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Chicago nursing home injury attorneysNews stories involving nursing home abuse and neglect are tragically frequent occurrences in the United States. In many such stories, residents and their families are suing nursing homes which provide poor care, or even worse, subject innocent nursing home residents to abuse and purposeful mistreatment. At the heart of many nursing home abuse and neglect cases are problems with nursing home staff. Many nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are understaffed or employ staff who are not adequately trained. When staffing issues plague a nursing home, it is often the residents who end up suffering.

Understaffed Nursing Homes Put Residents at Increased Risk of Medical Complications

You may have previously heard about staffing issues at nursing homes, but few recognize how serious the problem really is. According to one report prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services, an incredible 90 percent of U.S. nursing homes are understaffed. Residents in facilities which do not have enough nurses, nurses’ aides, or other staff members are more likely to suffer from many preventable maladies including bedsores, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, weight loss, and pneumonia.

Often, nursing home staff are simply too overworked to notice when the residents entrusted to their care need medical attention. In one survey, nearly half of the nurses who responded admitted to missing the signs of worsening patient condition due to their high workload. Lack of supervision caused by understaffing is also a major cause of resident wandering and elopement.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysNursing homes and hospitals are the places designed to care for the frail, sick, and elderly. Unfortunately, these places are also often hotbeds of infection. Sepsis infection, a particularly dangerous and often deadly condition, plagues nursing homes across the United States. When a nursing home resident develops sepsis, it is critical that they receive prompt and competent medical treatment. Tragically, many nursing homes do not give residents the medical care and compassion they need and deserve. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, make sure to educate yourself about this deadly condition.

Causes and Symptoms of Sepsis

Sepsis, also called septicemia, is a life-threatening condition that arises from the body’s response to an infection. When a person experiences an infection, their body sometimes responds by releasing certain chemicals into their bloodstream to fight off the infection. These chemicals can cause inflammatory responses which do substantial damage to the infected person’s bodily tissues and vital organs. If sepsis is not treated in time, septic shock, a condition in which the infected person’s blood pressure drops to fatally low levels, can develop. Septic shock usually leads to death. Symptoms of sepsis include a change in mental status, extremely low blood pressure, high respiratory rate, and high levels of lactic acid in the blood.

Proposed Illinois Bill Would Punish Dangerously Understaffed Nursing Homes

An investigation conducted by Kaiser Health News and the Chicago Tribune found that approximately 6,000 nursing home residents hospitalized in Illinois each year have sepsis. On average, one out of every five residents hospitalized for a sepsis infection pass away. Sepsis often develops in individuals who are bedridden as well as those with urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and other infections.

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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 and neglect lawyersLong-term care facilities like assisted living homes and nursing homes care for the most vulnerable among us. Therefore, these facilities must be held to a high degree of accountability. When a nursing home or its employees act negligently, they should be held liable for the harm they caused. Nursing home abuse and neglect can incur steep medical bills, unnecessary pain and suffering, or even disfigurement and disability. If you or someone you love has suffered due to negligent nursing home staff, you may be able to recover compensation through a civil lawsuit.

Hiring Problems Can Lead to Mistreatment of Residents

Negligent hiring is unfortunately an issue for many nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Understandably, working at a nursing home with residents who need help showering and using the bathroom is a challenging job. Many nursing home residents also have cognitive issues which cause confusion or belligerence. Nursing homes should hire personnel who are appropriately qualified and have no history of abuse or violence. A care facility may be considered negligent if it hires staff without proper background checks or verification of qualifications.

Understaffing and Inadequate Training Put Nursing Home Residents at Risk

Another major issue with many nursing homes is understaffing. A nursing home must meet certain staff-to-resident requirements in order to properly supervise and care for residents. Unlike other medical facilities, nursing homes are filled with individuals who cannot be responsible for their own safety. A nursing home resident with severe dementia, for example, may not remember to drink and eat without being reminded. Residents with cognitive impairments can wander outside and quickly become lost or injured. Patients who cannot physically move by themselves may develop pressure ulcers or bed sores because staff do not attend to them regularly. Staff who are underqualified for their job or who were not adequately trained cannot provide the quality of care required by law. Nursing homes can be considered legally responsible when a resident is injured or killed due to inadequate staffing.

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysJust weeks after news outlets exposed the often deplorable conditions in many nursing homes managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, now a new story about inadequate nursing home conditions is making headlines. Medicare rates nursing homes on a five-star system, with five stars being the best and one star being the worst. Nursing homes' failures to keep the facilities adequately staffed with registered nurses or to provide records showing staffing information result in a lower score. Medicare just significantly reduced its quality ratings in 1,400 United States nursing homes because of concerns regarding staffing.

Governing Bodies Cannot Rely on Self-Reported Data from Nursing Homes

Medicare began gathering and disseminating statistics on nursing home care after the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) was instituted. Before the ACA required Medicare to keep tabs on nursing homes, the program relied solely on self-reported and unverified information from nursing homes. Unfortunately, it seems as if nursing homes were not entirely truthful about the number and quality of staff at their facilities. After Medicare received payroll archives from nursing homes, it became apparent that many facilities were critically understaffed.

Medicare Requires At Least One Nurse to Be on Duty

Payroll records reveal that many nursing homes do not have an adequate number of staff supervising and caring for residents. Medicare requires that at a minimum, one registered nurse must be available for at least eight hours a day in nursing home facilities. Nurses are the highest-trained caregivers involved directly in patient care at long-term care facilities and are an irreplaceable asset. In addition to helping nursing home residents with medical needs, nurses are also tasked with supervising other caregivers and aides. Many of the nursing homes which received lowered ratings were given the deduction because the facility did not meet the registered nurse requirement.

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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 abuse attorneysThose who stay in a nursing home are usually there because they cannot physically or mentally care for themselves anymore. Families place their loved ones in nursing homes with the expectation that the staff will treat their family member with the same compassion and dignity that they do. When a resident at a nursing home is injured or killed due to the negligence of the nursing home staff, the injured person or the estate of the individual who passed away may be eligible for compensation. Such was the situation in a recent case involving a Georgia nursing home.

Lacking Medical Staff Can Result in Inadequate Care

The case in question was a lawsuit that stemmed from the 2012 death of a 71-year-old resident in a Lowndes County, GA, nursing home. According to court documents, the problems began the elderly man began complaining of vomiting and a distended abdomen. An alleged lack of appropriate medical staff at the facility meant that there was not a registered nurse (RN) or a doctor who could provide prompt medical attention. The only available medical staff member was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who examined the man and called an off-site physician’s assistant (PA) for a second opinion, the lawsuit allged.

The suit claimed that the LPN contemplated sending the man to an emergency room based on his presenting symptoms, but the PA did not agree that emergency room treatment was necessary. The man’s condition reportedly worsened, and he was finally taken to a hospital. He only survived for another 12 hours, and he died from complications due to a bowel obstruction.

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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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