and you can also file a complaint via mail or fax by completing and sending in a form available on the IDPH website. Before you file a complaint, you should be prepared with important information about the suspected abuse or neglect.

For example, you will need to share the name of your loved one, the facility where they reside, and the names of any employees who may have been involved. You will also need to provide information about the nature of the abuse or neglect, the harm your loved one suffered, and when the abuse occurred. If you have raised your concerns with the nursing home, you should also provide information about their response.

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Chicago nursing home neglect attorneysIndividuals who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities deserve to be treated with compassionate, competent care. When a nursing home or assisted living facility fails to provide reasonably skilled service and care to residents, the residents may suffer from profound mental, emotional, and physical consequences. In many cases, substandard care at a nursing home can be deadly. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home neglect, you may be able to sue the nursing home for negligence. Read on to learn about the purpose of nursing home injury lawsuits.

Holding the Facility Responsible for the Harm Your Loved One Suffered

Nursing home neglect can take many forms. Failure to provide proper medical care is one of the most dangerous forms of nursing home neglect. Medical mistakes like giving a resident the wrong medication or the wrong dose of medicine can also lead to disastrous consequences. Lack of sanitization can lead to avoidable infections and illnesses. Unkempt facilities can lead to preventable fall accidents. Inadequate resident supervision can lead to wandering and elopement, avoidable injuries, and resident-on-resident abuse. When incidents of nursing home negligence such as these lead to a resident’s injury or death, a lawsuit may hold the facility accountable for the harm the neglectful care caused the resident. Being sued also serves to discourage similar behavior from the facility in the future.

Obtaining Financial Compensation for Damages

Nursing home neglect often leads to financial losses in addition to the intangible harm caused to the resident and the resident’s loved one. A nursing home lawsuit may help you recover financial compensation for the damages caused by the substandard care. If your loved one was injured or suffered health consequences because of nursing home neglect, you may recover compensation for hospital bills, medications, surgery, and ongoing medical needs resulting from the neglect. If your loved one passed away because of inadequate care, you may recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses and the loss of your relationship with your loved one. You may also receive compensation for your loved one’s physical, mental, and emotional pain and suffering. Monetary damages in a nursing home lawsuit reimburse the family for their losses and serve as a way to penalize the facility for the substandard care.

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Illinois nursing home injury attorneysResidents in a nursing home or other long-term care facility have a legal right to receive adequate care. The facility must be kept reasonably clean and safe. Staff must provide appropriate medical care and assistance with day-to-day activities like showering and eating. At no time may a resident be subject to neglect or abuse.

Sadly, not every nursing home meets these standards. When a resident is injured or killed as a result of substandard care or intentional abuse in a nursing home facility, the resident or his or her loved ones may file a nursing home injury lawsuit. Read on to learn about some of the most common types of evidence used to prove nursing home neglect or abuse in an injury or wrongful death claim.

Information About Nursing Home Staff

Staffing issues are some of the most common causes of nursing home neglect and abuse. Understaffing is rampant in U.S. nursing homes. When there are not enough staff to care for the residents, residents may suffer from skipped medication, missed meals, inadequate medical care, and insufficient assistance with daily living tasks. Staff work schedules, payroll documents, medical charts, and the nursing home staff log may all be evidence of understaffing. In addition, employment records and information about nursing home policies and procedures may demonstrate nursing home negligence in the form of substandard hiring practices.

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Illinois nursing home fall injury attorneysA baby learning to walk falls down dozens and dozens of times without injury. Unfortunately, as our bodies age, the risks associated with falling increase dramatically. Falling is the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures.  Among the elderly, fall accidents can result in severe and even fatal injuries. It is estimated that over 32,000 older people die in fall accidents each year in the U.S. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities must actively take steps to prevent residents from falling. When nursing home negligence leads to a preventable fall injury, the nursing home may be guilty of neglect.

Keeping Residents’ Living Spaces Clean and Free of Clutter

Cleanliness is a crucial concern in nursing homes. Not only does proper cleaning and sanitation prevent disease, keeping the facility clean can also prevent avoidable fall injuries. Resident rooms, dining halls, and hallways should be kept tidy and free of clutter. Electrical cords or wires from medical equipment should be secured in such a way that they do not present trip and fall hazards. If liquid or other slippery substances are spilled, they must be cleaned up immediately.

