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Schwartz Injury Law

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home residents deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. Sadly, some nursing home residents suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of the very people who are supposed to protect them. Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many different forms, and it is often difficult to recognize. Some residents stay silent about nursing home neglect and abuse because they fear retaliation. Others are uninformed of their rights and do not recognize that the poor treatment they are receiving is against the law. Residents with impaired cognition caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease may be unable to report instances of neglect and abuse. For these reasons, it is important for everyone with a loved one in a nursing home facility to be watchful for signs of neglect and abuse.

Physical Abuse Symptoms in a Nursing Home

The most obvious signs of physical abuse in a nursing home are bruises, cuts, scrapes, and other injuries. However, many nursing home residents are frail or in poor health. They may bruise easily or receive minor injuries from everyday tasks. Not every injury is a sign of nursing home abuse, however, minor injuries like these are often the first sign of mistreatment in a nursing home. Residents may suffer from intentional abuse or they may be injured because staff were negligent when caring for the resident. If your loved one has an injury, staff should be willing to discuss the injury with you. If staff seem defensive or are uninterested in determining the cause of an injury, this may be a sign that they are hiding something.

Sadly, some nursing home residents are victims of sexual abuse. When an elderly or disabled person experiences impaired cognition, they are not able to give consent to sexual activities. Victims of sexual abuse may become withdrawn, fearful, and anxious. They may avoid certain staff members and exhibit behavioral and mood changes. Bruises and other injuries near the breasts and genitals, blood in a resident’s underwear, and sexually transmitted infections may all be signs of sexual abuse.

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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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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysThe level of autonomy that a nursing home resident is capable of varies significantly from individual to individual. Most nursing home residents need help with at least one or more daily living tasks. Some residents are almost completely dependent on staff. They may be unable to get in and out of bed on their own or require help when moving from their bed to their wheelchair. Some residents cannot even sit up in bed on their own. Transferring a resident or moving a resident from one location to another must be done carefully. Serious injuries or death may be caused by improper transfers in a nursing home.

Procedures for Transferring Residents

Before moving a resident, staff should evaluate the resident’s current mobility, health concerns, weight, and other relevant factors and determine the best way to transfer the resident. There are tried and true methods nursing home staff should use when transferring a resident from one location to another. Staff should be trained on safe resident transfers and handling. Often, moving a resident requires cooperative teamwork of two or more people. Assistive devices such as bedrails, grab bars, transfer belts, and medical lifts may be used to aid in the transfer. Staff should move the resident slowly and carefully. They should take preventive measures to avoid injuring themselves or the resident when moving him or her. If a staff cannot safely transfer a resident on their own, they should ask for assistance from another staff member. When nursing home staff fail to take the appropriate steps during resident transfer, they may drop the resident or otherwise harm him or her.   

Injuries From Improper Resident Transfers

When a resident is moved improperly, they may be seriously injured. If the resident is dropped, they may sustain fractures, lacerations, traumatic brain injuries, spine injuries, and other painful injuries. Because many nursing home residents are frail due to age or illness, these injuries can be life-threatening. Injuries may also occur from staff handling the resident too roughly or misusing assistive devices. If your loved one was injured or passed away due to injuries sustained during an improper transfer, you may have a valid nursing home negligence claim. You may be able to hold the nursing home responsible for your loved one’s preventable injuries and recover compensation for your damages.

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Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysBecause many nursing home residents are elderly or in poor health, nursing home deaths are not uncommon. Often, a nursing home resident simply dies of old age or succumbs to his or her illness. However, there are some situations in which a nursing home resident’s death is preventable. If you have lost a loved one who was living in a nursing home, you may be unsure of whether your loved one’s death was caused by poor care or neglect. If a nursing home’s wrongful or negligent actions lead to a resident’s death, the surviving family members have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the facility.

