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IL nursing home abuse attorneyThe term restraints are used to refer to physical or chemical means of controlling a nursing home resident’s behavior or restricting his or her movement. While physical restraints involve things like bed rails and ties, chemical restraints are medications used to sedate a resident. Federal and state laws heavily regulate the use of restraints against nursing home residents. Restraints can only be used in specific situations and should never be used simply for nursing home staff convenience. Overuse and improper use of chemical restraints can lead to dangerous, often fatal, side effects as well as a diminished quality of life.

Sedatives and Other Chemical Restraints Can Only Be Used When Medically Necessary

Psychopharmacological drugs such as benzodiazepines and antipsychotic medication are intended to treat psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. These medications often have side effects including drowsiness and sluggishness. Sometimes, nursing home staff administer these medications to nursing home residents to make them more docile and less likely to wander around the facility or defy staff instructions. Not only is this practice unethical, it is also illegal. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act specifically states that chemical and physical restraints may not be used to punish a resident or for the nursing home staff’s convenience. According to the law, restraints may only be used when ordered by a doctor for a legitimate medical purpose.

Antipsychotic Medication Doubles The Risk of Death in Residents with Dementia

Aripiprazole, haloperidol, clozapine, quetiapine, risperidone, olanzapine, and other antipsychotic medications are frequently used “off label” to sedate residents who do not have the medical conditions that the drugs are designed to treat. Research has shown that this is a very dangerous practice. Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, has stated that antipsychotic medication actually doubles the risk of mortality in elderly people with dementia. These medications carry side effects including an increased risk of falling, dyskinesia, blood clots, stroke, and irreversible cognitive decompensation. Antipsychotic drugs even have a “black box” warning cautioning against administering the medication to elderly people with dementia.

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IL nursing home attorneyThere are almost countless reasons that a person may stay in a rehabilitative facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Some people stay in a facility such as these while they recover from major surgery or illness and are eventually able to return home. Others permanently move into a long-term care facility because they can no longer live on their own due to dementia or physical disabilities. Whatever the reason, individuals staying in nursing homes and similar facilities deserve quality medical care and adequate assistance with daily living tasks. Malnutrition and dehydration are two health concerns that may indicate that a nursing home resident is not receiving adequate care and attention.

Red Flags of Dehydration in Elderly and Disabled Residents

Even for healthy adults, drinking enough water is sometimes a struggle. Many of us are simply too busy to notice that we have not consumed enough liquid throughout the day and only realize that we are dehydrated when symptoms such as a headache appear. For nursing home residents, the problem is even more serious. Residents may have cognitive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease that distort their memory and ability to think clearly. They may also suffer from medical problems that make it difficult to sit up or swallow. Nursing home residents have a legal obligation to provide adequate water to residents. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, muscle cramps, dry mouth, dizziness, disorientation, urine that is dark in color, and decrease in urine production. Chronic dehydration can cause a resident to develop urinary tract infections, seizures, and even hypovolemic shock.

Malnutrition Warning Signs

Providing meals to nursing home residents is one of the most important daily tasks that nursing home staff are responsible for. However, studies show that approximately 20 percent of all nursing home residents suffer from some degree of malnutrition. Most nursing home residents are struggling with chronic disease or serious physical ailments and their bodies desperately need adequate nutrition to fight these diseases and function normally. Malnutrition can lead to weakness, fatigue, dental problems, yellowing of the skin, increased risk of bedsores, and weight loss. Inadequate nutrition can also have negative psychological effects.

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IL abuse lawyerWhen you hear the term “nursing home abuse,” you may assume that the term abuse is referring to physical violence aimed at elderly and disabled nursing home residents. Sadly, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse of vulnerable nursing home residents is a major problem in Illinois and throughout the United States. One type of abuse you may not have heard as much about is financial abuse. Financial exploitation of elderly and disabled individuals in a nursing home not only results in economic losses, it can also cause a great deal of personal suffering for the victim and his or her family.