Helping Residents With Limited Mobility

Older people and those with disabilities often struggle to get around on their own. However, they may not always ask for help when they need it. An older person with dementia may not realize that he or she is at risk of falling. Other residents may simply overestimate how steady they are on their feet. Nursing home staff should be aware of residents’ physical limitations and accommodate them accordingly. For example, if a resident cannot easily get from his wheelchair to his bed, staff should help the resident so that he does not fall.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIt is estimated that just under half of the U.S. population will live in a nursing home at some point in their lives. However, widespread issues like understaffing and inadequate staff training continue to plague care facilities across the country. Tragically, some nursing home residents are even intentionally harmed by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Research shows that elderly and disabled individuals living in long-term care facilities like nursing homes are at an increased risk of physical abuse as compared to those who live at home. If you suspect that your loved one was abused, do not wait to take action.

Spotting Nursing Home Resident Abuse is Often Difficult

Residents being slapped, punched, pinched, or otherwise intentionally physically harmed is a direct violation of state and federal law. No resident should have to put up with this type of mistreatment and the facilities that allow such behavior should be held accountable for these despicable actions. Unfortunately, the nature of many illnesses afflicting elderly people makes it hard to recognize when a resident is being abused. Dementia and other illnesses affecting memory and cognition can prevent residents from reporting abuse. False accusations of abuse may result from residents who become confused or paranoid due to Alzheimer’s disease and other medical conditions. Nevertheless, every allegation of abuse should be treated as if it were true and investigated thoroughly.

What Can I Do If My Loved One Was Abused?

If your loved one was abused while living at a nursing home, take immediate steps to protect his or her safety. Next, consider your legal options. Nursing home staff may face criminal charges for intentionally harming a resident, however, the criminal justice system is not the only legal avenue available to you. A civil lawsuit against the nursing home facility may also allow you to hold the nursing home answerable for abusing your loved one. Furthermore, a nursing home injury lawsuit may prevent similar behavior at the facility in the future. You or your loved one may also be entitled to financial compensation for the damages resulting from the physical abuse. Compensation for additional medical bills caused by the resident’s injury as well as compensation for your loved one’s pain and suffering may be available. If your loved one passed away because of the abuse, compensation for funeral and burial expenses may be available.

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chicago nursing home neglect lawyerIf your parent or another loved one lives in a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, or assisted living facility, it is important to monitor his or her health and wellbeing. While many nursing homes are safe environments filled with hard-working staff, not all nursing homes meet the standards required by law and expected by residents’ loved ones. Because many nursing home residents are already in poor health, nursing home neglect and abuse can be extremely dangerous. One issue in particular that it is important to remain watchful for is bed sores.

What is a Bed Sore?

Pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers are wounds that occur when there are long periods of pressure on the skin. Blood cannot circulate properly when skin is under pressure for too long. Nursing home residents who are bed-ridden or confined to a wheelchair are at the greatest risk of bed sores. The buttocks, back, and legs are some of the most common places that bed sores develop.

The first signs of a bed sore include pain, swelling, itching, and redness. If the pressure is not relieved, the skin may break open. Pain increases and the wound becomes vulnerable to infection. If nothing is done to address the worsening bed sore, the wound increases in depth to the tissue under the skin. The wound may even reach the tendons, muscles, and bones. At this point, a bed sore sufferer is susceptible to severe infection or even a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

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Chicago nursing home neglect lawyerNursing homes have a crucial responsibility to provide competent medical care. This includes ensuring that residents get the medications they need in the correct quantity at the right time. Failure to do so can lead to worsened medical conditions and even an avoidable resident death. If you or a loved one were the victim of a medication mistake in a nursing home, you might be curious about your legal options. You may be interested in holding the nursing home accountable for the error and pursuing monetary damages.

Elements of a Nursing Home Neglect Lawsuit

Most medication errors fall under the category of neglect. Nursing homes are held to high standards when it comes to medical care. Most residents are in poor health when they arrive at the facility. They may be on medications intended to alleviate pain, prevent blood clots, regulate blood pressure, treat infections, and more. Without these mediations, they may suffer severe or life-threatening consequences. Consider the story of one nursing home staff member who mistakenly gave a resident the drug vecuronium - a drug commonly used during lethal injections - instead of a common anti-anxiety medication with a similar name. The staff was charged with reckless homicide after the resident died from the medication error.  

Nursing home neglect occurs when a nursing home’s failure to provide reasonably skilled medical care results in a patient's injury or death and damages result from the injury or death. Damages are losses such as additional hospital bills or funeral and burial expenses.  

