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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysDegenerative brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can completely rob a person of their ability to think clearly and remember even basic information. Family members of those suffering cognitive decline often choose to place their loved one in a nursing home to ensure they are getting the care they need. Sadly, not every nursing home meets the standards of care that loved ones of residents expect. If you have a loved one with cognitive issues in a nursing home, be vigilant for signs of neglect and abuse. Because many residents with cognitive impairment cannot be their own advocate, it is up to loved ones to advocate on behalf of the resident.

Signs Your Loved One is Being Mistreated in a Nursing Home

Nursing home residents with dementia often cannot simply tell their loved ones that they are being mistreated. They may not be able to remember the abuse or understand what has actually happened to them. Loved ones should look for signs that the resident is not being cared for appropriately. Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained injuries like welts, bruises, burns, broken bones, sprains, dislocations, and more. Marks from being restrained such as marks on wrists and ankles may also be a sign of abuse.

Signs of neglect can include but are not limited to bed sores, infections, malnutrition, and dehydration. Another sign that something is not right in a nursing home is when nurses or other caregivers are hesitant for you to spend time with the resident alone.

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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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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneysAs the “Baby Boomer" generation ages, more and more people need the around-the-clock care offered by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Long-term care facilities can provide a safe home for elderly and disabled individuals, but sadly, not every nursing home is up to standards. Vulnerable nursing home residents can be experience neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation at the hands of caregivers.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you should always be on the lookout for signs that something isn’t right. Often, the signs of elder neglect and abuse are subtle. Nursing home residents who struggle with cognition, memory, or speech may be unable to ask for help or communicate what has happened to them. Loved ones of nursing home residents should be vigilant for signs of neglect and abuse.

Withdrawn or Uncommunicative Staff May Be a Red Flag

Understandably, not everyone enjoys every second of their work day. Nursing home staff members have a job which can be physically, psychologically, and emotionally demanding. However, nursing home staff should still be personally committed to the well-being of the residents in their care. Nursing home or assisted living staff who avoid talking with residents’ family members or seem uncomfortable interacting with residents may be a red flag. Likewise, overworked, exhausted staff can be a warning sign that the facility is not staffed adequately. Staffing issues, including understaffing and undertraining, are some of the most common reasons residents suffer neglect and abuse.  

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Illinois nursing home injury attorneyWinter is the time of year when everyone should be frequently washing their hands and being extra careful to avoid illness. Unfortunately, nursing home residents do not always have the ability or resources to keep their bodies healthy and free of disease. The National Institute of Health estimates that 2 million infections occur in nursing homes every year. Although some of these infections are not preventable, others are a direct cause of negligent nursing home staff. Infections can rapidly worsen if they are not properly treated by a medical professional. If you or someone you love one has developed an illness after experiencing an infection in a nursing home, it is important to understand your available options.

Infections Common in Illinois Nursing Homes Residents

Nursing home residents are often elderly or have compromised immune systems due to illness. This is why it is critical that nursing home staff treat infections as soon as possible to prevent them from worsening. The most common nursing home infections include:

  • Urinary tract infections;
  • Respiratory tract infections;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Clostridium difficile infections (CDI);
  • Influenza;
  • Sepsis;
  • Gastrointestinal infections; and
  • Soft tissue and skin infections.

When Is the Nursing Home Liable for Infections?

Elderly, disabled, and sick individuals are already at an increased risk of infection. Not every resident in a long-term care facility like a nursing home or assisted living facility who gets an infection does so because of negligence. However, nursing home negligence and abuse can certainly cause an increased risk of infection and illness. Some infections can even be fatal.

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersLong-term care facilities like assisted living homes and nursing homes care for the most vulnerable among us. Therefore, these facilities must be held to a high degree of accountability. When a nursing home or its employees act negligently, they should be held liable for the harm they caused. Nursing home abuse and neglect can incur steep medical bills, unnecessary pain and suffering, or even disfigurement and disability. If you or someone you love has suffered due to negligent nursing home staff, you may be able to recover compensation through a civil lawsuit.

Hiring Problems Can Lead to Mistreatment of Residents

Negligent hiring is unfortunately an issue for many nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Understandably, working at a nursing home with residents who need help showering and using the bathroom is a challenging job. Many nursing home residents also have cognitive issues which cause confusion or belligerence. Nursing homes should hire personnel who are appropriately qualified and have no history of abuse or violence. A care facility may be considered negligent if it hires staff without proper background checks or verification of qualifications.

