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Chicago nursing home neglect and abuse lawyersCognitive ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are extremely common in older adults. These diseases may start out with subtle symptoms and then progress into devastatingly severe symptoms. A person with advanced dementia may not even seem like the same person anymore. For families of elders with cognitive illnesses, watching their loved ones suffer can be almost unbearable. Many families eventually decide to place their loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility so that he or she can receive the medical care and attention he or she needs. Sadly, some nursing home residents with cognitive diseases become victims of nursing home neglect or abuse.

Red Flags of Nursing home Abuse and Neglect

A nursing home resident suffering from a brain disease may be unable to articulate his or her feelings, thoughts, and needs. This is why it is crucial for families to be vigilant for signs that their loved one is being mistreated. Look for physical signs of trauma such as scratches, bruises, bed sores, burns, dislocations, and other injuries. Also be watchful for signs that a resident is being physically or chemically restrained. Federal laws as well as the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act prohibit nursing home staff from unreasonably restraining a resident. Restraints that restrict a resident’s movement or medications that sedate a resident must only be used when absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the use of restraints must be ordered by a physician who documents the reasons for using the restraints.

Talk to Staff About Your Concerns

If you go to visit your loved one, and he or she has a new bruise or other injury, nursing home staff should be able to tell you what happened. If your loved one is being supervised as closely as he or she should, staff should be aware of any injuries or illnesses he or she is suffering from. In some cases, residents with dementia may become afraid and confused. They may think that nursing home staff are “out to get them” or otherwise have unfounded anger or fear toward nursing home staff. Residents may tell their loved ones that they are not receiving food or medication because they simply cannot remember the last time they took their medication or ate a meal. Even though dementia sufferers can often be mistaken, you should still take their fears and concerns seriously. If staff quickly dismiss your concerns or seem hesitant to discuss your loved one’s care, this could be a warning sign that your loved one is receiving substandard care.

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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 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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Illnois nursing home abuse attorneysLong-term care facilities like nursing homes are generally populated with older individuals and people with disabilities. Some residents have physical disabilities and decreased motor function while others are afflicted by mental disability or illness. Many residents suffer from both mental and physical limitations, making them especially vulnerable to illness or injury. Understandably, nursing home staff occasionally have to restrain nursing home residents in order to protect the resident from himself or herself. Things like bed rails or lap cushions can be used to ethically restrict a resident’s movement. Chemical restraints like sedatives may become necessary in extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, a new study shows that many nursing homes are dramatically over-using chemical restraints for nursing home residents with dementia.

Major Report Shows Extent of Chemical Restraint Abuse

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care recently presented its annual Public Service Award in recognition of the Human Rights Watch’s 2018 report “‘They Want Docile’: How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia.” This report includes extensive data collected from over one hundred nursing homes regarding the misuse of antipsychotic medication like Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa in nursing homes. Medications such as these are designed to treat major mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, these medications are being prescribed to elderly residents who do not have one of these disorders as a means of sedating them. Even worse, these antipsychotic medications have been found to nearly double the risk of death in elderly patients.

The report estimates that a staggering 179,000 nursing home residents are chemically-restrained with unnecessary antipsychotic drugs each week in the United States. Residents who were given antipsychotic drugs described the effects as “powerful.” One woman explained that the pills made her sleep all day while another said they made her a “zombie” with “no personality.” Experts say that the overuse of antipsychotic drugs can have devastating consequences to elderly individuals’ health and quality of life.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyAlthough they may also have other health issues, many residents require the constant supervision a nursing home offers because they have a mental deficit such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those with cognitive disabilities often have trouble understanding what is going on around them. They may not be fully aware of their physical limitations and can take unnecessary risks when not supervised by nursing home staff. Sadly, many nursing home residents have been seriously hurt or killed because they ventured into unsafe territory while the staff’s backs are turned.

Wandering and Elopement Defined

Wandering refers to instances when a nursing home resident walks around a nursing home facility unsupervised. Nursing home staff should know the whereabouts of their residents at all times. Those residents with cognitive impairments should be closely monitored. Sometimes wandering residents slip and fall out of staff’s sight and are left suffering in pain for hours. Other times, residents wander into an unsafe area such as the kitchen or storage area and harm themselves on the equipment there.

Elopement occurs when a resident wanders off of the nursing home campus. While some nursing home residents may be able to take walks outside of the facility safely, nursing home staff have an obligation to monitor and supervise these trips. When a resident who does not understand where he or she is due to a disease like dementia leaves the facility, the results can often be fatal. Residents may wander into traffic, trip and fall, be exposed to the elements, or even be attacked by another person.

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