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Chicago nursing home negligence lawyersThere are over a million individuals currently living in nursing homes across the United States. Some nursing home residents suffer from physical disabilities, hearing and vision loss, and age-related illnesses. Others suffer from cognitive conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of their reasons for being there, all nursing home residents have one thing in common: the right to competent and compassionate care. When nursing homes employ staff who are not qualified to work in a long-term care environment, residents may suffer from neglect or even intentional abuse.

Underqualified Staff Members Can Make Dangerous Mistakes

Caring for elderly and disabled individuals is not an easy job. Residents may suffer from multiple physical and mental health complications and require a strict medication regimen. They may need help with daily living activities like eating and bathing. Many residents also need help getting to and from their beds and wheelchairs. When staff are not qualified to handle residents’ needs, the residents can suffer preventable injuries or even death.

Intentional Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes must take steps to ensure that the staff they hire are suited to perform the job tasks. They should also ensure that the applicants do not have a history of violence or abuse. The following steps can prevent unqualified or dangerous individuals from being hired at a nursing home:

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Chicago nursing home injury attorneyTransitioning from an independent or somewhat independent life to a life lived within the bounds of a nursing home can be a major adjustment for elderly and disabled people. Nursing home residents who are struggling with nursing home rules and restrictions may even attempt to “escape” the facility. The threat of wandering and elopement is especially concerning when a resident has Alzheimer’s disease or another illness that affects his or her ability to think clearly. Residents who wander into unsafe areas of the nursing home or who leave the facility unnoticed may be seriously injured or even killed.

Wandering Around the Facility Unsupervised Can Be Very Dangerous

The term “wandering” refers to a resident roaming a nursing home facility unsupervised. The level of independence nursing home residents can enjoy varies greatly from person to person. Some residents are fully capable of getting out of bed and going to a communal space such as a dining hall on their own. Others need help moving safely from place to place. Staff should be aware of residents’ limitations and should provide assistance and supervision accordingly. The biggest concern when it comes to wandering is that a resident will get into an unsafe situation. Residents who wander may go into a kitchen area and burn themselves or slip and fall in a hidden corner of the facility where they are not discovered for hours.

Elopement is Often Deadly

When residents do not realize the consequences of their actions, are confused, or simply want to go home, they may try to leave the facility. This is referred to as elopement. Nursing home residents who leave the facility – especially those with impaired cognition – may become lost and unsure of how to get back inside. They may trip, slip, or fall and seriously injure themselves. They may even wander into traffic and be hit by a car. Sadly, elopement can have deadly consequences. About 70 percent of the claims brought against negligent facilities for resident elopement involve a resident’s death.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNursing homes have a legal duty to provide reasonably skilled care to residents. They are expected to help the residents with personal hygiene, meal times, and everyday tasks. Nursing home staff are also expected to provide competent medical care. This may include administering medication, recognizing the signs and symptoms of illnesses, caring for injuries, and more. If a resident suffers a health concern that the nursing home staff are not equipped to deal with, staff should arrange for the resident to receive the medical care he or she needs through other means. Failure to provide medical care may lead to a nursing home neglect and abuse claim.  

Understaffing Can Lead to Inadequate Medical Care

Nursing home staff typically consists of nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists, dieticians, administrative employees, and support employees such as custodians. Federal law mandates that a registered nurse be on duty at least eight hours each day, seven days a week. At least one licensed nurse must be on duty 24 hours a day. There should also be enough additional staff such as nurse aides to ensure that residents are properly cared for. 

Unfortunately, understaffing is a major problem in Illinois nursing homes and facilities across the country. When there are not enough staff, residents may suffer from insufficient medical care including:

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IL nursing home lawyerIf you have ever moved your parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other loved one into a nursing home facility, you know just how tough it can be. Leaving a family member in the care of a nursing home means trusting the staff at the facility to provide your loved one with the compassionate daily care and medical attention he or she needs. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and other legislation requires nursing homes to provide a certain degree of quality medical and basic needs care. Unfortunately, staffing issues often lead to substandard care, neglect, and even abuse.

Understaffing Can Lead to Insufficient Supervision and Other Dangerous Neglect

One issue that Illinois nursing homes and facilities across the country have dealt with for years is understaffing. Numerous studies have shown that many nursing homes are chronically understaffed. A study that analyzed over 14,000 nursing homes showed that staffing also fluctuated dramatically from day-to-day. When there are not enough staff to adequately supervise residents, the risk of dangerous wandering and elopement increases substantially. Understaffing may also lead to missed medication, dehydration, malnutrition, bedsores, and a host of other problems.

