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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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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home residents live in a nursing home because they are unable to live on their own. This could be due to physical disabilities, mental incapacitation, or most often, both. Sometimes these issues make it necessary to restrain a resident in order to limit his or her movement in some way. For example, side rails on a bed may be used to help a resident who is prone to rolling out of bed avoid injury. Restraints can be either physical or chemical, and should only be used when doing so is absolutely necessary to prevent harm to the resident. Restraints that are used as a punishment or for the convenience of nursing home staff are unacceptable and not in compliance with Illinois law.

The Nursing Home Care Act Outlines Residents’ Rights

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is a law that protects the rights of nursing home residents and dictates the type of care that nursing home staff must provide for residents. According to the law, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • Be free from neglect and abuse at the hands of nursing home staff;
  • Practice their chosen religion;
  • Keep personal items and clothing in their room;
  • Receive medical treatment from a doctor of their choosing;
  • Receive visits, phone calls, and other correspondence from loved ones;
  • Refuse unwanted medical treatment; and
  • Be free from unreasonable restraint.

These are only a few of the rights protected by the Nursing Home Care Act. The full text of the act can be found in Section 210 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysAs the “Baby Boomer” generation ages, more and more Americans are moving into long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living centers. Tragically, many nursing homes in the U.S are plagued by staffing issues and funding limitations which leads to inadequate care. Studies conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that 44 percent of elders surveyed had been abused and a staggering 95 percent had suffered neglect or had seen others neglected. Even more disturbing, over 50 percent of nursing home staff surveyed admitted to mistreating nursing home residents. Sadly, many instances of nursing home abuse and neglect go unreported. A study conducted by Cornell University and the New York City Department for the Aging found that elders experience abuse at a rate 24 times greater than the number of cases referred to law enforcement or social services.

Some Say Current Nursing Home Databases Are Ineffective

In order to address the prevalence of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing earlier this month. The committee discussed reports of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes as well as ideas regarding how to protect these vulnerable residents from abuse. Just prior to the Senate hearing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they are updating online tools which people can use to research nursing home quality and ratings. The Nursing Home Compare database rates nursing homes based on staffing, inspections, and other quality measures. The CMS rating system has criticized for inaccuracies and incomplete reporting. During the Senate hearing, a woman whose mother passed away as a result of nursing home neglect testified that even after her mother died from inadequate care, the facility where she lived had “received the highest possible ranking from CMS for quality of resident care.”  This particular facility had even been fined the year previously for physical and verbal abuse of residents.

Those Seeking a Safe, Compassionate Nursing Home Must Research Thoroughly

If you are looking for a nursing home for your loved one to call home, make sure to research your options thoroughly. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is becoming more and more common and the residents often cannot report the mistreatment themselves. Checking out a facility in-person may be the best way to look for signs of neglect or abuse. Speaking with nursing home staff may also give you an idea of how compassionate and attentive staff will behave toward your loved one.

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