How Do I Know If My Loved One’s Death Was a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when a party’s negligent, careless, or wrongful actions lead to a person’s death and, had that person survived, he or she would have been entitled to bring a wrongful death claim against the party. It can be very difficult to know whether a nursing home resident’s death was avoidable. A wrongful death lawyer may use a variety of strategies to investigate a nursing home resident’s death. Often, medical records, staff schedules, photos and videos of the nursing home facility, witness statements, incident reports, and the nursing home’s policies and procedures are used during a wrongful death investigation. Some signs that your loved one’s death may be a wrongful death include:

  • Nursing home staff failed to provide necessary medical care in a timely manner.
  • Your loved one was not consistently receiving his or her medications.
  • Your loved one suffered from malnutrition or dehydration.
  • Your loved one had bedsores or other signs of neglect.
  • Your loved one had injuries caused by physical abuse.
  • The nursing home did not report your loved one’s fall or other injury-causing accident.
  • The nursing home failed to transfer your loved one to an appropriate facility when he or she needed a higher level of care.
  • The nursing home failed to prevent wandering, elopement, or resident-on-resident violence.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim Against a Nursing Home

If your loved one passed away due to negligent care in a nursing home, there is no legal action that can truly make up for this tragic loss. However, a wrongful death claim against the nursing home can help hold the facility accountable for the wrongful death. It may also allow you to recover financial compensation for the losses resulting from the death. You could be entitled to compensation for funeral and burial costs, medical expenses, and your own mental anguish and grief.

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Posted on in Neglect

Illinois nursing home neglect attorneysEveryone agrees that nursing home residents deserve to be well cared for. However, understanding the exact standards nursing homes must meet when it comes to resident care is often difficult. For many, it is hard to know if the type of care a resident is receiving is substandard. When does poor care cross the line into nursing home neglect? What can be done to hold a nursing home responsible for neglecting vulnerable nursing home residents?  

Failure to Provide Necessary Care

State and federal laws govern nursing home expectations and regulations. In Illinois, the Nursing Home Care Act describes the actions required of nursing home staff, the rights residents must be afforded by law, and the type of actions nursing homes are prohibited from taking. The Nursing Home Care Act defines neglect as a nursing home’s failure to provide sufficient medical care, mental health care, personal care, and assistance with daily living activities needed to avoid mental or physical harm to a resident. Put another way, neglect occurs when a facility fails to provide adequate resident care and a resident suffers mental or physical injury because of this. Neglect can lead to new and worsening medical conditions, a decrease in the resident’s independence and functioning, emotional and psychological issues like anxiety and depression, and more.  

Examples of Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect may take many different forms. Sometimes, nursing home neglect is willful. A staff member may simply choose not to complete the tasks needed to perform satisfactory resident care. More often, nursing home neglect is the result of inadequate staffing, poor staff training, inefficient scheduling, or negligent hiring practices. It is important to note that nursing home neglect is still in violation of the Nursing Home Care Act and other legislation even if it is not deliberate. Some examples of neglect suffered by nursing home residents include:

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Chicago nursing home choking injury attorneysElderly and disabled nursing home residents need help to safely carry out many everyday activities, including eating. Even if a resident is able to eat on his or her own, staff should monitor residents for signs that they may be struggling. Choking is a deadly hazard in nursing homes. Within a matter of minutes, a resident can be killed or suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen caused by choking.

Issues That Increase the Risk of Choking

According to the National Safety Council, over 5,000 people lost their lives because of choking in 2015 alone. Just under 3,000 of these choking victims were over age 74. Elderly people are often especially at risk of choking. Their mouth and esophagus muscles may be weakened from illness or age or they may have other problems such as dry mouth that increase choking risks. 

Some medical conditions increase the chances of choking in individuals of all ages, including:

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Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect lawyersNursing home neglect and abuse are sad realities in the United States. Understaffing, inadequate staff training, negligent hiring practices, and other problems can lead to injurious or even fatally substandard care. News stories about nursing home neglect and intentional abuse are also not uncommon. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you may worry about what is going on behind closed doors. You may have considered leaving a hidden camera in your loved one’s room in order to monitor the care he or she is getting but have questions about the legality of this type of surveillance.

Nursing Home Abuse Comes in Many Forms

Unfortunately, there have been instances in which nursing home staff have deliberately hurt residents physically, emotionally, or sexually. Many nursing home residents suffer from illness that impair their memory or cognition. This can make it very difficult for the residents to report abuse or neglect. Sometimes, nursing home residents are aware that the treatment they are receiving is unacceptable, but they are too afraid to speak up about it to staff or their family. Issues such as these lead some people to install cameras in their loved one’s room at the nursing home.

