Are You or a Family Member a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
Sometimes, necessity requires that older relatives or friends be placed in a nursing home or other assisted-care facility. It may be a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, or another close relative or friend.
Unfortunately, as we age, we sometimes require a level of care that our family members cannot provide. Perhaps it is because the care requires special medical training or knowledge. Or, it could be because a family doesn’t have the available time to adequately care for an elderly person’s needs.
Whatever the reason, it is common for people to turn to nursing homes, senior centers, or assisted living facilities. They look for them to provide the care and attention an elderly individual requires.
Most people take steps to ensure that whatever care facility they choose meets their particular needs. Unfortunately, no matter how well you research, abuse and neglect still occurs in many nursing homes. This can be true even in those facilities that might otherwise seem ideal. If a loved one has suffered at the hands of a caretaker at a nursing home then learn what the Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Abels & annes, P.C. can do for you.
What Are Common Types of Nursing Home Abuse Claims?
The following are some examples of nursing home abuse or neglect claims:
Bed Sores and Decubitus Ulcers
Bed sores are injuries caused by prolonged pressure on the body that appear either on the surface of the skin or the underlying tissue. Bed sores, like their name implies, occur when a person spends too much time laying down in one position. In a nursing home, this could only happen because of negligence since it’s the staff’s responsibility to shift, move, and exercise an elderly person—especially someone that is bedridden.
Dehydration or Malnutrition
Dehydration and malnutrition is especially dangerous for the elderly. It can lead to unintentional weight loss, reduced physical and cognitive function. In serious situations, malnutrition and dehydration can lead to death. Elderly residents not properly cared for may suffer from malnutrition and dehydration when staff members fail to assist them or monitor them at mealtimes or throughout the day.
Physical and Sexual Abuse
Physical and sexual abuse is one of the most heinous acts a person can do to an elderly person in their care. In recent years, Chicago area nursing homes have seen an alarming increase in abuse reports.
When an elderly person falls in a nursing home, there can be serious consequences. Some large nursing homes may have several hundred fall incidents a year. Even small facilities still have dozens reported. These incidents can occur because of clutter, leaks and puddles, tripping hazards, lack of handrails, and even being dropped by a staff member who is moving them. These falls can result in severe injuries, including hip fractures or brain injuries, which can cause an elderly resident serious financial and physical hardship. And if the situation is severe enough, some falls can lead to a resident’s death.
Sepsis is one of the most common reasons that a nursing home resident has to be transported to a hospital. Many of these cases can be prevented if proper infection control protocols are implemented by nursing home staff. However, inadequate care can transform a simple problem into a life-threatening condition.
Nursing homes have a duty to protect their residents from burns. Elderly people who have a hard time caring for themselves need to be protected from burn risks like scalding water, electrical outlets, and heating sources. Staff members must take the proper precautions in order to prevent injury to the high-risk residents they are charged with caring for.
Bed Rail Injuries
Many nursing home beds are equipped with bed rails. Patients can find themselves trapped in the space between the bed rail and the mattress, with no way of getting out. These rails can cause injuries and, in some instances, death. Because of this, bed rails need to be checked regularly by staff to ensure they are safe and functioning properly.
Infection Due to Staff Neglect
Neglectful treatment from nursing home staff can lead to infections flaring up in patients. Urinary tract, respiratory, skin, and other soft tissue infections are the most common infections among nursing home residents. Infections have been associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality, hospitalization, extended hospital stays, and substantial healthcare expenses.
In the state of Illinois, all medication provided in elderly care facilities must be administered by a nurse or physician licensed to practice in the state. Even when medication is administered by professionals, errors still occur. Due to the large number of residents in a facility, it’s possible for nursing staff to inadvertently give the medication intended for one resident to another. Or a resident may not receive their medications at all. Naturally, these mix-ups are dangerous and can pose severe health risks to the elders involved in these situations.
Medical errors can have devastating results. Improper care can leave a nursing home resident to deal with more health issues than they would have had if errors were avoided and proper treatment had been administered. Elderly residents are not as resilient as younger people. So any medical error can cause major setbacks in their quality of life.
