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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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Chicago nursing home injury lawyersIf you have placed a loved one in a rehabilitation facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home, you know how difficult this transition can be. You probably worried about how your loved one would adjust to living in a hospital-like environment or had concerns about the quality of care your loved one will receive. Unfortunately, these concerns are often justified. Nursing home neglect and abuse is an issue in long-term care facilities across the country. One major problem which nursing home neglect can lead to is dehydration.

Nursing Home Patients at Increased Risk for Dehydration

When a person without physical and/or mental disabilities gets thirsty, they can simply walk over to the faucet and pour themselves a glass of water. However, the same is not true for most nursing home patients. Many nursing home residents suffer from physical conditions which make it hard for them to care for themselves. Residents who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other health concerns which affect cognition may not be able to recognize when they are not drinking enough fluids.

Another reason dehydration is a major issue in nursing homes is because many residents take medications which make them urinate more often and become dehydrated more quickly. For example, diuretics are medications which increase the amount of water which is excreted from the body. If a nursing home resident is on these types of medications, nursing home staff should be extra vigilant for signs of dehydration. Nursing home staff who do not help residents maintain proper hydration can be held liable for damages caused by this neglect.  

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Cook County nursing home neglect and abuse lawyerSometimes, nursing home abuse and neglect goes unaddressed because residents and their families simply do not know what rights a nursing home resident has. Several federal and state laws were designed to prevent the mistreatment of nursing home residents and those staying in other long-term care facilities. The Nursing Home Care Act was created with the purpose of preventing elderly and disabled individuals from receiving substandard care in a nursing home.

This statute reinforces the rights that every Illinois citizen enjoys and confirms that nursing home patients cannot be denied any of these rights. Additionally, the Nursing Home Care Act establishes further instructions as to how nursing homes in Illinois are to operate and how nursing home staff must treat residents. If your elderly or ill loved one currently lives in an skilled nursing facility or a nursing home, read on to learn about his important piece of legislation. 

Defining Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Anyone staying in a nursing home has the right to be free from abuse or neglect. Abuse generally refers to intentionally harmful actions while neglect most often refers to negligence and carelessness. More specifically, the Nursing Home Care Act gives residents the right to:

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysA couple of weeks ago, a post on this blog discussed a case out of Arizona in which a female nursing home patient gave birth despite having been incapacitated for more than 25 years. The nature of the story led to national headlines as the investigation continued locally to determine how such a thing could have happened. This week, law enforcement officials in Phoenix announced that they have made an arrest in the case and that the suspect will be facing criminal charges.

A Quick Recap

According to various news outlets, a 29-year-old patient surprised the staff at a Phoenix-area nursing home when she went into labor on December 29, 2018, and gave birth to a baby boy. The labor was surprising because the woman had been incapacitated and living in the nursing home since a near-drowning incident when she was 3 years old. Staff members said that they had no idea that the woman was pregnant until she went into labor.

Early stories reported that the woman was in a vegetative state, but her family has since refuted those reports. An attorney for her family said, “She does not speak but has some ability to move her limbs, head, and neck. [She] responds to sound and is able to make facial gestures.”

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyThere are a myriad of reasons an individual may come to live in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or rehabilitation facility. They may only need temporary care while recovering from surgery or a serious illness, or they may need to live in the facility permanently. Nursing home residents who suffer from severe mental and physical impairments need round-the-clock care and supervision. Residents with cognitive decline or aliments like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may not even remember to eat and drink without being reminded. It is for this reason that many nursing home residents can so easily become dehydrated or malnourished. Problems like understaffing and inadequate staff training can result in staff members who are not aware of the resident’s physical and emotional needs. Sadly, nursing home neglect can and has resulted in the death of residents. If you have a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, make sure to be vigilant for signs of neglect. 

Signs of Dehydration in Nursing Home Patients

A National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform study found that nearly a third of nursing home residents in the U.S. suffer from dehydration or malnutrition. Symptoms of dehydration can vary depending on the age and health of a nursing home resident. The most common initial symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dry or papery skin, dark colored urine, and a decrease in the urine production. If left untreated, dehydration can worsen and lead to sunken eyes and cheeks, low blood pressure, irregular breathing, delirium, and unconsciousness. Severe and persistent dehydration can lead to death.

Signs of Malnutrition in Nursing Home Residents

The average human body can go about three days without water and about three weeks without food. However, elderly individuals or those with a serious illness or disability are much more sensitive to dehydration and malnutrition than the average person is. Signs of malnutrition can include abdominal pain and bloating, weight loss, changes in how clothing fits, weakness, poor wound healing, and dental problems. Malnutrition in elderly nursing home residents can exacerbate existing health problems as well as cause a weakened immune system which increases the risk of infections. Decreased bone mass and muscle weakness due to malnutrition can make a nursing home resident more likely to fall and be seriously injured or killed.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNews outlets across the country are reporting one of the most disturbing nursing home abuse stories in recent years. A woman who is in a vegetative state after an incident where she nearly drowned has given birth to a child. Individuals who are in vegetative states generally have severe brain damage and lack true awareness of their surroundings. Needless to say, there is no way that a woman in this condition could have consented to having sex and getting pregnant.

The Phoenix-area nursing home in which the incident occurred was completely unaware that the resident was even pregnant until she went into labor. This horrific example of nursing home sexual abuse is, tragically, not an isolated incident. Thousands of innocent nursing home residents suffer every year from nursing home abuse and neglect. If you or a loved one have suffered at the hands of nursing home or assisted living facility staff, you should know that there are steps you can take to recover compensation for damages and hold the perpetrators responsible.

Police Plan to Take DNA Samples from Nursing Home Staff

The Arizona nursing home in which the abuse occurred has been cooperating with authorities throughout the investigation. Police have taken DNA samples from the male employees at the nursing home which will then be compared to the DNA of the child in order to find his biological father. Detectives for the case also served the facility a search warrant to gather records and additional information. The 29-year-old victim who was impregnated is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The tribe's chairman expressed his feelings about the incident saying, "When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her."

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneyIf you have a loved one who needs extra help with daily life tasks, you may find that moving him or her to a nursing home or assisted living facility gets them the round-the-clock care they need. Nursing homes are full of residents who have physical and cognitive disabilities. Many of these individuals may use a service animal to help them move about their daily lives safely. Even pets not officially trained as service animals can be a tremendous comfort to those struggling with illness or disability. If your loved one requires care from a nursing home, assisted living, or rehabilitation facility, will he or she be able to bring his or her pet into the long-term care facility? The answer is not always black and white.

Few Nursing Home Allow Animals to Cohabitate with Residents

There are roughly 500,000 service dogs currently at work assisting people in the United States. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gave service animals, most often dogs, access to nearly every location their handler may want to go. The law made service animals exempt from rules which disallow animals from places like schools, movie theatres, or retail stores. Service dogs can be used to help visually impaired people interpret the world around them, alert hearing-impaired people to noises like smoke detectors or alarm clocks, and aide individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Some service animals can be trained to alert their handler to an oncoming seizure. Only a select number of long-term care facilities allow animals to live with their owners, but many allow animal visitation.

Bringing Pets to Visit Loved Ones in a Nursing Home May be Beneficial

Research from The Ohio State University in Columbus found that an impressive 99 percent of nursing homes surveyed allowed animal visitation. Healthy dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, and hamsters are permitted in many nursing home facilities across the country. Most experts agree that elderly and disabled individuals can reap tremendous emotional benefits from safely interacting with animals.

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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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