Placing a family member into a nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions a person will ever have to make. Unfortunately, in many instances, this is the only way to ensure that elder loved ones will receive the care and support they need. While most nursing homes in the Chicago area provide the highest quality of care, that is not always the case. Nursing home staff members are sometimes negligent, and that can lead to the patients in their care being seriously injured. In the worst cases, these staff members are even abusive. Anyone who has seen a loved one become injured in a nursing home should speak to a Chicago nursing home abuse attorney right away for help.
Types of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
Tragically, there are many types of nursing home abuse and neglect. The most common injuries that result from elder abuse and neglect include the following:
Sepsis: Sepsis is the body’s reaction to infections, and it is extremely common in Illinois nursing homes. Sepsis occurs when the body has an overwhelming reaction to an infection and starts working against itself. Sepsis can lead to tissue and organ damage, and even wrongful death.
Bedsores: These sores indicate that a patient has been restrained to a bed or chair for an extended period of time. Nursing home caregivers may forget to move the patient or may simply leave the patient in one place as a form of discipline, which is abuse.
Falls, fractures and other severe injuries: When a loved one has injuries such as fractures from a fall that cannot be satisfactorily explained by the staff, it is an indication that abuse is likely a factor.
Malnutrition and dehydration: Nursing home employees are responsible for ensuring patients are always properly fed and hydrated. When they refuse access to food, or do not try to get patients to eat, they can be held accountable.
Life threatening injuries: Nearly any injury an elderly person sustains has the potential to become life-threatening. Broken hips, other fractures, and even illnesses that are left untreated or that do not have a satisfactory explanation are all indications of nursing home abuse.
Choking: The elderly population generally has weak muscles and other physical issues that make choking a real danger for them. Staff members must take appropriate measures, such as cutting food into small bites and serving soft food, to mitigate the risk of choking.
Oxygen deprivation: Some nursing home residents rely on breathing tubes to live. When these tubes become clogged, it can result in suffocation, brain damage, and even death.
Sexual assault: No one wants to consider that sexual assault occurs in nursing homes but unfortunately, it occurs far too often. The victims of this type of abuse often have medical issues that make it difficult for them to talk about the abuse or even remember it happened.
Financial exploitation: This type of abuse can include outright stealing from a patient’s wallet or room, or convincing an elder to sign over a check to a nursing home staff member.
Many nursing homes are notoriously understaffed, which can be a direct cause of any of the injuries listed above. However, understaffing is no excuse for neglect or abuse that leads to injury or even death. Any time a nursing home resident is hurt in any of these ways, they or their loved ones should speak to a Chicago nursing home lawyer.
What are Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
One of the first signs of nursing home negligence is when a resident’s behavior or personality changes, or when there is regular tension between the elder and his or her caregiver. Anyone who suspects that an elder is being abused by caregivers should look for these additional signs:
- Unexplained injuries, such as broken bones
- Bruises, scars, or welts
- Medication that is not taken properly
- Marks on an elder’s wrist or ankles that indicate restraint
- Broken eyeglasses
- Caregivers refuse to allow the elder to be alone with another person
- Caregivers that seem controlling, threatening, or belittling
- STDs and genital infections that are not explained
- Stained or torn undergarments
- Unsafe living conditions, such as faulty heat or fire hazards on the property
- Signs of inadequate hygiene, including dirty clothes, dirty fingernails, soiled bedding
- Sudden weight loss
- Dry skin, from dehydration
- Sudden changes in the elder’s financial situation
- Withdrawals from the elder’s bank account that are not adequately explained
- Changes in the elder’s estate plan
Any time loved ones notice these signs of abuse or neglect, they should speak to a Chicago nursing home attorney who can help.
What do I do if I Suspect Abuse or Neglect?
It is easy to become angry and upset if you suspect a loved one is a victim. It is extremely important to remain calm and take the following steps.
- Call 911 if your loved one is in immediate danger and you need help moving them out of the facility.
- Speak to your loved one privately and ask if they are hurt, threatened, or feel neglected.
- Speak to nursing home staff members about your concerns and ask what happened.
- Understand the rights of your loved one, including the right to privacy, dignity, respect, and a comfortable environment.
- File a complaint with the Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman.
- Document everything by taking pictures of injuries, saving copies of medical documents, and journal about your experience and your loved one’s experience.
- If your loved one can remain in the home, ask the facility to correct the deficiencies, and remain a regular presence.
After filing a complaint, it is important to speak to a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer who can help you through the rest of the steps and help your loved one recover damages.
What Can an Attorney do to Help Me and My Loved One?
