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Schwartz Injury Law

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

When Can Restraints Be Used on a Nursing Home Resident?

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

Dangers of Giving Residents Unneeded Medication

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

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

Physical Abuse by Staff Members

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

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

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