Are Nursing Home Cameras Legal?

You may wonder if hiding a camera in your loved one’s room for the purposes of monitoring their care is even legal. Laws regulating recording others vary considerably from state to state. In Illinois, nursing home cameras are subject to the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Facilities Act. This law makes it legal for families to install video cameras in their loved one’s room under certain circumstances. The camera must only be installed in the resident’s room and not in a common area of the nursing facility. The camera must also be in a conspicuous location. So, hidden cameras or “spy cameras” are not permitted. Furthermore, there must be a notice posted outside of the resident’s room that informs others of the electronic monitoring. The nursing home resident or his or her guardian and any roommates must give written consent before a camera can be placed in the room.

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Illinois nursing home abuse attorneysNursing home neglect and abuse is a tragic reality. Everyone hopes that nursing home staff will treat their loved ones with the respect and compassion that they deserve. Sadly, not all nursing home staff meet this expectation. Physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse can happen to any nursing home resident. However, residents with cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are often particularly at risk for abuse. Even worse, such residents are often not capable of telling anyone about the abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse may take the form of hitting, slapping, pinching, or kicking. It may also take the form of rough handling residents when transferring them in and out of beds or wheelchairs. If your loved one has bruises, cuts, or other physical injuries that staff cannot explain, this may be a sign that the staff have abused him or her. Of course, not every physical injury is a sign of abuse. Sometimes, an injury is simply the result of the resident bumping against furniture. However, if staff members seem agitated by your concerns or refuse to discuss your loved one’s injuries with you, this may be a sign that they have something to hide.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Sadly, some nursing home staff intentionally scare, embarrass, or isolate residents. If your loved one exhibits signs of fear toward staff – especially if the fear is directed at a particular staff member- this may be a sign of abuse. Sudden changes in behavior or child-like behaviors like rocking and thumb sucking may also be signs of abuse. Suffers of Alzheimer’s and dementia often become confused and believe that someone is harming them even if they are not actually in danger. However, it is important to believe your loved one and investigate any reports of mistreatment or signs of abuse.

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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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Illinois nursing home injury attorneysNursing home residents deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Whether they need help with managing medical conditions or daily living tasks, nursing home staff have a moral responsibility and a legal obligation to provide the assistance they need. Federal and state laws set the standards nursing homes must meet as well as the rights nursing home residents must be afforded. 

In Illinois, the Nursing Home Care Act governs the rights that nursing home residents have by law. If a nursing home violates these important resident rights, the facility may face civil claims and other legal consequences.

Nursing Home Resident Rights in Illinois

Illinois adopted the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA) after serious concerns about residents’ safety and wellbeing were voiced. The legislation contains a resident “bill of rights” that gives residents the right to:

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Illinois nursing home negligence attorneysA small child learning to walk may get up and fall down dozens of times throughout the day without suffering any serious injuries. However, as a person’s body weakens with illness or age, falling down becomes much more dangerous. Falling is the leading cause of trauma-related hospital admissions and fatal injury among elderly individuals. If your loved one suffered a fall while living in a nursing home, you may wonder if anything could have been done to prevent your loved one’s painful injuries. In some cases, a nursing home resident’s fall injuries are directly caused by the negligent actions or inaction of the nursing home.

Nursing Homes Should Be Free of Environmental Hazards

Clutter in a nursing home is not simply unsightly, it is a major safety hazard. When boxes, medical equipment, clothing or other objects are left in on the floor, residents may trip over the objects and fall. Other environmental hazards that may lead to falls include spilled liquids, unsecured rugs, loose carpet, and electrical cords. Poor lighting and a lack of safety equipment may also contribute to resident falls.

Insufficient Assistance Increases the Risk of Residents Falling

Most nursing home residents need help performing everyday tasks, and some residents have more independence than others. One individual may be able to get in and out of bed, use the bathroom, and walk to common areas of the nursing home on his or her own while another resident may be nearly immobile. Nursing home staff should be aware of residents’ individual needs and provide appropriate care. When a resident does not receive the assistance he or she needs to safely move about, he or she may suffer a preventable fall.

