It is never easy to realize that your loved ones can no longer care for themselves. While we might try our best to care for our aging family members ourselves, the reality is that many of our elderly loved ones need specialized care and treatment that can only be found in a residential nursing home facility. You expect your parent or grandparent to be treated with dignity and respect, but this is sadly not always the case.
If you are worried that your loved one is actively being harmed at their nursing home, a nursing home abuse lawyer from Thomas Law Offices is standing by to speak with you about your suspicions. We believe that every individual deserves to be treated with the utmost care, dignity, and respect as they age, so we do not take allegations of elder abuse lightly. When we take on your lawsuit, we will thoroughly investigate all claims of abuse or neglect.
Nursing Home Abuse Statistics in Illinois
In 2019, men and women over the age of 65 represented 16% of the total U.S. population. That number is expected to grow to nearly 22% by the year 2040. With our population steadily aging, it is essential that Illinois and Cook County as a whole establish and fully staff enough nursing home facilities to properly care for our aging loved ones. Unfortunately, families today are already struggling to find reputable facilities, which leaves current nursing home residents at risk for abuse and neglect.
Hard and fast statistics about nursing home abuse in Illinois are hard to come by, as most instances of elder abuse go unreported. However, current estimates show just how dire the situation is:
- An estimated five million nursing home residents are victims of abuse every year.
- 25% of nursing home residents have been the victim of physical abuse at least once.
Rights of Chicago Nursing Home Residents
The Illinois Department on Aging has established that Illinois nursing home residents are guaranteed certain privileges according to state and federal laws. Those rights include:
- Safety and Good Care. A facility must provide services that maintain physical and mental health. Physical, verbal, mental, sexual, and financial abuse are not allowed.
- Participating in Your Own Care. Facilities should be able to make reasonable arrangements for residents’ needs and choices. Residents have the right to choose their own doctor and participate in developing their written care plans. Residents can also make a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, Declaration for Mental Health, or Do Not Resuscitate Orders.
- Privacy. All medical and personal care should be private. Nursing home employees must knock before entering a room, and facilities cannot give out your information without your permission. Residents have the right to private visits and phone calls. If available, spouses have the right to share a room.
- Money Management. Seniors have a right to manage their own money and see their financial records at any time. Facilities are required to provide itemized statements at least once every three months.
- Contract Information. Residents must be given a contract that states what services are provided and how much they cost. Unless you have a court-appointed legal guardian, the nursing home cannot require anyone else to sign an agreement stating they will pay your bill.
- Medicaid and Medicare Information. Residents have the right to apply for Medicaid or Medicare to assist with payments. However, if you receive Medicaid, your facility cannot make you pay for anything that Medicaid pays for.
- Staying in Your Facility. Residents have the right to keep living in their nursing homes. If you are asked to leave, you must be given a written notice explaining why you are being asked to move, how to file an appeal, and a self-addressed envelope to the Illinois Department of Public Health. A facility can force a resident to leave if they have not paid their bill, are a danger to themselves or others, have medical needs that cannot be met, or if the facility closes.
Residents can also participate in the Residents Council, meet with the Long-term Care Ombudsman, community organizations, legal advocates, and members of the general public who come to the facility, present grievances to their facility, and be free from punishments for presenting issues. In addition to those rights, nursing home residents are also guaranteed the rights that all Illinois residents have, including the right to vote and participate in social and community activities.
If your loved one has had any of the above rights violated while in the care of a nursing facility, the time to take action is now. A Chicago nursing home attorney can help determine whether your family member has a legal claim.
Federal Nursing Home Laws
In addition to the state laws that protect residents in a nursing home setting, these facilities must also abide by federal laws. The U.S. Nursing Home Reform Act protects the physical, mental, and psychosocial health of nursing home patients. It provides set definitions for terms like “skilled care” and “quality of life,” so there are no questions about what a nursing home should be providing.
The nursing home abuse lawyers at Thomas Law Offices are intimately familiar with current federal laws that apply to assisted living facilities. We’ll help you uncover whether a nursing home violated any federal laws or regulations that might have prevented the harm your loved one suffered.