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Chicago nursing home wrongful death lawyerAccording to the Stanford School of Medicine, about 20 percent of Americans pass away in nursing homes. While death is not uncommon in nursing homes, there are some instances in which a resident’s death is directly caused by nursing home negligence. If substandard medical care, poor living conditions, medical mistakes, neglect, or abuse causes a nursing home resident to die prematurely, the nursing home may be liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving loved ones may be entitled to compensation for economic damages such as funeral and medical costs as well as non-economic damages including their grief and loss of companionship.  

What is a Wrongful Death in a Nursing Home?

The loss of a parent, grandparent, or other loved one can be devastating regardless of the circumstances. However, some deaths are classified by Illinois law as “wrongful.” A wrongful occurs when:

  • A person’s death is caused by wrongful act, negligence, or negligent failure to act and

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Illinois nursing home elopement attorneyNursing homes do not only provide important medical and daily living assistance, they also keep residents safe. Many elderly people suffer from declining cognition and reasoning skills. They may sometimes think irrationally or become confused. This mental decline is especially apparent in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. When a nursing home resident leaves a facility, they can get themselves into life-threatening situations. This is one reason that nursing home elopement is so dangerous.

State and County Officials Ask for Help Locating Missing Resident

The Illinois State Police recently issued an Endangered Missing Person Advisory for a nursing home resident who left the facility. 72-year-old Szymon Tomerski was last seen on April 2, 2021. Mr. Tomerski is a white male, approximately 5 foot, 10 inches, and 170 pounds. Officials indicate that Mr. Tomerski is a resident of a skilled nursing facility in unincorporated Maine Township in Cook County. As of this writing, the circumstances of Mr. Tomerski’s elopement from the nursing home are unknown, and he has not been located. The police are asking for the public’s assistance in finding the missing resident. 

 

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a relative in a nursing home, you probably worry about him or her often. You may wonder if your loved one is receiving the compassionate treatment and competent medical attention he or she deserves. Nursing home staff must balance keeping a resident safe and well-cared for with maximizing the resident’s independence and autonomy. Illinois law prohibits the unreasonable physical or chemical restraint of a nursing home resident.  

Physical Restraints Include Anything that Limits a Resident’s Movement

Nursing home residents deserve to have as much freedom as possible. However, safety concerns often prevent staff from giving unlimited autonomy to certain residents – particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. Residents who are not monitored may elope from the facility or become seriously injured by dangers in the facility. Nevertheless, physically restraining residents is seldom an acceptable solution. Physical restraints can include ties, vests, sheets that are very tightly tucked in, or other mechanisms that limit a resident’s movement.

When Can Restraints Be Lawfully Used?

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act describes the specific circumstances under which a resident may be physically restrained. Physical restraints may only be used when absolutely necessary to protect the resident’s safety. Furthermore, restraints may only be used for short periods. A medical professional must order the use of the restraint and document the justification for the restraint in the resident’s medical records. The resident’s guardian must also give consent for the restraint. Under no circumstances may restraints be used for staff convenience or to punish a resident.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysVenous ulcers or stasis leg ulcers often occur on the legs on individuals with limited mobility or circulation issues. These wounds are not only painful and unsightly, they can also become infected and put the sufferer at serious risk of health complications. Nursing home staff should be watchful for the signs of venous ulcers when caring for residents. If a resident does develop a venous ulcer, the wound must be properly cared for. Failure to provide proper medical treatment to a resident suffering from venous ulcers can lead to dangerous infections and agonizing pain.  

Symptoms of Venous Ulcers

When circulation problems cause blood to pool in the legs, venous ulcers can form. Individuals who have varicose veins are at an increased risk of developing venous ulcers. Other risk factors include obesity, lack of physical exercise, and immobility. Keeping a nursing home resident’s legs elevated above his or her heart may help slow the development of venous ulcers. If the resident is able to do so safely, moving around and getting moderate exercise can also help prevent these painful wounds.

Symptoms of venous ulcers include:

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysNursing home residents rely on nursing facilities to provide the medical attention and daily care they need. Nursing home staff have a legal duty to provide reasonably skilled care. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is one of several laws that protect nursing home residents from abuse and neglect. While abuse is often easy to define, neglect is sometimes harder to pin down. Knowing what constitutes nursing home neglect is an important part of keeping your loved one safe and protecting his or her rights.