Going up against nursing homes and their insurance companies on your own is a difficult thing to do. Nursing home abuse lawyers will be of immense help and will assist with your case in the following ways:
- Gather information, including witness statements and medical records
- File the case in a timely manner and notify the defendants
- Apply federal and state nursing home laws to ensure the case is filed properly
- Refute claims from the nursing home and their defense lawyers
- Collect and organization information during discovery
- Negotiate with the other side to secure a fair settlement
- Represent you in trial, if necessary
A lawyer will understand how to file a complaint, as well as the personal injury claim process. Working with an experienced nursing home injury lawyer will give you the best chance of a favorable outcome.
What Rights do Nursing Home Residents Have?
The Nursing Home Care Act provides nursing home residents several rights. While in nursing homes, all residents have the right to:
- Enjoy all the rights of other U.S. citizens, including the right to vote and freedom of religion
- Manage their financial affairs
- Receive information from the nursing home about how to apply for Medicaid
- Receive information from the nursing home regarding the rules for spousal impoverishment
- Privately send mail, make phone calls, and have visitations from loved ones
- Wear their own clothes
- See and copy all medical records
- Use their own personal doctor
- Know about their medical diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis
- Refuse medication, as long as the decision does not pose a harm to others
- Be free of restraints, unless ordered by a physician
- Complain to the administration without being retaliated against
- See an attorney, local ombudsman, or social worker
- Live with their spouse in the nursing home, unless there is a medical issue that prevents it
- Access to mailing facilities and telephones provided by the nursing home with appropriate hours of use
- Be discharged upon request
When any of these rights are violated, it is important to speak to a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer.
What Does Neglect Mean in a Nursing Home?
Nursing home neglect occurs when a patient receives substandard care, or a caregiver breaches his or her duty to a resident and it results in patient harm. Elder neglect can take many forms including neglect of nursing home staff, abandonment, or even self-neglect. Self-neglect occurs when nursing home residents refuse to adequately care for themselves, or are incapable of caring for themselves, and the nursing home staff members do not assist with that care.
What Does Exploitation Mean in a Nursing Home Setting?
Nursing home exploitation occurs when caregivers take advantage of residents for their own personal gain through the use of coercion, intimidation, manipulation, or threats. For example, a caregiver may deceive a resident so the resident signs a will, check, or other document that gives the caregiver with more authority than they currently have, or that benefits them financially. Nursing home exploitation is typically considered financial abuse.
What Does Abuse Mean in a Nursing Home?
While neglect is the failure to provide the proper standard of care and can result in ignoring nursing home residents, abuse is much more direct. Abuse is a deliberate act that causes the resident physical harm, mental anguish, or pain of any kind. The four main types of abuse are verbal, physical, sexual, and mental.
There are many common forms of abuse that take place in nursing homes. Some of the most common include roughly handling the residents, withholding care or assistance, isolating residents, yelling at or restraining residents, and taking photographs or recordings of residents that are intended to demean or humiliate them.
What Happens When a Nursing Home Violates Illinois Laws?
All Illinois nursing homes are expected to comply with state laws. Any time a nursing home violates these laws, the residents or their loved ones can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Health or the Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman. These government bodies will conduct an investigation, levy penalties for the violation, and ensure that the issue does not arise again. Unfortunately, this is of little help to the resident who suffered as a result and does not help an injured resident recover any resulting damages.
To do this, nursing home residents and their loved ones can file a personal injury claim to secure the compensation they deserve. The claims process is long and complex and anyone who wishes to file a claim against the nursing home or their insurance company should speak to a nursing home abuse attorney in Chicago,il.
What Happens After I File a Nursing Home Complaint?
After filing a formal complaint, the government body that received the complaint will conduct an investigation. Depending on the nature of the complaint, they may or may not remain in touch with you while the investigation is ongoing. You do not have to wait until the government’s investigation is completed to file a personal injury claim.
How Long do I Have to File a Nursing Home Lawsuit?
The Illinois statute of limitations gives you two years from the date of the abuse or neglect, or from the date you discovered the abuse or neglect, to file your claim. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time, you will likely forfeit your right to compensation.
What Damages can a Person Recover in a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Case?
There are many damages, or losses, to be recovered in a nursing home abuse or neglect case. The most common of these include:
- Medical expenses
- Medication costs
- Transportation costs to and from doctor’s offices
- Therapy or counseling
- Loss of quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
After reviewing a case, a lawyer can advise on the full amount of damages available.
Our Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys are Here to Help
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys at Blumenshine Law Group. We know how to hold these facilities and their insurance companies accountable for providing the compensation you and your family need. Contact us online today to schedule a free case evaluation or call us at (312) 766-1000 or email at [email protected] for the immediate help you need.