Has Someone You Care About Suffered From Medical Neglect at a Nursing Home?
It is always a difficult decision to place a loved one—a parent or grandparent, for example—in a nursing home. Many people feel guilt at not being able to care for their aged relatives themselves. At the same time, many elderly need special care and attention due to medical problems and physical or mental infirmities, and people have no alternative but to rely upon nursing homes to provide the skilled and trained professional help that their aging relatives need, and that they cannot offer themselves.
Selecting a suitable nursing home for someone you love also complicates matters, especially when weighing factors like location, cost, and level of care. Given the fact that all the residents of a nursing home need some special attention, no matter how good a home is, there is always the worry that a relative will not get the attention and care they need at a critical time.
In Illinois, there are over 700 nursing homes, and in the Chicago metropolitan area alone, there are nearly 400. Of the homes within the Chicago metropolitan area, only 78 have received an overall rating of five stars from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Sadly, overall, Illinois ranks third among all the states on the number of times federal officials have had to suspend payments of Medicare due to deficiencies in federal standards for nursing homes. These deficiencies can range from relatively minor problems regarding adequate monitoring of residents, to very serious conditions, such as incidents of abuse or neglect that inspectors concluded could lead to an immediate threat to the health or safety of the home’s residents. From 2007 through 2009, 144 homes in Illinois were cited for at least one serious deficiency.
Both federal and Illinois state regulators who oversee licensed nursing homes attempt to keep abreast not only of the care standards being employed by nursing homes, but of specific incidents of abuse or neglect. At the extreme, they have cited cases where elder residents have been abused or assaulted—a problem that was exacerbated in recent years by the scandalous practice of placing mentally ill criminal inmates in nursing homes alongside other residents. But apart from these exceptional cases, one of the most serious problems that a nursing home resident can encounter is medical neglect.
How Can I Determine if My Loved One is a Victim of Medical Neglect at a Nursing Home?
Medical neglect is essentially a type of medical malpractice. However, rather than an affirmative mistake caused by a caregiver—for example, administering the wrong medication or misdiagnosing a condition—medical neglect is where the medical services owed and provided to a patient are clearly below acceptable and expected standards such that it results in exacerbated or new medical problems.
Some common examples of medical neglect as they apply in particular to nursing home residents may include problems evidenced by:
- Abrasions and Lacerations
- Fractured or Broken Bones
- Restraint Marks
- Frequent Illnesses
- Medication Misuse or Misapplication
- Mental Health Problems
- Cognitive Problems
- Poor Hygiene
- Premature Death
- Significant Weight Loss or Gain
- Unsanitary Conditions
Despite these outward signs, however, medical neglect in nursing home patients is still difficult to detect.
Although you may feel that something just does not seem right, the elderly, like young children who face neglect, often have a difficult time voicing their complaints. Because they are in a dependent situation, they may fear that telling someone about a problem can result in retaliation from the wrongdoer, or result in some other unwanted consequence, such as being moved to another nursing home, where they will not know the residents or the caregivers. They may also have a personal connection with the individual who is mistreating them, and not want them to get in trouble. In other cases, they may simply have difficulty understanding or communicating what has happened, due to diminished capacity or emotional or mental problems.
Even more, unlike with young children, where a serious medical or psychological problem is clearly abnormal and unexpected, it is not uncommon for the elderly to suffer physical ailments and experience diminished mental clarity even when they are well cared for. Consequently, when an older person breaks a bone, becomes ill, or even dies, it is easy for people simply to believe it is a natural consequence of their age or condition of health. Even where an elderly person suffers a serious consequence of medical neglect, it will not generally be investigated as closely as when something serious happens to a child. To make matters worse, the elderly can often be even more vulnerable than children, because of their dependency on medications and help, and because of the risk factors already inherent in their condition.
Medical neglect—even those instances that do not result in death—can frequently have such a serious impact on an aged individual’s health that it can significantly shorten their lives. Even so-called “minor” oversights, such as forgetting to administer a needed medication or serving food that is not compatible with a given medication, can have a debilitating effect, and be the catalyst that sends an otherwise alert and relatively healthy older person into a spiraling downturn of their health, self-sufficiency, and attitude. In this way, even a single instance of medical neglect in a nursing home resident can become magnified into a very serious problem.
If You Suspect that Your Aged Loved One is the Victim of Nursing Home Medical Neglect, Contact Abels & Annes, P.C.
If your elderly relative is an Illinois nursing home resident and has suffered a serious problem, and you strongly believe that it is a result of medical neglect, contact the nursing home neglect attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. for a free consultation. We have experience assisting nursing home residents in pursuing personal injury cases for a variety of injuries, including bedsores, broken bones from falls or abuse, sepsis, malnutrition, and other conditions, and we welcome the opportunity to help nursing home residents who are the victims of neglect.
Call us at (855) LAW-CHICAGO, at (312) 924-7575, or use the online form here on this website. The consultation is free, and we will collect no fee unless recovery is obtained on the client’s behalf. If you know your aged loved one is the victim of medical neglect, or you suspect that a recent injury is the result of neglect because the explanation “just does not seem right,” consult with us. For nursing home residents in particular, time is critical, and you cannot afford to wait until the unthinkable happens.