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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home residents have a number of rights that are afforded to them by the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, as well as other state and federal legislation. Nursing home staff members have both an ethical and a legal responsibility to treat nursing home residents with respect and to provide satisfactory medical care. Another provision contained in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is that nursing home residents should be free from “unreasonable restraint.” This includes both physical restraints and chemical restraints. If your loved one has been restrained through the use of unnecessary medication, he or she may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

When Can Restraints Be Used on a Nursing Home Resident?

Individuals living in a nursing home deserve to have as high a quality of life as possible. Their movements should never be restricted unless it is absolutely necessary. Both physical restraints like limb ties and chemical restraints like sedating medication should only be used if needed to protect the immediate safety of the resident. According to the law, nursing home residents should only be given medication such as antipsychotics and benzodiazepines if a medical condition necessitates it and the medication is prescribed by a physician. Unfortunately, many nursing homes administer sedating medications to residents who do not even have the condition the medication treats. They often do this in order to keep the residents docile and less likely to wander around.

Dangers of Giving Residents Unneeded Medication

Not only is it cruel to give nursing home residents sedating medication they do not need but it also puts the residents’ lives at risk. Antipsychotic medications are designed to treat mental conditions like schizophrenia but they also have a strong sedative effect. Nursing home staff frequently administer antipsychotic medications to residents to keep them sedated. Alarmingly, antipsychotic medications carry a “black box warning” which is the most serious type of warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The warning specifically cautions against administering antipsychotic medicine to elderly patients or those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs have been associated with an increased of risk among these groups.

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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 attorneysNursing home residents live in a nursing home because they are unable to live on their own. This could be due to physical disabilities, mental incapacitation, or most often, both. Sometimes these issues make it necessary to restrain a resident in order to limit his or her movement in some way. For example, side rails on a bed may be used to help a resident who is prone to rolling out of bed avoid injury. Restraints can be either physical or chemical, and should only be used when doing so is absolutely necessary to prevent harm to the resident. Restraints that are used as a punishment or for the convenience of nursing home staff are unacceptable and not in compliance with Illinois law.

The Nursing Home Care Act Outlines Residents’ Rights

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is a law that protects the rights of nursing home residents and dictates the type of care that nursing home staff must provide for residents. According to the law, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • Be free from neglect and abuse at the hands of nursing home staff;
  • Practice their chosen religion;
  • Keep personal items and clothing in their room;
  • Receive medical treatment from a doctor of their choosing;
  • Receive visits, phone calls, and other correspondence from loved ones;
  • Refuse unwanted medical treatment; and
  • Be free from unreasonable restraint.

These are only a few of the rights protected by the Nursing Home Care Act. The full text of the act can be found in Section 210 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.

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Illinois nursing home abuse lawyerIllinois law dictates that individuals receiving treatment at a nursing home be free from abuse and neglect. Tragically, because of issues like understaffing and inadequate staff training, nursing home neglect and abuse continue to occur. Often nursing home abuse does not look like other forms of abuse. One way nursing home and assisted living residents are cruelly mistreated is with unreasonable restraint.

Most long-term care facilities have patients with cognitive or medical problems who may occasionally need to be restrained from moving. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are dramatically overusing both physical and chemical restraints. Residents can suffer physical injuries as well as emotional scars from unreasonable restraint. Unwarranted restraint is a major violation of the rights of the nursing home patient. If you or a loved one has been unreasonably restrained, you may be entitled to compensation.

Physical Restraints Without Justification is Abuse

Residents in a nursing home should be treated with compassion and given as much autonomy as safely possible. Unscrupulous or ignorant nursing home staff may use chemical and physical restraints as a means of keeping “high maintenance” residents subdued. Physical means of restraining residents include items such as straps, ties, bed guardrails, tightly-tucked sheets, and arm and hand restraints. Any type of physical force that restricts a resident’s movement is considered restraint as well. Physically restraining a patient should be reserved only for times a resident presents a risk to himself or others. If physical restraints are used excessively or in a way which causes a resident injury, this may be considered abuse.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysSometimes, a nursing home resident needs to be retrained in some way. In some cases, confusion or aggression related to a mental illness or dementia can make a nursing home resident act out in ways that could hurt another resident, a staff member, or themselves. In other situations, patients must be secured so that they do not hurt themselves while waking up from surgery or when recovering from certain medical procedures. It is understandable that doctors, nurses, and other staff have means to control residents who are acting dangerously, but too often, unfortunately, restraints do more damage than they prevent.

Physical Restraints Which Inhibit Movement

It is often necessary for nursing home staff to limit a resident’s movement. In order to do this, they may use physical restraints such as straps, belts, vests, limb ties, wheelchair brakes, and bedside rails. The misuse or overuse of restraints such as these can cause nursing home residents to suffer injuries such as:

  • Diminished muscle strength and balance;
  • Bruises and cuts;
  • Urinary incontinence;
  • Constipation;
  • Decubitus ulcers, also called bedsores;
  • Respiratory complications;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Reduced cardiovascular endurance; and
  • Feelings of agitation, depression, anxiety, and helplessness.

If you a loved one has suffered one of these injuries after being restrained by nursing home employees, you may have a valid personal injury case.

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