The decision of whether to place an elderly parent or other relative in a nursing home is one of the most difficult decisions many of us will have to make. We may prefer that they be able to live on their own, or even reside within our own homes. Unfortunately, safety concerns and the need for continual supervision and medical care may leave us with no other option. Entrusting a loved one to be cared for by other people should never have to involve suspected abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, nursing home negligence occurs all over the country, and much of it never gets reported.
Elderly residents of a nursing home are vulnerable to potential abuse because they rely on nursing home staff for their basic care, including food, drink, medicine, and hygiene. Many nursing home staff are not able to communicate, and cannot tell others if they are being mistreated. This is why there are state and federal laws specifically aimed at protecting nursing home residents from abuse, neglect, or mistreatment.
According to the non-profit watchdog group, Families for Better Care, Illinois ranks 44th in the nation in 2014 for nursing home care, receiving an “F”. The group found that much of the problem was due to understaffing leading to neglect and mistreatment. Almost 97% of nursing homes had some deficiencies cited, and one in four Illinois nursing homes were cited for a severe deficiency. Complaints to the Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman were reportedly verified almost 74% of the time.
The status quo is clearly not enough to protect loved ones from nursing home abuse. Having an advocate on your side who understands nursing home abuse laws and regulations will help to make sure your family member is treated right, and that abusers will be held accountable.
Illinois Nursing Home Care Act
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides rights and protections to nursing home residents and their spouses, including the right to be free from abuse or neglect. They have the right to manage their own affairs, if they are able, to keep their personal property, receive medical care, and be discharged from any facility upon the desire to be discharged.
Federal law also provides legal protection for nursing home residents, under the Nursing Home Reform Act. This includes having enough nursing staff, providing proper treatment, supervision, nutritional support, and medical care.
Abuse is defined as, “any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means in a facility.”
Neglect is defined as, “a facility's failure to provide, or willful withholding of, adequate medical care, mental health treatment, psychiatric rehabilitation, personal care, or assistance with activities of daily living that is necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness of a resident.”
Illegal nursing home abuse can take all forms, and occur in many different degrees. It can be obvious, or it can be very difficult to detect. Abuse can go on for years without ever being reported, even when nursing home staff and administrators are aware of the issue. When violations do get reported, a citation or fine may not be enough to deter further abuse, especially where there is such a low risk of neglect being detected. Legal action may be the most effective way to stop abuse, and prevent others from being similarly mistreated in the future.
Nursing Home Neglect
Active abuse against a nursing home patient can be just as harmful as someone failing to properly care for a resident. Neglect can involve failing to take appropriate and adequate care for someone who may have trouble caring for themselves. Failing to regularly clean and dry a person's body can lead to bedsores. Failing to regularly turn and move a person who has limited mobility can lead to pressure sores. Failing to adequately provide food, water and medication in a timely manner can also compromise an individual's health.
Many family members and nursing home patient's themselves are reluctant to report neglect in appropriate care for a number of reasons. Sometimes, neglect is explained away by believing that the nursing home staff is overworked, or they have too many patients to care for, but that is no justification to the harm done through neglect. This is one reason that so much nursing home neglect never gets reported.
Pain, injury and the harm resulting from neglect may not be as obvious as compared to active abuse. It may also occur over the course of months or even years, and be accepted by some family and patients as just the normal course of getting older. However, nursing home companies, administrators, supervisors and staff all have rules to follow and laws to abide by to make sure our loved ones are compassionately and appropriately cared for to give them the quality of life they deserve. Failing to give proper care is a form of abuse, and should be treated as such.
Signs of Abuse
According to the Administration on Aging (AOA), there are number of physical signs to look for that could be indicative of abuse or neglect. This includes:
- Pressure Marks
- Broken Bones
- Poor Hygiene
- Pressure Sores
- Rapid or Unusual Weight Loss
- Unexplained Injuries
In addition to physical signs of possible neglect, abuse, or mistreatment, there may be other non-physical clues that may be linked to nursing home negligence. This can include a change in mental health, including emotional withdrawal, depression, lack of interest in normal activities, or loss of alertness.
A change in a patient's financial situation may also raise the possibility of exploitation. This could involve forging signatures or cashing a patient's check without authorization, taking money or personal property, or forcing a patient to sign certain documents. Signs of possible financial exploitation or abuse could involve transfers of money to unknown individuals, dramatic changes in financial documents, unexpected bank withdrawals, suspicious signature changes, or a change in how the individual talks about money matters.
Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, and suspect possible abuse or neglect, you need to put a stop to it and help to prevent future abuse. You should consider speaking to experienced nursing home negligence lawyers to make sure your elderly parent or relative is protected and stop the mistreatment of others. Our attorneys have successfully handled numerous nursing home negligence cases for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. If your relative has been injured, or died as the result of suspected mistreatment contact Benassi & Benassi, your experienced Illinois nursing home negligence lawyers.