Inadequate Staff Training Can Cause Needless Suffering

Another issue in many nursing homes is inadequate staff training. A nursing home staff member needs to know how to safely move residents from their beds to their wheelchairs, dispense medication, help residents who have trouble eating or toileting, and much more. When staff are not properly trained, they may make mistakes that lead to significant resident injury or even death. The families of residents who are injured or killed as a result of insufficient staff training or understaffing may bring personal injury claims or wrongful death lawsuits against the facility.

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IL nursing home abuse lawyerThere are approximately 1.2 million people living in nursing homes across the United States. Residents may live in a nursing home facility because they need help with daily tasks such as eating and bathing or because they have long-term medical needs that cannot be met through other means. A significant percentage of nursing home residents suffer from physical or mental disabilities that significantly reduce their level of personal independence. They, therefore, must count on the nursing home staff to keep them as healthy as safe as possible.

Tragically, some nursing home residents are not treated with the compassionate assistance and competent medical care they deserve. If you or your loved one were the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, you may wish to bring a personal injury claim against the facility. In order for your claim to be successful, you will need to show evidence of the nursing home’s wrongdoing.

Elements in a Nursing Home Injury Claim

To hold a negligent nursing home accountable and recover financial compensation through a nursing home injury lawsuit, you and your attorney will need to prove that:

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IL nursing home abuse lawyerWhen people think about nursing home and neglect, images of overmedicated or malnourished residents may come to mind. However, nursing home neglect is not always this obvious. In fact, one of the least visible forms of nursing home negligence is also one of the most dangerous. The problem of inadequate sanitation may not be immediately obvious, but it can have deadly consequences for residents. When nursing home staff do not keep the facility clean, viruses and bacteria can spread rapidly endangering the lives of the residents who call the facility home.

Residents Are Vulnerable to Illness and Infection

Everyone knows that it is important to wash your hands frequently in order to prevent the spread of disease. Proper hygiene is especially crucial for workers in medical facilities such as nursing homes. When nursing home staff fail to wash their hands between assisting residents, they can transfer pathogens from one resident to the next. If the facility itself is not properly sanitized, germs have the opportunity to multiply and spread throughout the building. Residents who are elderly or have weakened immune systems are particularly prone to disease and infections. They can become sick rapidly. If staff do not recognize the signs of the illness and provide the necessary medical treatment right away, the illness could prove fatal.

Unsanitary conditions in nursing homes are often the result of overworked and undertrained employees. Many nursing homes are extremely understaffed. Staff may fail to practice good hygiene or maintain a sanitary facility because they forget this essential task or because they wrongly assume that sanitation is not a high priority.

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IL nursing home abuse lawyerChicago is known for its harsh winters, but the summer weather can be just as unbearable. Temperatures frequently rise to the 80s and 90s in the summer months which can present a major health hazard to elderly and disabled individuals. Nursing home residents are often particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures because their bodies are weakened by age and illness. If a nursing home resident wanders into an area of the facility that is not air-conditioned or properly ventilated or leaves the facility, he or she may suffer deadly health conditions in a matter of minutes.

Residents Who are Not Properly Supervised May Suffer Heatstroke

The older we get, the less our bodies are able to regulate our internal temperature. Elderly nursing home residents and those with chronic health conditions are often unable to tolerate the heat. Residents with cognitive impairment are at an increased risk of heatstroke because they may not realize that it is unsafe for them to go outside. If residents are not properly supervised, they may elope from the nursing home facility and into the dangerous weather. Heatstroke or sunstroke is a condition caused by the body overheating. Without immediate medical treatment, heatstroke causes major damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and often results in death.

Dehydration is a Critical Concern in Nursing Homes

Another grave concern for nursing home residents in the summer heat is dehydration. Residents with marked cognitive decline may actually forget to drink water if they are not frequently reminded to do so. Problems with swallowing or mobility concerns may also lead to inadequate water intake. Many nursing home residents are also on medications that increase the amount of water that is excreted from the body which can make them especially at risk of dehydration. Nursing home staff must ensure that residents are drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated. They should also carefully monitor residents for signs of dehydration such as infrequent urination, dry mouth, low blood pressure, and unusually pale skin. If a nursing home’s failure to prevent heat-related illnesses such as dehydration or heatstroke leads to a resident’s death or injury, the nursing home may be legally responsible for the harm caused.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysA large number of nursing home residents cannot move around without help. They may be confined to a bed or wheelchair for long periods of time and unable to shift their weight to different parts of their bodies. When a body part experiences persistent pressure, pressure ulcers, also called bed sores, can develop. Nurses, nursing aids, and other nursing home staff members should take special precautions to prevent the development of bed sores in their patients. Unfortunately, some nursing home workers are not as vigilant about bed sores as they should be. When nursing home staff fail to follow procedures for stopping the development bed sores, it is the residents who end up suffering. Frequent bed sores may be a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse.

