When an instance of nursing home abuse or neglect comes to light, an elderly resident’s loved ones are shocked and outraged. After all, we trust these long-term care facilities to care for our elderly loved ones when they are most vulnerable and most in need of competent and compassionate care. Furthermore, we never expect that trusting our seniors to what we think are safe and healthy places could lead to mistreatment that adversely impacts their physical and mental health.
Sadly, nursing home mistreatment and neglect occurs frequently across the country. In fact, when Inspector General auditors analyzed emergency rooms to identify possible cases of physical or sexual abuse of nursing home residents, Illinois had the highest number of incidents overall. The Illinois Department of Public Health issues quarterly reports documenting the actions they have initiated against facilities determined to be in violation of the Nursing Home Care Act or reported for violations related to patient care under Titles XVIII and XIX of the Federal Social Security Act.
Though just reporting these cases may result in disciplinary action or the levy of small fines, it does not begin to do justice. If your loved one was in long-term care or skilled nursing facility and, instead of being safe and secure, was a victim of substandard care, abuse, or neglect—you might benefit from retaining a Bloomington nursing home abuse lawyer to hold them truly accountable. Call today to discuss your case with our legal team in Illinois and what steps to take next.
What is Expected of a Long-Term Care Facility?
Both state and federal laws and regulations (CMS 42 CFR 423.12) require that nursing home residents have the right to a safe environment without being subject to mistreatment, abuse, or exploitation. There are a number of actions that constitute each of these offenses.
Abuse, for example, can be anything from physical harm to threat of force or emotional maltreatment. Any actions that result in a loss of goods or types of care that are essential to a nursing home resident’s wellbeing—physical and emotional—could be constituted as abuse.
Neglect, on the other hand, is not as often malicious as abuse. However, it still involves a total lack of necessary care, and can still result in physical, emotional, and psychological distress. Lastly, exploitation—which is technically a form of abuse—is used to describe manipulative or threatening actions toward a resident that is taken by a nursing facility or staff for their own gain. No matter the circumstances, a dedicated Bloomington lawyer could work to determine the type of nursing home abuse a resident has suffered.
What is the Difference Between Nursing Home Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect?
In general terms, nursing home abuse occurs when a person charged with caring for a resident of a residential facility intentionally inflicts physical or emotional harm. Nursing home neglect is where a facility fails to provide proper care of a resident, such as failing to properly respond to development of bedsores. In cases of both nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect the resident or their family members can pursue a lawsuit to recover damages, including compensation for the cost of medical care and emotional distress.
What are the Signs of Nursing Home Neglect?
Residents who are experienced nursing home neglect may exhibit a number of signs. Some of the more common signs are: lack of proper hygiene, unsanitary living conditions, loss of mobility, unexplained injuries, or a change in mental status. In addition to consulting with an attorney, concerns regarding nursing home neglect or abuse can be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health. An experienced nursing home attorney can help you report suspected abuse or neglect.
10 Common Areas of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
While there are virtually endless types of abuse and neglect that a nursing home resident can suffer, there are 10 common areas that lawyers in Bloomington see frequently. These include:
- Medication Errors—nursing home residents suffer almost 2 million adverse drug events every year, and 70% of these are preventable. Some are life threatening, or even fatal. These errors include giving the wrong medication, wrong dosage, at the wrong time, and/or to the wrong patient.
- Falls and Fall Related Injuries—these pose a significant risk to residents in long-term care facilities. One in five falls cause serious injuries and nursing homes are aware of the problem. They have a duty to implement reasonable interventions to prevent falls and fall related injuries.
- Pressure Injuries (bedsores)—residents at risk for bedsores must be identified and pressure ulcer prevention strategies must be implemented and continuously monitored and assessed for effectiveness.
- Infections—42 CFR requires facilities to have a program targeted at infection protection and control. If not properly implemented, infected bedsores, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia may result.
- Choking—a resident who has problems with swallowing, choking, or eating too fast requires a special diet and adequate supervision, with staff helping the resident to eat meals and drink fluids.
- Malnutrition & Dehydration—nutritional assessment and treatment must be a routine part of care for all elderly, since any change in food intake can lead to malnutrition and grave consequences. Similarly, dehydration can be an extremely serious condition in the elderly. This can cause blood pressure to fall, and, uncorrected, it can lead to multi-organ failure and even death. Residents must be adequately supervised, with ready access to water, and be encouraged to drink throughout the day.
- Improper Use of Restraints—physical and chemical restraints are illegal unless a physician orders them and their benefits outweigh the risks. Residents cannot routinely be physically tied down to keep them from harming themselves. Staff members sometimes use restraints to make their work lives easier. Similarly, drugs not required to treat the medical symptoms are sometimes used for staff convenience or for discipline.
- Unsafe Wandering—can lead to leaving a safe environment, intruding in inappropriate places, or even getting lost. Residents permitted to unsafely wander are at risk for falls, exposure to traffic and environmental hazards, and unsafe exposure to the elements. Elopement occurs when a resident leaves the facility without staff knowledge.
- Wheelchair Injuries—these injuries can occur when nursing home staff fail to implement appropriate safety measures. Putting a resident in a wheelchair does not release staff of the duty to provide ongoing supervision. Proper use of leg and footrests is necessary. Residents must be kept away from fall hazards and unguarded stairs.
- Sexual abuse—is a serious issue in nursing homes. About 80% of victims of elder sexual abuse reside in an institutional care center. Residents are particularly vulnerable and their disabilities interfere with their ability to report abuse, hence it is thought to be significantly underreported.
Are Nursing Homes Regulated?
Yes, all nursing homes in the State of Illinois are regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPG+H) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The IDPH is responsible for ensuring that nursing homes comply with state regulations. The IDPH reports that every year it conducts 1,300 on-site licensing inspections and responds to approximately 6,000 complaints. If the department finds violations during its inspection it can levy fines against the facilities to obtain compliance.
Who is Legally Liable for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
A nursing facility can be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. They can face additional liability if any of the following played a role in harming a resident:
- Negligent hiring
- Inadequate training or supervision
- Inadequate pharmacy policies resulting in medication errors
- Failure to adhere to statutory or regulatory requirements
- Failure to meet generally accepted industry standards of care
No matter the circumstances that lead to an injury or worsened medical condition, a Bloomington nursing home abuse lawyer could work to gather evidence and establish liability for a claim.
Proving Liability Requires a Skilled Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in Bloomington
Nursing home abuse cases are a form of personal injury litigation. Of course, it is not always obvious what went wrong or who is at fault. Because of this, you might wish to contact experienced legal professional to identify all of the causes of the harm your loved one suffered, and to seek proper remedies to compensate you for all additional medical expenses, disabilities, injuries, or for the loss of your loved one.
A Bloomington nursing home abuse lawyer can carefully and compassionately listen to your story, gather all the records necessary to determine what might have been done wrong, and help you pursue justice. Most importantly, pursuing a neglect or abuse case can deter this and other nursing care facilities from future bad behavior. Our legal team could consult with you about your case, advise you on your options, and pursue the best legal course of action. To learn more, schedule a free case evaluation today.