Schwartz Injury Law

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

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

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

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

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

Surprising Footage

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

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

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

Threatening or Intentionally Scaring Residents

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

Ridiculing or Mocking a Resident

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

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

Medication Mistakes Can Seriously Harm vulnerable Nursing Home Residents

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

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

Why Do Medication Mistakes Occur?

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

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

How Do Bed Sores Develop?

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

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

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

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

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

Common Types of Physical Restraints

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

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

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

Florida Nursing Home Patient Arrested and Charged

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

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

Not Just an Accident

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

The Duty of the Nursing Home

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

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

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

Patients Often Show Signs of Neglect

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

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

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

What to Look For

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

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

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

A Scary Report

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

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

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

Dehydration Warning Signs

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

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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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