With approximately 1,200 long-term care facilities in Illinois, there are plenty of safe and comfortable options for elderly people to live in a community where they can have the care and company they need. Unfortunately, as history has shown us, many facilities that appear to be suitable don’t even meet minimum standards for health and safety.
A comprehensive review by The New England Journal of Medicine found the prevalence of elder abuse to be approximately 10% over a 12 month period. These abuses included financial, physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual abuse, along with neglect. Despite these statistics, elder abuse is undoubtedly underreported. A separate study found that for every 1 case of elderly abuse that is reported, another 24 were unknown.
The fact is that elderly abuse in nursing homes—whether in Waukegan or anywhere in Illinois or across the U.S.—not only occurs but is also prevalent. This is extremely alarming for anyone whose relative lives in a nursing home and also for anyone with a moral compass.
Nursing home residents are vulnerable given their age and, for many, their physical state and reliance on care by others. Additionally, many elders live on fixed incomes. That makes injuries especially damaging and financially devastating for them. They simply cannot handle new medical bills on their own; nor should they have to.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse, the Waukegan elder abuse attorneys at Abels & Annes can help you to hold the facility and its perpetrators accountable. We will fight for the compensation your loved one and family needs and deserves due to injuries sustained.
Nursing Home Duty of Care
In Illinois, nursing home facilities owe a duty of care to their residents. This means that management, owners, and staff must take reasonable measures to protect elderly residents from harm. In a nursing home, this includes keeping the premises safe, providing proper and timely treatment, providing necessary assistance, and helping residents keep up with basic hygiene and needs. And of course, not to mention that elders in nursing homes have the absolute to right to be free from any neglect or abuse.
Owners, management, and staff also have a duty to report anything that violates a resident’s rights through The Abused and Neglected Long Term Care Facility Residents Reporting Act. The most common types of injuries that nursing home residents suffer can be broken down into two main categories: neglect and abuse.
Types of Negligence in a Nursing Home
One of the most obvious types of negligence that an elderly person could experience in a nursing home is negligent care. This may include:
- allowing bed sores to develop due to lack of movement
- dropping a resident, causing an injury
- failing to assist a resident, leading to a slip and fall
- not providing a resident with adequate access to water or food
- neglecting them in some other way that could affect their health and comfort
Nursing homes often have trouble finding qualified and passionate employees that can handle the demanding job of working at a nursing home. Because of this, nursing homes don't always hire from a pool of qualified candidates. Some fail to verify applicants’ credentials and neglect to conduct extensive background checks because of the need to hire someone right away. As a result, nursing home residents can be exposed to inexperienced workers, people with little passion to do the job well, and in some cases criminals.
Staffing requirements are extremely detailed. Illinois requires facilities to dedicate a minimum amount of time to their nursing home residents. A resident needing intermediate care should receive 2.5 hours of nursing and personal care per day, and a resident needing skilled care should receive 3.8 hours of nursing and personal care each day. A portion of that care must be provided by a licensed nurse. In addition to having licensed nurses, nursing homes are required to meet minimums for therapy aides, nurse assistants, rehabilitation aides, and a variety of other professionals.
Understaffed nursing homes don’t have enough workers to fulfill these minimum care requirements. This leaves residents susceptible to a wide range of dangers. For instance, a shortage of nurses can mean an unqualified employee is administering care. This puts residents’ health at risk. When a staff is spread too thin, dependent residents may attempt to care for themselves. This can result in slips and falls, which are the leading cause of death and injury in older adults.
A nursing home that is understaffed is the perfect environment for danger to thrive. With fewer eyes on them, abusers and neglectful staff members are more likely to go unnoticed.
Even well-meaning staff members can cause harm when they’re not properly trained to do their jobs. There are training service hours requirements in place to make sure that employees know how to meet residents’ varying needs and how to respond to emergency situations. For instance, specific training to care for residents with Alzheimer’s is a requirement. Staff members who aren't equipped to handle an aggressive Alzheimer’s patient place the patient and other residents in harm’s way.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, chances are that he or she has multiple prescriptions they need to take regularly. An overwhelming 89% of people 65 and older take a prescription medication. That means nursing home staff are managing dozens of pills, injections, and other supplements. Many residents have multiple prescriptions and specific schedules that outline when they need to be taken. Their prescriptions can also change over time.
With all of these variables, a staff that doesn’t take precautions can easily miss a dose, give out a wrong medication, or give too much or too little of a certain drug. These mistakes can lead to serious health complications that are both traumatizing and costly. In some cases, these negligent mistakes may even lead to death.
Types of Abuse in a Nursing Home
In addition to neglect, there are also forms of abuse residents may experience in a nursing home. Some of the most common types of abuse include physical, sexual, mental, and financial abuse.
Elderly residents have lots of different issues that can frustrate even the kindest of people. But when someone takes their frustrations out on an elderly resident, physical abuse can be a direct result. Elderly residents are typically already frail. Physical abuse can easily lead to broken bones, severe head injuries, and lacerations that leave them susceptible to infection.
Sexual abuse is one of the most egregious things that can happen to our elderly loved ones while they are in the care of a nursing home. Sexual abuse may include molestation, photographing, and rape. Residents with severe disabilities are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse because they cannot physically defend themselves.
Mental or psychological abuse is another common form of abuse that elderly residents may experience in a nursing home. Like we mentioned before, some people are just not cut out to deal with the frustrations that can come with caring for an elderly person. Because of that, it is not uncommon for caretakers or staff to lash out in a way that quickly becomes mental or psychological abuse. Some common examples of mental abuse are humiliation, taunting, verbal threats, and lies to mislead residents.
Financial abuse of the elderly can happen in many different ways in nursing homes. Again, when a person is on a fixed income, any changes to their finances can be devastating. Even if an elder is not on fixed income, financial abuse of them is still illegal and unethical.
Some common examples of elderly financial abuse include:
- Forging the person’s signature for financial gain
- Forcing a person to change their will or power of attorney
- Stealing property or money
- Using false confidence to take advantage of their finances
- Using scare tactics to get the elderly person to give over money
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
The likelihood of non-malicious injuries does increase with age. However, that doesn’t mean that new injuries should be dismissed when you notice them on your loved one. A good nursing home will take measures to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place. Unexplained bruises, scars, welts, and broken bones may be signs of abuse, especially if they are not reported to the designated family caretaker after occurring.
Changes in a resident’s demeanor or appearance can also indicate abuse. Being withdrawn is a common response to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. A physical change like weight loss could be a result of starvation or withheld medication. Bedsores, soiled linens, uncommon body odor, and dirty clothing are signs that a resident is being neglected and not receiving adequate hygienic treatment.
The way a nursing home reacts to visitors can also tip you off. A nursing home that discourages visitors from coming may have something to hide. Hovering over residents when visitors are present is an intimidation tactic. This is sometimes done to deter them from reporting abuse to their loved ones.
If you believe that anything like this is happening, try to speak to your loved one privately. If that does not get to the bottom of it, consider reporting it to a local agency or contacting a nursing home lawyer.
How Can a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Help?
The process of gathering evidence for a nursing home case is extensive. You may need to obtain medical records, employee schedules, surveillance footage, and a staff’s background information. Facilities that know they’re in the wrong won’t be forthcoming with documentation. They may try to bury evidence or quietly offer a small settlement.
An experienced Waukegan personal injury attorney can investigate your loved one’s case properly and fight for the true value of your claim. The attorneys of Abels & Annes are passionate about holding these facilities accountable. Call us at 855-529-2442 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Abels & Annes, P.C. (Waukegan Office)
404 W Water St Suite 100
Waukegan, IL 60085