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Schwartz Injury Law

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneysImagine you are a resident in a nursing home. Perhaps you are recovering from an invasive surgery, have had limbs amputated, or are elderly and suffering from other ailments. Now imagine that the place you have called home during your recovery no longer welcomes you and you are forced to pack your things and leave. This is the reality for many nursing home residents who are evicted from nursing homes every year. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents and their families are unaware of the rights which residents have.

Changes in Insurance Leave Some Residents Unable to Pay Nursing Home Costs

About 14 million people are currently living in nursing homes across the country. Many of these residents are ill or injured and others have mental incapacities such as dementia with disallow them to care for themselves. These individuals require round-the-clock care and supervision. Unfortunately, nursing homes often evict residents for unjustified reasons. Sometimes, it is because a change in insurance, such as switching from Medicare to Medicaid, means that the resident can no longer afford to stay at the nursing home. Discharges and evictions have been the top-ranking category of grievances brought to state long-term care regulators programs in recent years. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents are unaware of their rights and leave without challenging an eviction or discharge.

Tony Chicotel, a lawyer at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, explains “The nursing homes, they know the system and they really game it to where they maximize their advantage.” Federal regulators are now looking for ways to enforce federal laws which protect nursing home residents. Evictions or discharges can greatly damage a resident’s well-being. Because nursing home residents are already ill or elderly, moving them against their will can be dangerous to their physical health as well as their psychological health.

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Chicago nursing home injury attorneyWhen a family decides to place a parent or other loved one in a nursing home, they expect a certain level of care. Residents of nursing homes require a significant amount of assistance doing everyday tasks such as eating and bathing. Furthermore, most nursing home residents have serious health issues which make them unable to care for themselves. Nursing home staff have a responsibility to keep individuals in their care safe and comfortable to the best of their ability. When staff are negligent and do not provide the expected level of care to their patients, they can be held liable.

Elderly Woman Dies After Fall

A $50,000 lawsuit filed recently in the Kane County Circuit Court claims that a North Aurora nursing home failed to properly monitor an elderly woman and that this negligence led to her death. The 86-year-old woman passed away in February of 2016. A year prior to her death, she was admitted to the North Aurora nursing home. The wrongful death lawsuit claims that the elderly woman was a high risk for falls, and that the nursing home staff should have taken certain precautions to prevent this.

The plaintiffs claim that the nursing home had a responsibility to evaluate the woman’s risk of falling and then provide adequate supervision and assistance in order to prevent her from hurting herself. Unfortunately, within the same month as her arrival, the woman did fall and suffered serious injuries. In addition to needing ten stitches, the 86 year-old suffered cervical, nasal and orbital fractures. The suit claims that this fall led to the woman’s physical and mental decline and, eventually, her death. The complaint also alleges that the Illinois nursing home failed to appropriately train staff and follow its own policies and procedures for supervising residents.

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Chicago nursing home abuse lawyersStaff at a nursing home have a responsibility to keep the residents of a nursing home safe and as comfortable as possible. When families place a loved one in a nursing home, they are assuming that the medical staff there will treat the new resident with appropriate medical care. Tragically, this is not always the case. Some nursing homes are understaffed or their staff is not adequately trained, which can result in medicine being given superfluously or necessary medicine being withheld.

Alarming Study Results 

According to a recent study conducted by the Human Rights Watch, approximately 179,000 nursing home residents are being given medicine which is not intended to treat the illness they have. Antipsychotic drugs such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, and quetiapine are used to manage psychosis. Individuals suffering from delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or a disconnection from reality are generally given these medications as a treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The problem is that about 179,000 nursing home residents being given this medicine do not have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat.

Many of the residents being given these medications have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia which antipsychotics are not approved to treat. Even more disturbing, antipsychotic drugs come with a "black box warning" from the FDA.  Black box warnings are the strictest labeling requirements that the FDA can mandate. These warnings are used to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks associated with the medication. The black box warning on antipsychotics states that they increase the risk of death in older people with dementia. The study also found that antipsychotic drugs were administered to residents without their informed consent. The purpose of using antipsychotic medications for residents who do not require them is often to make dementia patients “easier to handle” in understaffed facilities.

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Chicago nursing home neglect attorneysResidents in a nursing home are often those we should respect the most. Grandparents, great-grandparents, veterans, and other venerable elderly people live in homes like these. Unfortunately, sometimes the elders of our society are not treated justly. Because many residents of nursing homes lack the ability to communicate well, nursing home abuse and neglect often goes unreported. When evidence of abuse or neglect arises, it is critically important that it be investigated thoroughly and that guilty parties are held accountable.

Extreme Heat and Dehydration

A Florida nursing home is under severe scrutiny after a horrific series of events led to 12 residents dying. The residents who passed away did so in the days and weeks following Hurricane Irma in the fall of last year. The hurricane caused the air conditioning to go out at the facility, and residents were forced to endure dangerous heat and disgusting conditions. Many of them were simply not well enough to handle the extreme conditions and lost their lives as a result.

Although federal regulations state that temperatures should not be above 81 degrees, Florida regulators report that temperatures rose to 99 degrees in the sweltering nursing home. Some patients' body temperatures were up to 107.5 degrees. Residents were found in horrible conditions, covered in sweat and excrement. The heat was so unmanageable that four out of every five residents on particular floor suffered dehydration and other heat-related symptoms. Almost half of the residents living on another floor also suffered these heat-related symptoms.

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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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Chicago Nursing Home Abuse AttorneyEach year, the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Hotline receives approximately 19,000 calls and more than 5,000 complaints alleging incidences of nursing home negligence or abuse. Considering the state is home to only 1,200 long-term care facilities, these numbers are staggering.

In August 2015, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation that guarantees the right of nursing home patients and their families to install and maintain video cameras in patients’ rooms. Illinois is one of just six states with laws that explicitly permit “senior cams”—as they have come to be known—in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These types of cameras are intended to reduce and eliminate nursing home abuse, but they are also being used to hold facilities responsible when abuse and neglect occur. Recently, a tragic situation in Florida—a state that currently has no law regarding senior cams—was caught on video and exposed to the public.

Disturbing Footage Captured on Hidden Camera

This fall, local news outlets obtained video footage taken from inside a Pompano Beach nursing home. The camera was hidden in a patient’s room by the patient’s daughter. She was concerned that her 94-year-old father was being mistreated. The man suffered from dementia and was unable to speak. According to news reports, the video showed nursing home staff members “forcefully trying to get the man off the bed,” hitting him in the head, and “dousing him with mouthwash.”

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