Nursing Home Neglect Can Take Many Forms

Some of the most common examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Medical neglect – When nursing home staff fail to provide sufficient medical care, residents may suffer from severe health implications. Medication mistakes such as skipped doses of medication or administration of the wrong medication, failure to recognize new or worsening medical concerns, and delaying medical care may all be examples of medical neglect.
  • Failure to provide adequate assistance with daily needs – Nursing home residents may need help with getting in and out of bed, going to the restroom, bathing, eating, and more. Failure to provide adequate assistance with daily living activities can lead to physical and emotional harm.
  • Failure to prevent bedsores – Bedsores or pressure ulcers form when the skin is under extended periods of pressure. If a patient cannot move himself or herself, nursing home staff must regularly reposition the resident to prevent bedsores from developing. Failure to do so can lead to painful wounds that can become dangerously infected.
  • Inadequate patient supervision – Residents suffering from physical and mental impairments should be closely monitored. When residents are not properly supervised, they may not get the medical care or assistance they need. Resident wandering and elopement are two major concerns in nursing homes. Residents with dementia and other cognitive deficiencies should be monitored so that they do not attempt to leave the facility, wander into dangerous areas, or injure themselves or others.

Causes of Nursing Home Neglect

Many different issues can lead to nursing home neglect. Understaffing is a serious concern in nursing homes in Illinois and across the country. Inadequate staff training and negligent hiring practices that result in under-qualified staff are also contributors to nursing home neglect. If your loved one has suffered from neglect, you may be able to hold the negligent nursing home accountable for the harm they have caused your loved one through a nursing home injury claim.

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Illinois nursing home sexual abuse lawyersNursing homes should be safe havens for individuals who suffer from physical or mental impairments. While many nursing homes are staffed by compassionate and attentive employees, other nursing homes expose residents to neglect and abuse. One of the most disturbing forms of nursing home abuse is sexual abuse. If a nursing home resident suffers from sexual abuse, a civil action against the facility may hold the wrongdoers accountable and get justice for the injured resident.

Sexual Abuse May Be Perpetrated by Staff, Other Residents, or Visitors

Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Physical ailments reduce many residents’ ability to care for themselves and protect themselves against harm. Cognitive impairments from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease reduce residents’ ability to remember, communicate, and understand.

Sadly, these vulnerabilities make nursing home residents an easy target for perpetrators of abuse. Ombudsman programs investigated over 800 reports of sexual abuse in 2016 alone. Sometimes, the perpetrator is a staff member. Other times, the perpetrator of sexual abuse is another resident. Visitors to the facility and third-party contractors who work for the facility may also be perpetrators of sexual violence against residents.

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Chicago nursing home negligence lawyersThere are over a million individuals currently living in nursing homes across the United States. Some nursing home residents suffer from physical disabilities, hearing and vision loss, and age-related illnesses. Others suffer from cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of their reasons for being there, all nursing home residents have one thing in common: the right to competent and compassionate care. When nursing homes employ staff who are not qualified to work in a long-term care environment, residents may suffer from neglect or even intentional abuse.

Underqualified Staff Members Can Make Dangerous Mistakes

Caring for elderly and disabled individuals is not an easy job. Residents may suffer from multiple physical and mental health complications and require a strict medication regimen. They may need help with daily living activities like eating and bathing. Many residents also need help getting to and from their beds and wheelchairs. When staff are not qualified to handle residents’ needs, the residents can suffer preventable injuries or even death.

Intentional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes must take steps to ensure that the staff they hire are suited to perform the job tasks. They should also ensure that the applicants do not have a history of violence or abuse. The following steps can prevent unqualified or dangerous individuals from being hired at a nursing home:

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Chicago nursing home neglect and abuse attorneysNursing homes should be places of refuge for elderly and disabled individuals. Sadly, some nursing home residents suffer from neglect or even intentional maltreatment. A nursing home injury claim may allow an injured victim or the victim’s family to hold the liable party accountable for the neglect or abuse. A nursing home injury claim may also allow for the recovery of damages. Compensation for medical treatment, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages may be available. However, in order to bring a nursing home injury claim, the liable party must be identified.

The Nursing Home Facility is Often the Liable Party

The party that is legally responsible for an injury or death is called the liable party. In many nursing home injury claims, the liable party is the nursing facility itself. Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide competent care and assistance to residents. The following issues are examples of ways that nursing homes may be in violation of that obligation:

  • Failing to perform background checks on staff or other negligent hiring practices
  • Failing to properly supervise staff
  • Failing to maintain adequate staff numbers
  • Lack of medical care
  • Medical mistakes including medication errors
  • Failure to provide adequate assistance with daily living activities
  • Insufficient sanitation of the facility
  • Failing to maintain a safe facility
  • Failing to provide adequate security measures
  • Intentional abuse of residents

Even if an individual staff member is the cause of nursing home neglect and abuse, the claim is typically brought against the facility that the staff is employed by.

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