Examples of Financial Exploitation

Most nursing home residents have physical disabilities or cognitive disabilities like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that make them dependent on nursing home staff. Many need a substantial amount of assistance with daily living tasks like toileting and eating as well as help with medication and other healthcare needs. Tragically, sometimes the individuals that residents trust the most to care for them are the ones who take advantage of their vulnerability. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) states that financial abuse is one of the most widespread forms of elder abuse. It is estimated that one out of every five elderly people has been a victim of elder financial exploitation. Some of the most common forms of elder financial abuse include:

  • Stealing residents’ cash or property
  • Tricking residents into signing financial or estate planning documents
  • Coercing residents into turning over cash or personal checks
  • Stealing a resident’s identity for financial gain
  • Conning residents through the use of pyramid schemes and other scams
  • Using threats or intimidation to force residents into financial transactions

Holding Negligent Nursing Homes Accountable

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, as well as federal legislation, protects nursing home residents from mistreatment and abuse. One of the rights protected by the Nursing Home Care Act is the right of residents to manage their own financial affairs. Even if a nursing home has the authorization to manage a resident’s money on his or her behalf, they must do so ethically and within the boundaries of the law. The act also gives residents the right to have access to their own personal property. If you believe that your loved one has been the victim of financial exploitation, do not hesitate to take action. Contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to learn about your legal options for holding the nursing home facility accountable for its wrongful and negligent actions.

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IL nursing home lawyerWhen a loved one suffers from a disabling injury or illness, he or she may need to move into a nursing home to get the round-the-clock care he or she needs. If you have ever placed a parent, grandparent, or other relative into a long-term care facility, you know just how difficult it can be. You may often worry about whether your loved one is getting the care and compassionate attention he or she deserves. While many nursing homes are full of dedicated, competent staff, other nursing homes miss the mark when it comes to resident care. One sign that a nursing home resident may be suffering from nursing home neglect or abuse is frequent fall accidents.

Nursing Home Fall Injuries

Children and young adults who slip and fall may walk away from the accident with only bruising and small scrapes. However, elderly and disabled individuals can be severely injured from even a minor fall accident. Nursing home residents who fall may suffer from broken bones, internal organ damage, traumatic brain injuries, and more. Falling may also cause mental injuries. A resident who has experienced a painful fall may understandably be afraid of falling again. He or she may be unwilling to participate in physical therapy or group activities at the nursing home or even refuse to get out of bed. Falling can dramatically decrease a resident’s quality of life in a number of different ways.

Preventing Nursing Home Falls

Nursing home staff have a legal obligation to prevent resident fall accidents to the best of their ability. The facility itself should be equipped with safety features like hallway handrails, grab bars, raised toilet seats, and bed rails. Environmental hazards like clutter on the floor, spilled liquids, and poor lighting should be immediately remedied. Residents should not be subjected to unnecessary sedation through the use of chemical restraints such as antipsychotic medication or benzodiazepines. Not only do chemical restraints significantly increase the risk of falling, unwarranted chemical restraint of nursing home residents is in violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and other laws. Residents should be closely monitored by staff at all times so that if a resident does fall, he or she will receive prompt medical attention. Frequent fall accidents and falls that are not reported by nursing home staff may be a sign that a resident is being neglected.

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IL nursing home abuse attorneyIt is hard to believe that someone would ever intentionally harm a nursing home resident. Sadly, nursing home neglect and abuse happens in long-term care facilities across the country. Psychological abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse can be especially insidious forms of nursing home abuse. Because so many nursing home residents suffer from cognitive decline, they may be unable to report this mistreatment. Relatives of nursing home residents are often unaware of psychological abuse because it does not result in bruises or other noticeable injuries the way physical abuse typically does. However, there are several warning signs of nursing home mental abuse that you should be watchful for.

Be Vigilant for Changes in Personality and Behavior

If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, he or she may be unable to express or even remember the type of treatment he or she receives from nursing home staff. Because you cannot simply ask the resident about the quality of care he or she is receiving, you will have to look for changes in your loved one’s mood and behavior that could indicate that something is wrong. If the resident cowers, fidgets, or acts nervous when a certain staff member walks into the room, this could be an indication that the resident has suffered abuse at the hands of that staff member. Other signs of mental abuse include:

  • Loss of interest or enthusiasm in things that the resident used to enjoy
  • Unusual behavior such as thumb sucking or rocking back and forth
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Increased agitation and irritability
  • Refusal of food and water

Speak to Staff About Your Concerns

If you have noticed changes in your loved one’s behavior or mood, speak to staff about your concerns. Staff should be fully willing to discuss these concerns with you. Staff who are offended or annoyed by questions about a resident’s health may have something to hide. Contradictory statements about a resident’s health or behavior may also be signs of neglect or abuse. If nursing home staff refuse to let you be alone with your loved one, this is a major red flag.

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