Assault by Resident or Staff
There are many different forms of assault inside nursing homes carried out by staff and by other residents. Aside from conspicuous aggressive actions like kicking or punching, there are many other acts that are considered assault. For example, actions such as unnecessary confinement and improper use of restraints are also forms of physical assault. Nursing homes have an obligation to provide a safe living environment to their residents. When they fail to do this, the facility and/or the parent company can be held liable for any damages suffered.
Elderly citizens living in nursing homes are not just vulnerable to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. They can also be abused financially. Examples of financial abuse include:
- forging the resident’s signature on documents
- using an elder’s funds for their own personal benefit
- investment schemes
- identity theft
- tricking or coercing residents into making staff members their life insurance beneficiary
- theft of property
- anything that involves manipulating money or property in an unethical way
Why The Elderly Cannot Protect Themselves?
The sad truth is that elderly individuals in nursing homes are not, as a rule, capable of defending or protecting themselves from many of these types of abuse or neglect. Not only do they lack physical strength, but many times, they can feel isolated and alone, believing that nobody cares about what is happening to them, and give in to the abuse out of a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.
But the attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., want these victims to know that we will stand by them to protect them and to protect their rights. Our Chicago elder abuse attorneys are ready to fight for the justice and damages that these victims deserve. Further, we’ll look to enforce existing elder abuse laws with the hope that more do not become victims.
Is Nursing Home Abuse Common?
As of 2010, there were 787 certified nursing homes in the state of Illinois. There is bed space to care for over 100,000 elderly patrons who, for one reason or another, are unable to live on their own.
The majority of nursing homes participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. These programs provide compensation, at least partially, for providing care to the elderly. Nationwide, these state and federal programs send over $58 billion to nursing homes.
State agencies are responsible for making sure that these facilities meet state and federal care standards. They are a prerequisite for receiving these funds. Failure to comply with these standards can result in monetary penalties, other enforcement actions and, at the extreme, termination from these programs.
In Illinois, the Department of Public Health is responsible for nursing home regulation. It performs surveys of these certified facilities every 15 months in order to see if they meet certification standards. This agency also has responsibility for investigating complaints and, if necessary, for taking corrective action. This includes pursuing criminal prosecutions against employees who abuse or neglect nursing home residents, if appropriate.
What is the Adult Protective Services Act?
The state of Illinois provides for the security of elders through the Adult Protective Services Act. This law mandates that certain persons—including social workers, law enforcement, and medical professionals—must report incidents of elder abuse and neglect. The law also protects those who report abuse from being the victims of any retaliatory action.
Further, the Act makes it unlawful for anyone to cause “any physical, mental or sexual injury to an eligible adult (that is, an individual 60 years or older), including exploitation of such adult’s financial resources” (abuse). Further, the law makes it unlawful for those under a duty to care for an elderly person to fail to provide an “eligible adult with or willful withholding from an eligible adult the necessities of life including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter or health care” (neglect).
What Are The Nursing Home Abuse Statistics?
Despite these legal standards and safeguards, nursing home abuse and neglect is still too common.
- There are roughly 1.4 million Americans living in nursing homes.
- Statistics from a number of sources, including the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center on Elder Abuse, indicate that only 1 in 14 instances of abuse are reported to authorities.
- Yet despite the fact that there is abuse and neglect under-reporting, there are over 20,000 complaints of abuse, exploitation or gross neglect of nursing home residents every year.
- A 2020 study conducted by the World Health Organization found that nearly 65% of staff members working in nursing homes have admitted to committing abuse or neglect in some form.
- Elderly people living in nursing homes are more likely to be the victim of abuse or neglect if they do not have family or close friends checking on them regularly.
Many law enforcement bodies also contend that, despite some instances of abuse and neglect amounting to criminal conduct, they are rarely notified of these incidents. Moreover, even when they are notified, it is usually long after the abuse has occurred.
