Experienced Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Handling Complex Claims
Holding Illinois nursing homes responsible for their actions against residents
When it's time to move our loved ones to a nursing home or care facility, we rely on the professionalism and compassion of the staff and doctors to provide a safe and loving place for the residents. Unfortunately, this is not the experience for everyone, and some patients in Chicago and across the country suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of nursing home staff.
If you believe your loved one is being neglected or abused by nursing home caretakers, Gainsberg Law can help. Our Chicago nursing home neglect and abuse attorneys fight for the senior citizens of Illinois when they cannot fight for themselves. We'll hold abusers accountable for their actions. Contact us today.
Common forms of neglect and abuse in nursing homes
Although abuse and neglect can take many forms, our attorneys see common claims from our clients. Some of these are listed below.
- Bedsores. Also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, bedsores are not a normal side effect of getting older or living in a nursing home. These are actually injuries to the skin and its underlying tissue and are caused by prolonged pressure on a specific part of the body. In nursing homes, you will typically see bedsores on the heels, ankles, hips, tailbone, or wrists—all parts where skin covers the bony areas of the body. Pressure sores are typically a sign that a resident isn't receiving proper care. These injuries are completely preventable if nursing home staff ensures patients are clean, properly fed and hydrated, and repositioned consistently.
- Falls. Elderly people are more likely to fall, whether they are in nursing homes or not. Mobility decreases over time, as does eyesight, which will increase the risk. However, long-term care facilities must be prepared for this by keeping hallways, common rooms and bedrooms open and de-cluttered, so there is room to maneuver a walker or wheelchair. Handrails should be installed on beds, on walls, and in the bathroom. Staff and doctors should also be monitoring what types of medications a resident is taking, in case those drugs make one drowsy or disoriented. Failure to do so could lead to a case for neglect.
- Improper use of restraints. There are medically necessary times when nursing home and medical staff must use restraints on a nursing home resident for their own safety. For example, a restraint may be necessary to ensure a patient doesn't fall out of a wheelchair. However, if staff restrains a resident for prolonged periods of time or when it's not medically necessary, it's dangerous and unlawful. Restraints can lead to physical and mental injury, like bedsores or social isolation. Extreme cases can lead to wrongful death.
- Use of chemical restraints. Nursing homes or long-term care facilities may sometimes improperly use medications to restrain or control patients. This is an extremely harmful and illegal practice. When a patient is given too much of a prescribed drug, or a drug that wasn't prescribed, it can weaken the patient's mental and physical capabilities. Chemical restraints can lead to medical conditions, mental health issues, overdoses, or death. It's important to keep an eye out for any changes in your loved one's medication list, especially with any sedatives or psychotropics.
- Wandering and elopement. Nursing homes should be conducting thorough evaluations of their patients, to determine whether they are more likely to wander around the nursing home, or attempt to elope (i.e., leave the grounds). This is particularly important when it comes to residents with mobility issues or with signs of conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. If a nursing home fails to keep track or where its residents are, and those residents sustain injuries, then the nursing home may be held liable for neglect.
- Dehydration. When someone of any age doesn't take in enough water, they're at risk for medical issues. The elderly in particular, when not provided enough fluids, can become confused, develop low blood pressure, and become delirious or unconscious. If dehydration becomes severe enough, the resident can develop seizures, swelling in the brain, kidney failure, or coma.
- Malnutrition. When nursing home residents aren't fed enough, they may develop malnutrition. All of us depend on a well-balanced diet to stay healthy, but for residents with conditions like diabetes or heart disease, a good diet is imperative. Malnutrition can exacerbate an existing condition or cause new ones. Residents suffering from malnutrition may have decreased mobility or cognitive abilities, and may be unable to care for themselves.
- Sexual assault. Nursing home residents can be at risk for sexual assault or abuse as they may have limited mobility or decreased cognitive or communication skills. Criminal staff members may take advantage of residents who are unable to fight back or communicate what's happened. Sexual abuse in nursing homes often goes undetected because victims may be traumatized and afraid, or because they cannot communicate due to dementia or other conditions.
Bedsores in nursing homes
Bedsores, also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers, form when there is unrelieved pressure on the skin. When untreated, they can cause serious infections and other life-threatening problems. Pressure sores happen most frequently on parts of the body where the bone is closest to the skin, like the hips, back, elbow, ankle, or heels. Nursing home residents are particularly susceptible to bedsores because they often remain sedentary in a bed or wheelchair.
Pressure ulcers are an increasingly common problem in nursing homes, and primarily occur due to improper medical care and a lack of attention. Care facilities have a responsibility to their residents to identify and treat bedsores immediately.
In nursing homes, staff must be well-educated and informed about bedsores and treat residents promptly. Bedsores are nearly always preventable with proper care, assessments, readjustments, and nutrition. Position changes should be performed as often as possible for any resident who has difficulty moving on their own.
For at-risk residents, staff should assess them at least once a day. This staff should be educated about the warning signs of bedsores, and check the resident for any signs that pressure ulcers might be developing.