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IL nursing home lawyerFew would argue that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the most tragic illnesses imaginable. These illnesses affect a sufferer’s memory, personality, and cognition. Nursing home residents with dementia are often at a higher risk of being neglected or abused for a variety of reasons. Many times, they are also unable to report this abuse. Because of this, it is crucial for loved ones to be vigilant for signs that could indicate nursing home neglect and abuse.

Wandering is a Life-Threatening Concern for Residents with Alzheimer’s Disease

Illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease can lead to severe confusion and agitation. Some sufferers do not realize that they are in a nursing home for their own benefit. They may believe that they need to “escape” the facility to avoid harm. They may also accidentally wander out of the facility or into dangerous areas within the facility. Just recently, a nursing home resident suffering from dementia was discovered in the facility’s walk-in freezer. Sadly, the elderly woman had passed away by the time authorities located her. Nursing home staff have a moral obligation as well as a legal duty to supervise residents at risk of wandering and elopement. If a nursing home’s negligence leads to a resident’s injury or death, the facility may be liable for damages.

Unreasonable Restraint and Intentional Abuse

Another major concern for nursing home residents with dementia is the risk of unreasonable restraint. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act states that no resident may be physically or chemically restrained as a “punishment” or for the staff’s convenience. Unfortunately, this does not stop many nursing homes from using physical restraints or chemical sedation for exactly these purposes.

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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 abuse attorneyWhen we think of nursing home abuse, we typically think of abuse at the hands of the nursing home staff. However, vulnerable nursing home residents are also at risk of being harmed by other residents. A nursing home resident may attack another resident due to malevolence, or, much more commonly, because he or she suffers from a cognitive illness that makes him or her confused, angry, and afraid. If your loved one was physically harmed or sexually assaulted by another resident while living in a nursing home, you may wonder what your legal options are. In some cases, a nursing home may be liable for resident injuries or deaths caused by the actions of another resident. A nursing home injury claim may enable you to hold the nursing home responsible for its negligence as well as recover compensation.

Nursing Home Staff Have a Duty to Prevent Resident-On-Resident Violence

Nurses, nurse’s aides, and other nursing home workers have a legal obligation to prevent foreseeable resident injuries. Although not every resident injury can be prevented, nursing home staff must make the facility as safe as possible. This includes adequately supervising residents. If a resident has a history of lashing out physically at staff, residents, or visitors, staff should carefully monitor his or her behavior. If a resident shows signs of aggression that may develop into violence toward other residents, he or she should be removed from the situation and given time to cool off. Many instances of resident-on-resident violence are the result of understaffing and inadequate staff training. Nursing home staff may fail to address violence or resident injuries caused by violence because they are too busy with other tasks. Examples of nursing home negligence such as these are in violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and other legislation.

Damages in a Nursing Home Injury Claim Involving Injuries Caused by Another Resident

The term “damages” is used to refer to the financial compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury claim. Often, nursing home injury claims are brought on behalf of the resident by a child or other loved one. Through a nursing home injury claim, you may be entitled to compensation for your loved one’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and mental anguish caused by the attack. If your loved one died in an incident involving resident-on-resident violence, you may also be entitled to compensation for your own losses.

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IL abuse lawyerNursing home abuse and neglect are tragically commonplace in Illinois and across the United States. It is difficult to know for sure the exact number of nursing home residents who are victims of abuse because many residents are unable to report the mistreatment they suffer. However, in one study, 44 percent of nursing home residents surveyed reported being abused while living in the facility. If you have a loved one living in a rehabilitation facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home, it is important to be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect.

Physical Abuse Can Leave Physical and Mental Scars

It is hard to imagine someone hitting, pinching, kicking, or otherwise intentionally harming an elderly or disabled person, but physical abuse does happen in some long-term care facilities. Some nursing home staff become frustrated or angry when residents do not comply with orders or are otherwise obstinate. They may intentionally hurt the resident as a form of “punishment.” Unexplained bruises, lacerations, or other signs of trauma, as well as psychological symptoms like fear and anxiety, may be signs that a resident is begin physically assaulted. In some cases, the perpetrators of physical abuse are other residents at the facility.

