Are You or a Loved One the 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 or other loved ones may not be able to provide. Perhaps it is because the care requires special medical training or knowledge, or because these family members and friends do not have the available time needed to fully and adequately care for an elderly person’s needs. Whatever the reason, it is not uncommon for people to turn to nursing homes, senior centers, or assisted living facilities to provide the care and attention an elderly individual requires, so that they may continue to live their lives with an appropriate level of personal care that is sensitive to their special needs.
While most people take steps to ensure that whatever care facility they choose meets not only their particular needs, but basic standards of care and service, the sad truth is that much abuse and neglect occurs in many nursing homes, even those that might otherwise seem ideal. The following are some examples of nursing home abuse or neglect claims:
- Bed Sores and Decubitus Ulcers
- Dehydration or Malnutrition
- Physical and Sexual Abuse
- Fall Injuries (for example – due to being dropped by staff)
- Burns – Due to Smoking and Bathing
- Bed Rail – Injury and Death
- Infection Due to Staff Neglect
- Medication Error
- Medical Errors
- Assault by Resident or Staff
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 prepared not only to fight for the justice and damages that these victims are entitled to personally, but to enforce existing elder abuse laws with the goal of making sure that others are not similarly victimized.
Unfortunately, Nursing Home Abuse Is All Too Common Despite Laws Designed to Protect Nursing Home Residents
As of 2010, there were 787 certified nursing homes in the state of Illinois, with 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, which compensate them, at least partially, for providing care to the elderly. Nationwide, over $58 billion is provided to nursing homes through these federal and state programs. State agencies are responsible for making sure that these facilities meet state and federal care standards established as a prerequisite for receiving these funds, and 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, and 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, including pursuing criminal prosecutions against employees who abuse or neglect nursing home residents, if appropriate.
The state of Illinois also passed a law, the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act, which 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 do report abuse from being the victims of any retaliatory action. 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), and also 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).
Despite these legal standards and safeguards, however, nursing home abuse and neglect are more common than one might imagine. Statistics compiled from a number of sources, including the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center on Elder Abuse, indicate that, for the roughly 1.4 million residents of American nursing homes, only 1 in 14 instances of abuse are ever reported to authorities. Yet despite the fact that abuse and neglect are under-reported, over 20,000 complaints of abuse, exploitation or gross neglect of nursing home residents are recorded every year.
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 and either the facility itself or state regulators have already tried to handle the matter “administratively,” leaving 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.
The Elder Abuse Attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. Can Help You if You or a Loved One Are a Victim of Abuse or Neglect from a Nursing Home
Nursing home residents and their families contribute over $34 billion every year to nursing home facilities, along with the $58 billion contributed by taxpayer funds through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, nearly 90% of all U.S. nursing homes are not sufficiently staffed 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, and have seen phenomenal growth in profits in 2012, despite a lackluster performance for the rest of the economy. In fact, CEO salaries for these enterprises ballooned up by 15% in 2012, while almost no other sector of the economy experienced such growth. Over the same period, there was a 16% drop in nurse assistant hours per resident per day in the nation’s nursing homes.
This is shameful. And it is more than clear that no one can rely upon either nursing homes to police themselves, or upon 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: 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 unless we take steps to make sure this does not continue to happen.
The elder abuse attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. believe that we all have a responsibility to protect the elderly from mistreatment. One way to achieve this is to make sure that those who do abuse or neglect the elderly in institutions that are supposed to care for them are made to pay dearly when they do something wrong. Elder abuse and neglect laws are in place to protect the elderly, and we should all take steps to make sure that those laws are enforced to their fullest, and to make sure that these institutions are on notice that they cannot get away with mistreatment and abuse of the elderly.
If someone you know is housed 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 prepared to investigate allegations of abuse and to 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.