Warning signs include:
- Painful or irritated skin
- Reddish or discolored skin
- Lack of blanching (lightening of skin when pressure is put on it)
- Open wounds
Another risk factor for developing pressure sores is improper nutrition or hydration. Nursing homes are responsible for providing their residents with nutritious food and hydration. Vitamins, minerals, and fluids all keep the skin healthy, and healthy skin is less likely to become damaged. Another common risk factor is the use of restraints on patients, to keep them immobile.
Illinois Nursing Home Violations Increasing
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently released their Second Quarterly Report of Nursing Home Violators, and it appears the number of Type AA and Type A violations has increased since the first quarter. The report features some of the same offenders from the first quarter report, and one facility has received a $50,000 fine for its second Type AA violation this year.
The IDPH classifies their violations from Type AA to Type A:
- Type AA violations are given when a nursing home has a “condition or occurrence at the facility that proximately caused a resident’s death.”
- Type A violations occur when “there is a substantial probability that death or serious mental or physical harm will result, or has resulted.”
For the second quarter of 2018, the report found that:
- 88 nursing homes were cited for abuse or neglect-based violations
- Three were fined for Type AA violations
- 33 were fined for Type A violations
- 13 had multiple violations
What facilities made the list?
Three nursing homes were fined $50,000 for Type AA violations - Helia Healthcare, Aledo Rehab, and Christian Nursing Home.
- In Helia's violation, the facility failed to either investigate or report an incident where a resident died from a brain injury. The resident was found on the ground next to his bed, and transferred to a hospital. Doctors there discovered the resident had a bilateral subarachnoid hemorrhage. A staff member admitted later that the resident had, weeks earlier, fallen during a lift transfer that was not performed according to required safety procedures.
- At Aledo Rehab, medical staff failed to check a resident's record regarding their wishes for life-saving treatment. When the patient needed resuscitation, the staff assumed the patient had a “Do Not Resuscitate” order and allowed the patient to die.
- Staff at Christian Nursing home violated a resident's health care plan by failing to document or notify the resident's physician of changes in her condition. The resident suffered from asthma and was not given proper inhaler treatment. Her daughter call the facility to report her mother was distressed, and the resident died that night of bronchopneumonia.
Thirty-three total facilities received Type A violations this past quarter. All nursing homes were fined $25,000, except one, which was ordered to pay $12,500. These incidents reported included falls, medication errors, and other instances of neglect. There are thirty-three (33) facilities in Illinois with Type A violations. The ones located or licensed in Chicago include:
- Aperion Care Capitol
- Aperion Care Morton Villa
- Bridge Care Suites
- Country Health
- Golfview Developmental Center
- Heartland of Decatur
- Heartland of Normal
- Meadowbrook Manor Naperville
- Winchester House
There are dozens more in the Chicagoland area and throughout the state, though not all of them have Type A violations. You can read the entire detailed report here.
Nursing home abuse and neglect can happen anywhere. Especially when a facility is understaffed, residents may not get the attention they need or, worse, serious issues may go ignored. Our loved ones deserve the best, most secure, and compassionate care we can provide.
Identifying signs of abuse
It may be difficult to detect signs of abuse or neglect in your loved one's nursing home. However, there are certain warning signs you can look out for. If your parent, family member, or other loved one is living in a nursing home or care facility, be vigilant of the following red flags:
- Confusion, withdrawal, or agitation. When you visit your loved one and they are often confused, withdrawn, or agitated, or they increasingly behave that way over time, there may be something amiss at the nursing home. Your loved one also might exhibit other changes, like becoming anxious, upset, quiet, afraid of being touched, or non-communicative. Investigate what is going on and why.
- Weight loss. Sudden or extreme weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition, dehydration, improper health management, or over-medication.
- Skin conditions and injuries. If your loved one consistently has dry or paper-thin skin, it could be a sign of dehydration. Rashes, bruises, or scrapes can be signs of physical abuse or lack of hygiene. And, bedsores are an obvious sign of improper care.
- Broken bones. Broken bones in the elderly are not just a part of growing old. Nursing home staff has a responsibility to ensure your loved one doesn't fall and injure themselves. If your loved one experienced one or more broken bones at their care facility, there may be issues of abuse or neglect.
- Poor hygiene. Unwashed and unkempt residents are almost always indicative of a problem. Patients who are left in their own bodily excretions, who wear the same clothes day after day, or who do not bathe regularly are definitely being neglected, but may be hiding signs of physical, emotional or sexual abuse as well.
Family members and loved ones who suspect or witness any form of nursing home abuse or neglect should report it to the proper authorities immediately. Patient safety should be the number one priority of all nursing homes, and all reports should be taken seriously and investigated. If you believe your loved one's safety is in danger, talk to a nursing home abuse attorney right away. Your loved one has rights, and we will do everything we can to ensure that those rights are upheld, and that justice is served.
Call an experienced Chicago nursing home neglect attorney for help
It is devastating to put your trust in a long-term care facility, only to find out they have violated that trust by causing your loved one harm. At Gainsberg Law, we represent the rights of nursing home abuse and neglect victims throughout the Chicago area. Our attorneys will pursue the full amount of compensation your family deserves. Get in touch with us through our contact form, or by calling 312-600-9585 to schedule a consultation.
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