Mental or Psychological Abuse Can Be Just as Harmful as Physical Abuse

Psychological, emotional, or mental abuse can be just as damaging to a resident’s wellbeing as physical violence. Examples of emotional abuse include mocking a resident, intentionally scaring a resident, embarrassing a resident, disallowing reasonable privacy, and other actions intended to demoralize or upset a resident. Recognizing mental abuse can often be tricky. Residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other cognitive illnesses may become confused and accuse innocent staff of abusive or threatening behavior. However, it is essential to fully investigate any claim of mistreatment.

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IL nursing home abuse attorneyThe term restraints are used to refer to physical or chemical means of controlling a nursing home resident’s behavior or restricting his or her movement. While physical restraints involve things like bed rails and ties, chemical restraints are medications used to sedate a resident. Federal and state laws heavily regulate the use of restraints against nursing home residents. Restraints can only be used in specific situations and should never be used simply for nursing home staff convenience. Overuse and improper use of chemical restraints can lead to dangerous, often fatal, side effects as well as a diminished quality of life.

Sedatives and Other Chemical Restraints Can Only Be Used When Medically Necessary

Psychopharmacological drugs such as benzodiazepines and antipsychotic medication are intended to treat psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. These medications often have side effects including drowsiness and sluggishness. Sometimes, nursing home staff administer these medications to nursing home residents to make them more docile and less likely to wander around the facility or defy staff instructions. Not only is this practice unethical, it is also illegal. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act specifically states that chemical and physical restraints may not be used to punish a resident or for the nursing home staff’s convenience. According to the law, restraints may only be used when ordered by a doctor for a legitimate medical purpose.

Antipsychotic Medication Doubles The Risk of Death in Residents with Dementia

Aripiprazole, haloperidol, clozapine, quetiapine, risperidone, olanzapine, and other antipsychotic medications are frequently used “off label” to sedate residents who do not have the medical conditions that the drugs are designed to treat. Research has shown that this is a very dangerous practice. Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, has stated that antipsychotic medication actually doubles the risk of mortality in elderly people with dementia. These medications carry side effects including an increased risk of falling, dyskinesia, blood clots, stroke, and irreversible cognitive decompensation. Antipsychotic drugs even have a “black box” warning cautioning against administering the medication to elderly people with dementia.

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IL nursing home attorneyThere are almost countless reasons that a person may stay in a rehabilitative facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Some people stay in a facility such as these while they recover from major surgery or illness and are eventually able to return home. Others permanently move into a long-term care facility because they can no longer live on their own due to dementia or physical disabilities. Whatever the reason, individuals staying in nursing homes and similar facilities deserve quality medical care and adequate assistance with daily living tasks. Malnutrition and dehydration are two health concerns that may indicate that a nursing home resident is not receiving adequate care and attention.

Red Flags of Dehydration in Elderly and Disabled Residents

Even for healthy adults, drinking enough water is sometimes a struggle. Many of us are simply too busy to notice that we have not consumed enough liquid throughout the day and only realize that we are dehydrated when symptoms such as a headache appear. For nursing home residents, the problem is even more serious. Residents may have cognitive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease that distort their memory and ability to think clearly. They may also suffer from medical problems that make it difficult to sit up or swallow. Nursing home residents have a legal obligation to provide adequate water to residents. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, muscle cramps, dry mouth, dizziness, disorientation, urine that is dark in color, and decrease in urine production. Chronic dehydration can cause a resident to develop urinary tract infections, seizures, and even hypovolemic shock.

Malnutrition Warning Signs

Providing meals to nursing home residents is one of the most important daily tasks that nursing home staff are responsible for. However, studies show that approximately 20 percent of all nursing home residents suffer from some degree of malnutrition. Most nursing home residents are struggling with chronic disease or serious physical ailments and their bodies desperately need adequate nutrition to fight these diseases and function normally. Malnutrition can lead to weakness, fatigue, dental problems, yellowing of the skin, increased risk of bedsores, and weight loss. Inadequate nutrition can also have negative psychological effects.

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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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