Understaffing and Inadequate Training Put Nursing Home Residents at Risk

Another major issue with many nursing homes is understaffing. A nursing home must meet certain staff-to-resident requirements in order to properly supervise and care for residents. Unlike other medical facilities, nursing homes are filled with individuals who cannot be responsible for their own safety. A nursing home resident with severe dementia, for example, may not remember to drink and eat without being reminded. Residents with cognitive impairments can wander outside and quickly become lost or injured. Patients who cannot physically move by themselves may develop pressure ulcers or bed sores because staff do not attend to them regularly. Staff who are underqualified for their job or who were not adequately trained cannot provide the quality of care required by law. Nursing homes can be considered legally responsible when a resident is injured or killed due to inadequate staffing.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysExtremely cold winter weather has come to the Chicago area, and nobody is more vulnerable to the cold than elderly individuals and people with disabilities. It is critically important that caretakers take steps to reduce vulnerable individuals’ exposure to freezing temperatures and icy conditions. Nursing home staff should always keep a close eye on nursing home residents who tend to wander off – but this is especially imperative during adverse weather. Sadly, issues like understaffing and inadequate staff training can lead to nursing homes which do not adequately care for their residents. Nursing home abuse and neglect leads to the loss of thousands of innocent lives every year.

Nursing Home Residents are at Increased Risk of Frostbite and Hypothermia

In extremely cold temperatures, any exposed skin has the potential to develop frostbite in as few as five minutes. Because the body’s natural reaction to the cold is to divert blood flow from extremities to the major organs like the heart, areas like the face and fingertips are usually the first body parts to be affected by frostbite. The first warning signs of frostbite are pain, tingling, and skin discoloration, however, these warning signs are not always obvious. Nursing home residents with cognitive decline due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may be unable to notice these warning signs until irreversible damage is done. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s internal temperature dips too low for the body to function correctly. It can cause confusion and eventually unconsciousness followed by death. Elderly people and those in poor health are being encouraged to stay inside as much as possible during extreme temperatures.

Long-Term Care Facility Staff Must Supervise Residents Who Wander or Attempt to Elope

Nursing home staff are responsible for supervising residents, helping them complete daily living tasks, like taking medicine and showering, and keeping them safe. Unfortunately, not every nursing home or assisted living facility fulfills their duties adequately. For example, a 76-year-old woman in Ohio tragically passed away from hypothermia after wandering from her nursing home during frigid temperatures last January. Nursing home residents with reduced mental capacity due to age or illness may not understand that they must stay inside during extreme weather. Icy conditions can also make slips and falls more likely, which can be especially dangerous to the vulnerable.

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersLong-term care facilities like nursing homes are designed to assist elderly and disabled individuals with daily living tasks and enhance their quality of life. In addition to helping residents shower, eat, and take their medicine, nursing home staff have a legal duty to treat the residents with carefulness and compassion. When nursing home employees fail to carry out their work tasks accurately and timely, the results can be deadly. Many nursing home residents are not physically or mentally capable of looking after their own needs. They may forget to eat or drink, wander off of the facility into danger, or slip and fall when not being supervised. This is why it is so important for family members to be watchful for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Common Red Flags That Your Loved One May Be Suffering in a Long-Term Care Facility

Nursing home neglect can take several forms. Neglected residents may be left without adequate food and water, appropriate clothing, or denied help showering and using the bathroom. Nursing home facilities that are cluttered, dirty, or contain unaddressed environmental hazards may be unsafe for residents.

Pressure sores, or bed sores, are another common sign of nursing home neglect. Residents who are not mobile rely on nursing home staff to occasionally reposition them in order to prevent bed sores. Untreated or frequent bedsores are often a sign that a nursing home resident is being neglected or abused. Unexplained injuries like lacerations, bruises, fractures, and welts may be signs that a nursing home resident is being physically abused.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysWhen you are looking at long-term care options for an aging loved one, it is important to review the reputation of each of the facilities that you are considering. You should try to learn how the families of current and past residents feel about the facility, as well as any available ratings published by reputable sources. According to a recent study, you should also consider whether the facility is a for-profit business or a nonprofit entity because residents of for-profit facilities tend to receive a much lower quality of care.

Illinois-Based Research

The study was conducted by a team led by Lee Friedman, an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The team looked at data regarding nearly 1,150 patients who received treatment at five Chicago-area hospitals between 2007 and 2011 for health concerns that might have been linked to previous substandard care. All of the patients were either residents of for-profit or nonprofit nursing homes or community-dwelling patients who lived in private homes with the assistance of family, friends, or home-based nurses.