How Do Bed Sores Develop?

Decubitus ulcers, more commonly known as bed sores, are caused by prolonged periods of pressure on the skin. Bed sores often develop on a resident’s tailbone, hips, buttocks, shoulder blades, spine, backs of arms and legs, ankles, and heels. The first warning signals that bed sore is developing include changes in the resident’s skin color, temperature, texture, swelling, and tenderness. If these warning signs are present and nursing home staff do not reposition the resident to relieve the pressure to the affected areas, the bed sores will worsen. Untreated, bed sores can become deep, open wounds that are extremely painful and prone to infection.

Nursing Home Staff Have a Duty to Prevent and Treat Bed Sores

Patients who cannot advocate for themselves are at an especially high risk for bed sores. Many nursing home residents have cognitive issues such as dementia that leave them unable to effectively communicate. Nursing home staff should pay special attention to these residents and be watchful for signs of bed sores. They should be repositioning the residents at regular intervals, routinely checking for signs that a bed sore is developing, using pressure relieving devices such as special cushions, and ensuring that the resident is getting adequate water and nutrition.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysThe Illinois State Police estimates that more 100,000 elderly individuals currently live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities throughout the state. This figure is expected to increase in the years ahead as Americans are generally living longer than they did in previous generations. In fact, a recent study found more than half of American adults will stay in a nursing home at least once during their lives.

A person who requires the type of care that is offered by a nursing home or skilled nursing facility should be able to receive that care without having to fear that will be forgotten about or mistreated by the facility’s staff. Unfortunately, instances of neglect are far too common in nursing homes around the country, including in the greater the Chicago area.

Patients Often Show Signs of Neglect

A recent post discussed some of the things associated with a nursing facility that might raise concerns that neglect is occurring within its walls. Indicators of understaffing or a lack of motivation on the part of staff members should encourage you to check in with your loved one to ensure that he or she is receiving the proper care and attention.

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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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Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersNursing home abuse and neglect can happen anywhere. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the country struggle with staffing issues, budgetary restraints, and keeping up with America’s quickly growing elderly population. Even though these issues exist, nursing home staff still have a legal and ethical obligation to treat residents with dignity and provide the medical care and daily living assistance they need. When nursing home staff do not uphold this obligation, the staff or facility itself can be held liable for any deaths, injuries, and illnesses caused by the poor care.

Waukegan Woman Says Her Sister Was Not Properly Cared For

Unfortunately, another Chicago-area nursing home is in hot water after allegations of neglect. A Waukegan woman says that her sister has experienced nursing home neglect after a brain aneurysm and stroke caused her to need around-the-clock care. The woman says that when she went to check on her disabled sister at the Waukegan nursing home in which she was living, the woman was shocked. The disabled woman’s feet looked extremely discolored and the skin was very dry and rough.

The sister of the disabled woman says that it was obvious that her sister had not received a bath or even a change of socks in a long time. “They just put socks on her and they left her be,” she said. The nursing home is now saying that they are aware of the issue and are working on a medical plan to treat the disabled woman’s disfigured feet. Her sister believes that the issue should have never gotten so bad without staff noticing, saying, “She needs to be treated like she’s a human being.”

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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 abuse attorneysIf you have an elderly relative, chances are you often worry about their safety. Older individuals often have decreased muscle mass and bone density. A fall that might only result in minor bruising on a young person may cause several broken bones in an elderly individual. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3 million elderly individuals are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries every year. More than 95 percent of all hip fractures are caused by falling and falls are the most frequent cause of traumatic brain injuries. Falling injuries resulted in over $50 billion in medical bills in 2015 alone.

Remove Environmental Hazards to Help Prevent Falls

Understandably, all falls cannot be prevented. However, it is the obligation of every caregiver to take steps to prevent elder falls. If you have an elderly loved one, a few environmental changes may decrease the chance that he or she is injured or killed in a fall. Firstly, remove tripping hazards like clutter or loose electrical cords on the floor. Secure loose floor rugs with double-sided tape or remove them entirely. Repair or replace broken furniture or loose floorboards. Install nonslip mats and safety rails in the bathroom. Encourage your loved one to use his or her walker or cane if necessary. Lastly, make sure the lighting is adequate for your loved one to see his or her surroundings clearly.