Information on Illinois Nursing Home Care Act
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Bureau of Long-Term Care ensures nursing homes comply with the requirements laid out in the Nursing Home Care Act. In addition to that, the organization conducts certification surveys to make sure facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicare money always abide by federal regulations.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
Abuse in a nursing home setting can be difficult to identify, which is one of the reasons that many cases go unreported every year. However, you can improve your chances of identifying abuse early on by familiarizing yourself with the signs of the most common forms of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Continue reading to learn more about how to identify potential abuse or neglect, and if you do, then do not hesitate to take action. Your loved one’s well-being and livelihood may depend on it.
Nursing Home Abuse
Although both cause harm, it is important to distinguish between abuse and neglect. Nursing home abuse is the result of a deliberate or intentional act to cause harm. Below are the most common forms of abuse that take place in nursing homes.
This is when nursing home staff members use physical force on residents, causing pain, bodily harm, or impairment. Physical abuse can be ongoing or may be a one-time occurrence and may occur as:
Unnecessary physical restraints or force-feeding elderly residents also fall under the umbrella of physical abuse. Remember, if you are never sure whether an action is considered abuse or neglect, it is always better to err on the side of caution and report it.
If you suspect physical abuse, our nursing home abuse attorneys advise that you look for some of the following signs. While serious injuries might be what first leaps to your mind, signs of physical abuse can also manifest in psychological ways. Be on the lookout for both physical and emotional signs of physical abuse:
- Cuts or lacerations
- Broken bones
- Fear of being touched
- Unexplained aversion to certain staff members
- Unexplained refusal to talk
Physical abuse can also become so severe that it leads to a victim’s death. If your loved one was the victim of a wrongful death associated with elder abuse or neglect, our law firm is here for you. A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney will help make sure you understand your right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Sometimes called verbal abuse, psychological abuse, or psychological mistreatment, emotional abuse generally doesn’t leave behind any physical marks. However, a nursing home resident who has been the victim of verbal threats, abuse, assault, intimidations, humiliation, or isolation will still suffer even without ever being physically touched. When victims are being mistreated by the staff at their Illinois nursing homes, they may display some of the following signs:
- Appear withdrawn
- Unresponsive or uncommunicative
- Refuse medical treatment
- Act agitated or upset
- Display unusual behaviors that mimic dementia
Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers have worked on many nursing home abuse cases in which the victim was never physically harmed or heard an unkind word from staff. Financial exploitation of the elderly compromises their ability to live their remaining years with dignity, as they may no longer have the financial resources to pay for an assisted living facility.
When a nursing home employee forges a resident’s signature, takes their cash or other possessions, coerces them into signing a check, or otherwise improperly reaps financial benefits because of their power dynamic, they are committing financial abuse. Although financial abuse can sometimes take the form of charging residents for unnecessary services, it most often involves one or more individuals taking money directly from a victim.
You might suspect nursing home abuse in the form of financial exploitation if you notice any of the following signs:
- A change in bank accounts
- Unexplained money withdrawals
- Changes to legal documents
- Unusual ATM card activity
- Missing possessions
While many residents of nursing home facilities might prefer to maintain control over their own financial affairs, the Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers from Thomas Law Offices strongly recommend appointing several trusted family members or a professional service to help oversee the finances of an elderly family member who is living in a nursing home facility.
Sexual abuse occurs when an elder is forced to participate in non-consensual sex or sex acts. Unwanted touching, sexual assault, and coerced nudity are just a few examples. A nursing home resident who is the victim of sexual abuse may exhibit the following:
- An unexplained sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Bruises on genitals
- Poor personal hygiene
- Torn or stained underwear
- Extreme emotional changes
Our Chicago nursing home attorneys will fight for your loved one to get justice. Thomas Law Offices is dedicated to providing legal assistance and a voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves. Because these lawsuits require careful investigation, it’s best to contact us as soon as possible to begin building your claim.
Nursing Home Neglect
Unlike nursing home abuse which involves direct and harmful actions, nursing home neglect is often the result of inaction, such as failing to perform caretaking tasks. Physical injuries associated with neglect can be just as severe as those caused by abuse, and nursing home neglect cases are often necessary to help victims secure the compensation they need for medical care, related medical expenses, and more.