Sad Results

According to the study’s findings, residents of for-profit nursing facilities were twice as likely to experience medical problems related to poor care than those in nonprofit centers. Community-dwelling patients experienced the fewest problems. Friedman said that his team linked a larger number of diagnoses and more serious conditions patients in for-profit homes “that were consistent with severe clinical signs of neglect.” These conditions included:

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersStaff members at a Long Island, New York nursing home may be facing jail time due to the death of a resident. In December of 2015, 81-year old nursing home resident Carmela Contrera became disconnected from her ventilator. The machine, which was literally keeping the elderly woman alive, is fixed with an alarm for exactly this purpose. The alarm is rigged to sound a warning signal whenever vital machines such as a ventilator become disconnected from the patient. However, nursing home staff claim the alarm never sounded. Contrera sadly passed away because no one came to reattach her ventilator. Now, prosecutors are saying that the alarm did in fact sound, but that the nursing home staff simply ignored the warning. Two registered nurses and one nursing aide have been charged with several counts of felony criminal negligent homicide as well as willful violation of health and safety laws.

Prosecution Says Nursing Home Workers Ignored Ventilator Alarm for Over Nine Minutes

Understandably, nursing home staff can quickly become busy and overwhelmed. Helping residents bathe and eat, dispensing medication, and transporting residents between areas of the nursing home can be a taxing job. However, nursing home staff have a legal obligation to care for residents to the best of their ability. When nursing home staff do things like overlook a fallen resident, skip administering a dose of medication, or in this case, ignore a medical alarm, they are being negligent. Tragically, nursing home abuse and neglect cause thousands of deaths a year.

Understaffing and Inadequate Maintenance May Have Contributed to Resident’s Death

Like hundreds of nursing home facilities across the country, the Long Island nursing home where Contrera died was understaffed. Many nursing homes struggle to afford enough staff members and other facilities skimp on staff training. The state attorney general’s office claims that inadequate staffing of the nursing home set employees up to fail and that Contrera’s death was a “foreseeable tragedy" which could have been prevented. Furthermore, the prosecution has found evidence that a respiratory therapist on staff had failed to adequately check that ventilators and alarms were working properly and instead falsified reports that the required inspection had been accomplished. If convicted, the three former staff members accused of causing Contreras’s death face up to seven years in prison.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysWhile most of the “Greatest Generation” is gone, there are still thousands of military veterans who require the type of care that is only available in a nursing home. Our nation owes the brave men and women who have served a debt of gratitude, but it seems those who are in need of skilled nursing care are often not able to get it through the government agency that purports to protect veterans. Following a scathing report by USA Today and the Boston Globe, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee announced this week that it plans to investigate the care being provided at the 133 nursing homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) nationwide.

Troubling Numbers

Last month, an investigative report by USA Today and the Boston Globe revealed that many of the VA’s nursing homes were providing substandard care to their residents. The report also pulled back the proverbial curtain on the VA’s secret ratings and quality measures. The reports’ findings suggest that Department was happy to keep its quality indicators a secret because the numbers were not good. In fact, nearly half (60) of all VA nursing homes received just one star out of five for overall quality—using the VA’s own ranking system.

Other documents obtained by the news outlets showed that patients in over two-thirds of VA nursing homes were more likely to suffer from bedsores and pain than patients in private-sector facilities. Overall, the VA’s nursing homes scored poorly against private facilities in most key quality indicators, including patients’ decline in daily living skills and the rate of use of anti-psychotic medications.

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Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersThe arm of the federal government tasked with providing health care coverage to seniors and the disabled is taking aim at “boomerang hospitalizations” of nursing home residents. Medicare officials have begun taking steps to address high hospital readmission rates, especially for patients who already require skilled nursing care and will reportedly increase those efforts on the nursing home side by this fall.

What Is a Boomerang Hospitalization?

Many nursing home patients require acute medical attention in a hospital at some point during the stay at a nursing home. This is understandable, considering those in nursing homes are there because they are already dealing with fairly serious injuries, illnesses, and other conditions. The problem, however, seems to be beginning when patients are released from the hospital and sent back to their nursing homes. According to reports, 20 percent of Medicare patients who are discharged from a hospital to a nursing home are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. This number is 27 percent higher for Medicare nursing home patients than for Medicare patients who do not require nursing home care.

The phenomenon of a quick readmission is called a “boomerang hospitalization” as a reference to the thrown hunting tool that returns to the thrower in midair. Experts suggest that government payment policies have inadvertently led to a pattern of back-and-forth transfers between hospitals and nursing homes for far too many patients.

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