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Schwartz Injury Law

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Will nursing home Abuse LawyerElder abuse is a disturbingly common problem in the United States, and as time goes on, we continue to learn more about its far-reaching effects. A study published last month in JAMA Network Open provides new insights into the prevalence of elder abuse and mistreatment, as well as the populations who may be most at risk of abuse. The findings may have important implications for elder abuse intervention and prevention and may help you stay aware of the risks of elder abuse for you and your loved ones, especially those who live in a nursing home facility.

Studying Older Adults Over Time

For the recently published study, researchers from Cornell University and the University of Toronto conducted two sets of interviews, spaced ten years apart, with the same population of adults over the age of 60. Their objective was to not only gauge the prevalence of elder mistreatment among this population during the ten year period, but also to identify common risk factors among those who were affected.

In total, the study included over 600 participants, with around 60 percent participating in both interviews. The researchers found that between 2009 and 2019, 11.4 percent of the participants experienced some form of elder mistreatment. The most common form of mistreatment reported was financial abuse, followed by emotional abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

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Chicago nursing home fall injury LawyerYou may be surprised to learn that one of the top causes of severe injuries and deaths in nursing homes is falling. When a nursing home resident is already in poor health, falling can cause excruciating, debilitating injuries. Fall injuries can lead to infection, reduced mobility and independence, low morale, and additional medical complications. Consequently, nursing homes should take every reasonable precaution to prevent fall accidents whenever possible. When a nursing home’s negligence causes a preventable fall, the nursing home may be liable for the resident’s injury or death.

Creating a Safe Environment for Those with Limited Mobility

As we age, our bones become weaker. This means that a fall accident that would only bruise a young person can lead to severely broken bones in an elderly person. Nursing home residents of all ages may suffer from medical conditions that impair balance and coordination. This is why it is so important for nursing homes to ensure that the facility is free of slip and fall or trip and fall hazards. Something as simple as a spilled drink or a loose electrical cord can represent a potentially deadly hazard in a nursing home.

Ensuring that Residents Have Proper Assistive Devices and Footwear

Many nursing home residents want the freedom to move about the facility on their own. Wheelchairs and walkers can help residents move around safely. Unfortunately, many residents suffer from cognitive impairments that impair memory. Therefore, nursing home staff may need to regularly remind residents to use these devices. Staff should also ensure that residents are wearing appropriate, well-fitting footwear that reduces the risk of slipping or tripping. Grab bars, handrails, and a raised toilet seat are just some of the modifications that also reduce the risk of residents falling.  

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Chicago nursing home medication error LawyerThe opioid epidemic is one of the most significant challenges the U.S. is currently facing, and Americans of all ages and backgrounds are affected. Nursing home residents comprise one of the populations at risk of opioid addiction and overdose, especially in cases involving errors in the administration of medication. If you or your family member is suffering from the negative effects of opioids, it is important to understand whether the neglect of nursing home staff may be the root cause.

The Risks of Opioids for Nursing Home Residents

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prescription opioids are responsible for a large portion of the opioid epidemic. Recent statistics show that 10 million people abuse prescription opioids on an annual basis and that prescription opioids are a factor in around 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths.

Nursing home residents can be especially at risk, as they are often prescribed opioids for pain management and other chronic conditions. A 2017 study published by the American Geriatrics Society found that around one in seven nursing home residents were prescribed a long-term course of opioids, while almost one in three residents were prescribed an opioid at some point. While prescription opioids can be a legitimate course of treatment in many cases, they can cause serious problems if something goes wrong.

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Chicago nursing home choking incident Lawyer

According to recent statistics, choking is one of the leading causes of unintentional death among the elderly, with more than half of all choking deaths occurring among those over the age of 74. There are many risk factors associated with choking death as a person gets older, including decreased salivation and conditions like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. However, with appropriate care and supervision, many choking incidents are preventable.

 

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Chicago nursing home Sexual Abuse LawyerAny form of nursing home abuse or neglect can be devastating to victims and their loved ones, but perhaps the most harmful and insidious is sexual abuse. While you may never expect to be affected by sexual abuse personally, these terrible incidents do happen, and sometimes close to home. Just last month, a southern Illinois nursing home was fined $200,000 for an incident in which a staff member allegedly sexually assaulted a resident.

In addition to staff members, other residents may also be perpetrators of sexual abuse in nursing homes. Regardless of the identity of the offender, sexual abuse can leave physical, emotional, and psychological scars on the victim. If you have a loved one who is living in a nursing home, it is important to be aware of the possibility of sexual abuse and to understand how to recognize and prevent it.

Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can be difficult to detect, as victims are often reluctant to discuss it out of fear or shame. Nursing home residents with dementia may also find it very difficult to communicate their distress, and they may be uncertain as to whether the abuse actually happened. You may not be able to rely on your loved one to tell you of the abuse on their own, so it is important to look for signs that abuse may have occurred.

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Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer

Recently, a Central Illinois nursing home and rehabilitation facility was fined $25,000 by the Illinois Department of Public Health in response to an incident in January in which a resident wandered off the premises. Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon in Illinois, and it is important to understand how you can hold a nursing home accountable for neglect if your loved one is injured in a wandering or elopement incident.

The Dangers of Wandering and Elopement

Many nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related conditions are prone to wandering. With proper supervision, nursing home staff can intervene to ensure a resident’s safety. However, without supervision, residents can make their way to unsafe areas within and outside of a nursing home facility. Some injury risks for nursing home residents in wandering and elopement incidents include:

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chicago nursing home abuse lawyerWhen an older person suffers from intentional emotional harm at the hands of their caregivers,  it is often referred to as psychological abuse. It is underreported and difficult to identify as there are not physically visible indicators of this type of harm. Because this type of abuse can be so damaging, it is vital to be aware of the signs that may point to psychological elder abuse and what actions you can take so that your loved one can successfully heal from the mistreatment. 

Psychological Elder Abuse Explained

Physical abuse is often believed to be more common and more damaging, however, emotional abuse such as ridicule, isolation, and intimidation can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Psychological elder abuse occurs when an older individual suffers harm through verbal harassment, yelling, or insults. 

Emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Some examples of psychological elder abuse include:

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chicago nursing home injury lawyerNursing home residents generally require a closer eye to ensure their safety and care. But when a nursing home facility is understaffed, its ability to maintain the wellbeing of its patients can become compromised. Unfortunately, such a situation commonly leads to nursing home neglect.

There are numerous ways in which a staff shortage can negatively impact both staff and residents. Some of these issues include:

  • Medication errors, including skipped doses of medicine

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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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