Nursing Home Falls May Be a Sign of Neglect

Injuries from falling account for about 36 percent of theoretically preventable emergency room visits by nursing home residents. Not every nursing home resident who falls has been neglected. However, an unusual frequency of falls or falls that go unreported may be a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect. Conditions that can cause falls to happen more often include:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sad-old-lady-nursing-home.jpgWhen you place your loved one into a nursing home or a skilled nursing facility, you have every right to expect that they will be treated with dignity, respect, and above all, proper care. After all, nursing homes are staffed with trained professionals who are supposed to care about the people who are residents of their facility. Unfortunately, such is not always the case. Elderly abuse and nursing home negligence do occur in far too many facilities around the country, including here in Northern Illinois.

According to the Illinois State Police, more than 100,000 elderly persons are housed in long-term care facilities in Illinois. This number is only expected to grow in the coming years as Americans continue to live longer than they did in the past. Recent research conducted by a variety of academic organizations suggests that more than 12,000 of those patients will be neglected or abused each year. In order to best protect your loved ones, it is important for you to visit regularly and look for any indications that something may be wrong. Pay close attention to see if your loved one shows signs of:

  • Fear of the nursing home staff. Your loved one may also express concern about being left alone with caregivers;
  • Dehydration or malnutrition not related to terminal illness or end-stage disease;
  • Lack of personal cleanliness, especially if hygiene has been important to your loved one before;
  • Dirty or torn clothing or bedding;
  • Lack of dental care;
  • Fatigue, listlessness, and other indications of depression; or
  • Symptoms of missed medication or excessive use of medication.

In addition to the above signs, any sickness or injury that cannot be easily explained should also be reported. Approximately 30 percent of all nursing facilities nationwide have been cited for instances of abuse, but many more are believed to go unreported. In addition, financial abuse is often common. Check each bill carefully to be sure your loved one is not being billed for services that have not been rendered, or that he or she is not being billed for several services that should be combined into a single billing.

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Illinois nursing home neglect lawyerNursing home abuse and neglect can sometimes occur not because of what caretakers do, but because of what they fail to do. Whether it is due to being an understaffed facility, inadequate staff training, or lack of oversight, nursing home negligence is sadly common. There are certain standards of care which nursing home staff must meet to ensure the safety of their residents. Unfortunately, when these standards are not met, the result can be devastating to residents as well as their families.

Elderly Woman Denied Essential Medication

A Bartlett, IL  nursing home may be forced to pay millions to a family of a former resident. In February of 2011, the 89-year-old resident was admitted to the facility after suffering a hip fracture. She was meant to stay in the nursing home while undergoing physical therapy to help her recover from her injury. As part of her treatment, the elderly woman was prescribed a medication called Coumadin which thins the blood and can help prevent clotting and strokes. Unfortunately, the woman did not receive this medication on a timely and consistent schedule. Records show that the woman did not receive her stroke-preventing medication for a period of two weeks.

Stroke Causes Significant Decrease in Quality of Life

 In March of 2011, just a month after being admitted to the facility, the woman suffered a stroke with left her almost completely incapacitated. According to family, the woman lost the ability to speak and walk on her own after the stroke. The attorney for the family explains that the stroke left the woman unable to “enjoy life in any realistic manner.” The woman passed away four years after the stroke. Her family believes that her final years would have been much more pleasant had she been given her medication on a consistent schedule.

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Chicago nursing home neglect attorneysWhen a person thinks of a nursing home, they tend to imagine that most deaths or hospitalizations occur as a result of illnesses or injuries that resident already had. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, something as simple as a slip and fall can be enough to seriously injure or even kill a resident. In fact, an average nursing home facility reports between 100 and 200 falls each year. These falls represent the largest cause of preventable hospital emergency room visits among nursing home patients. Each year, over 1,800 nursing home residents die due to falls, and countless more suffer fall-related injuries.

Nursing Home Residents Are at Increased Risk of Serious Injury

Individuals in a nursing home are usually in such a facility because they are not able to live alone. They may have physical or mental disabilities that make it impossible for them to care for themselves. Because nursing home residents are often frail, elderly, or in poor health, it is crucial for the facility’s staff to take every possible measure to keep residents safe. Unfortunately, between 50 and 75 percent of nursing facility residents fall at least once each year. The most common causes of such falls include:

  • Muscle weakness and trouble walking;
  • Medications which can cause dizziness or disorientation;
  • Injuries or medical problems with a resident’s feet;
  • Environmental hazards such as wet floors or obstacles on the ground; and
  • Poorly designed or maintained equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, bedrails, or furniture.

Of course, there is no way to prevent every possible injury to residents, but sometimes nursing homes are at fault when a resident falls. Understaffed facilities may not have enough employees present to supervise residents properly. Other times, staff members are negligent by leaving equipment in the middle of walkways, not cleaning spills, failing to check equipment for safety before use, or providing inadequate lighting which can cause an elderly person to fall. When a nursing home resident is injured or killed in a fall that could have been prevented, the resident and/or his family may be entitled to compensation.

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