Often, either the facility itself or state regulators have already tried to handle the matter “administratively”. This leaves law enforcement with no ability to gather fresh evidence or to pursue prosecution. Overall, the sad fact is that most instances of abuse, whether minor or major, are never redressed.
How Can The Elder Abuse Attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. Help?
Nursing home residents and their families contribute over $34 billion every year to nursing home facilities. Additionally, there is an additional $58 billion coming in through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, nearly 90% of all U.S. nursing homes do not have sufficient staffing to provide adequate care for their senior residents.
At the same time, according to data compiled by Families for Better Care, the CEOs of some of the larger for-profit and publicly-traded enterprises that run nursing homes award themselves salaries in excess of $1 million annually. Further, they have seen phenomenal growth in profits in recent years.
Why You Cannot Rely Upon Nursing Homes to Police Themselves?
It is more than clear that we cannot rely upon nursing homes to police themselves. Further, it is difficult for state regulators and law enforcement to redress wrongs. When the most vulnerable of our elderly citizens becomes a victim of abuse or neglect, we all lose. And that’s not only in loss of life and quality of life, but in funds squandered on bureaucrats or highly-compensated executives, rather than on providing care. Sooner or later, we may all find ourselves in the same vulnerable position. We take steps to make sure this does not continue to happen.
The nursing home abuse attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. believe that the elderly need protection from mistreatment. One way to achieve this is to make sure that those who abuse or neglect the elderly pay damages.
Elder abuse and neglect laws are in place to protect the elderly. We should all take steps to make sure that those laws are enforced to their fullest. Further, we should make sure that these institutions are on notice that they cannot get away with mistreatment and abuse of the elderly.
Reasons to File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit
Elder abuse and neglect carried out by nursing home corporations, managers, policies, and staff is unacceptable.
The damage done by this abuse can have long-term repercussions that significantly alter the quality of life for those living in nursing homes. To fully understand nursing home abuse, you must also understand what actions and policies lead to these abuses. This defines the basis for a nursing home abuse lawsuit.
The quality of the personnel hired in nursing homes is significant because of its correlation to the level of care provided. Nursing homes are obligated to hire qualified staff members who will carry out their duties accurately and ethically. When a nursing home fails to properly screen employee backgrounds, they put residents at risk of harm. Facilities that use negligent hiring practices are directly responsible for any abuses that result.
Generally, the staff working inside a nursing home are outnumbered by the resident population. If the ratio of staff to residents becomes significantly disproportionate, residents can suffer neglect due to lack of supervision or overworked staff. Nursing homes are required to employ a reasonable number of staff members to maintain a high quality of care and meet the needs of residents.
Lack of Training
Failing to properly train a nursing home staff member, no matter their position, can put residents’ lives at risk. This applies to everyone from caretakers to maintenance workers. In some cases, staff members will not have the proper training to deal with residents who require special attention. Those with disabilities or particular special needs require a greater level of care and patience compared to other residents. If staff is not properly trained in providing care, they won’t be equipped to deal with exceptional conditions.
Nursing home facilities are responsible for all third-party companies or vendors that enter their doors. It’s a nursing home’s duty to ensure that a safe environment is maintained at all times. Adequate security screenings must take place to protect residents from any outside harm. If insufficient screening of third-party personnel leads to an incident of abuse, a nursing home can be liable for the victim’s damages.
Breach of Fundamental Rights
Residents deserve the right to make choices on their own, have visitation with people they choose to see, voice their grievances, and have privacy while living in the facility. Any nursing home found violating these rights need to be held accountable for their inhumane acts.
Should You Contact a Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?
If someone you know is living in a Chicago area nursing home and you see signs or symptoms of abuse or neglect or otherwise suspect that abuse or neglect may be taking place there, contact the nursing home attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. to find out how we may be able to assist you.
We have extensive experience in elder law, and are ready to investigate allegations of abuse. Further, we will follow through with our investigation by filing a lawsuit, if necessary.
Remember: we will not charge any legal fees unless and until we recover damages for our clients.
Call us today, toll-free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442), or locally at (312) 924-7575.