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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a family member or a loved one residing in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, you may have concerns about how he or she is being treated by the facility’s staff. Is your loved one getting enough food and water? Are medications being given at the right times and in the right dosages? Are staff members kind and caring? To allay such concerns, many families have installed surveillance cameras—sometimes called “granny cams”—in the rooms of their loved ones in nursing homes. Unfortunately, not everyone likes what the cameras show, as was the case for a North Carolina woman late last summer.

Surprising Footage

According to local news outlets, the woman installed a hidden camera inside a picture frame and placed the frame on a countertop in her mother’s room at a Cherryville, NC, nursing facility this past August. The woman was concerned that her mother was not being fed properly or checked in on often enough. Her mother is reportedly blind and has Alzheimer’s disease.

The woman, however, said she got the surprise of her life less than 24 hours after installing the camera. She said that footage revealed a nursing assistant yelling at her mother while changing her mother’s clothes. The assistant also reportedly moved the resident “violently” across the bed while changing her. The next day, the camera captured a similar incident involving a different employee.  

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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 attorneysAround the beginning of 2019, various news outlets reported on the horrific story out of Phoenix, Arizona, where a disabled nursing home patient had surprisingly given birth. The woman was allegedly raped by a licensed practical nurse who worked at the facility. The former nurse pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult, and he is currently awaiting trial.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is not terribly uncommon in nursing homes around the United States. However, the perpetrators are not always employees or staff members. In some cases, residents have been sexually assaulted and abused by other residents of the home. When sexual assault is committed by another resident, criminal charges are possible, and the victim could seek compensation from the home itself for negligent supervision.

Florida Nursing Home Patient Arrested and Charged

According to a report by Florida Today, a female resident of a Palm Bay nursing facility was sexually assaulted by another resident in September. The woman was allegedly sleeping when she woke to find a 65-year-old male resident touching her inappropriately. She reportedly pulled the cord near her bed to let the home’s staff know that she needed help. When staff members entered the room, the man was still in the room and groping the female patient, arrest records indicate.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_choking-swallowing-danger-nursing-home.jpgFor those who live in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, swallowing food is often difficult. There are many different conditions that could affect a person’s ability to swallow, including neurological disorders, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Simply getting older can also wear down the muscles and nerves of the throat, making it hard for some elderly patients to swallow normally. Issues with swallowing dramatically increase the risk of choking, which means that nursing homes must take precautions to protect at-risk patients.

Not Just an Accident

For a healthy person, an incident of choking is usually just an accident. A piece of food may “go down the wrong way” or a person might be talking or doing something else while eating, which could lead to choking. For a resident of a nursing home, it is possible for a choking event to occur as an accident, but many cases are caused by a lack of proper monitoring. In short, the facility staff should have taken steps to prevent the resident from choking but failed to do so.

The Duty of the Nursing Home

Upon admission to a nursing facility, a new resident must undergo a series of assessments so that the staff understands the resident’s condition, along with his or her needs. The results of these assessments are used to create a care plan customized to address the resident’s specific risk factors.

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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 attorneysA person may come to reside in a nursing home, rehabilitation hospital, or assisted living facility for a wide variety of reasons. He or she might need care on a temporary basis while recovering from a serious injury, illness, or surgical procedure. Alternatively, the person might need to live in a nursing home for the rest of his or her life.

Many residents in nursing homes are afflicted with conditions that require care and supervision 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, patients suffering from cognitive deficiencies such as those caused by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease often struggle to remember to eat and drink on their own. Such residents can quickly become malnourished or dehydrated if the staff does not pay proper attention. If your loved one is currently living in a nursing home, it is important to look for signs that he or she is not getting appropriate food and water.

Dehydration Warning Signs

According to most medical experts, the majority of Americans are at least partially dehydrated, despite virtually unlimited access to clean water. For the average person, however, it is relatively easy to get a glass of water when he or she is thirsty. This is not always the case for the resident of a nursing home. In many cases, nursing home patients might barely even register feelings of thirst. For those that do, getting a glass of water is difficult, if not impossible, due to physical limitations. Thus, they rely on staff members and orderlies to provide them opportunities to get a drink.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysIf you have a loved one who is living in a nursing home, you probably do not get to visit him or her as often as you would like. In your absence, of course, you have the right to expect the facility to provide quality care for your loved one and to treat him or her with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, nursing home residents do not always receive the care and ethical treatment that they deserve.

Horror stories from long-term care facilities across the country have left the family members of nursing home residents wondering what they can do to protect their loved ones. For some families in Illinois, the answer could be a monitoring device commonly referred to as a “granny cam.”

What Are Granny Cams?

In 2016, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure to explicitly permit nursing home residents or their family members to install surveillance devices, including audio and video recorders, in the residents’ rooms. Nursing homes are not obligated to provide the devices or any related services, such as wireless internet access, but facilities cannot prevent the installation or monitoring of such devices.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_nursing-home-woman-sad-neglect-abuse.jpgWhen a loved one requires the type of care that is only available in a nursing home or similar long-term care facilities, it is understandable for you to trust that he or she will be properly cared for. Nursing facilities, after all, employ trained medical professionals and other staff members whose primary responsibilities are to address the needs of the patients under their care. Sadly, many nursing home patients do not receive the care they need. Many others are subjected to treatment that might even qualify as neglect or abuse. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, there are some things you can look for that might be potential indicators of abuse or neglect.

Many Residents, Many Concerns

There are more than 100,000 Illinois residents currently living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Illinois. The figure is expected to continue to grow, as recent estimates suggest that nearly half of Americans will require a nursing home stay at least once during their lives. Unfortunately, the high number of residents translates to a high number of patients who are likely to be abused or neglected, some of whom might suffer severe injuries or death as a result.

In order to best protect your loved ones, it is important that you visit regularly and look for any of the following signs of neglect:

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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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