Your loved one’s well-being might hinge upon your ability to successfully bring forth a claim of abuse or neglect. If you believe that your family member has been harmed by the wrongful behavior or acts of what was supposed to be a skilled nursing facility, contact the nursing home negligence attorneys at Thomas Law Offices so that we can begin substantiating your suspicions.
One of the most common reasons that people enter a nursing home is because they are no longer able to care for themselves. Residents rely on staff for medical care, and any negligence when it comes to medication can ultimately cause life-threatening injuries. Missing even just one dosage can be a serious error that leads to devastating consequences. Other examples of medication errors include administering the incorrect dosage or the wrong medication.
Nursing facilities are supposed to create safe environments in which residents are still able to exercise some freedoms while under the watchful eye of trained staff. This does not mean that your loved one should have been left to their own devices. Our law firm has worked with clients who have filed nursing home neglect cases because of inadequate supervision during:
Illinois nursing homes are required to provide adequate nutrition to all of their residents. By law, this can either be in the form of three meals per day or a breakfast bar and two meals. The National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board lays out the adult general diet requirements by which nursing homes must abide.
If your family members are residents at nursing homes that do not provide the correct number of meals or that serve the correct number but with inadequate nutrition, you could have a claim for nursing home negligence. A Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer can help you review the nutrition requirement for state nursing homes and, from there, will help you decide whether it is appropriate to bring forth a nursing home negligence claim.
Poor Living Conditions
It does not matter whether your loved one is using their savings to pay for their nursing home or relying on Medicaid services—everyone deserves a safe, clean place to live. Nursing home negligence can include lack of heat or clean running water and may also take the form of unsanitary living conditions, including soiled or dirty:
- General facilities
Unsanitary living conditions can be a breeding ground for communicable diseases and illnesses and will increase your loved one’s chances of becoming seriously ill. The nursing home abuse lawyers at Thomas Law Offices help family members hold residential facilities responsible for any harm that poor living conditions cause.
The average nursing home resident will already have at least one health issue, which can make it difficult to determine whether a personal injury was the result of abuse or neglect. Suddenly worsening health problems or the development of serious illnesses such as sepsis are a red flag that medical neglect is a problem in a Chicago nursing home.
At our law firm, we investigate claims of medical neglect using multiple sources, including medical records and second opinions from other doctors.
Abandonment happens when an elder is deserted by their caretakers. They may be left in a public place like a shopping center, a hospital, or even a different nursing home facility. Depending on their physical or mental state, an abandoned senior may be unaware of their location and unable to contact loved ones for help.
Abandonment is not always an accident, though. Nursing homes sometimes purposely abandon their residents if they believe they cannot properly provide them with care or if they no longer want to treat them due to a history of problematic behavior.
Elopement is when a resident leaves their nursing home without the knowledge of any of its staff. A senior who wanders away from their home may become confused or lost, which puts them in danger of suffering a personal injury. During the summer, heatstroke and dehydration are among some of the most serious threats, whereas hypothermia and frostbite are more pressing threats in the winter. They may also be hit by a car if they stray too close to the road.
If your loved one’s nursing home facility did not have proper security measures in place to prevent elopement, an Illinois nursing home abuse attorney will help investigate your claim. Nursing home negligence cases often hinge on the lack of the following security measures, so it is important to begin the investigation quickly to protect other residents:
- Security staff
- Locking mechanisms
- Security cameras
When a senior resident at a nursing home suffers elder abuse or neglect or develops a mental illness such as depression, they may engage in behaviors that endanger their own safety or health. This is called self-neglect. Nursing homes are supposed to ensure that all of their residents’ needs are met, so they may be held responsible if a resident refuses to provide themselves with the proper amount of:
- Grooming and hygiene
- Physical movement or exercise
Thomas Law Offices is passionate about defending the rights of our clients. We understand that many seniors are not living with the dignity and care they deserve. When that results in injury or illness, we are ready to stand up to protect their rights. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers will look into what caused the self-neglect and who was responsible. To schedule a free consultation and get started on your claim, call our office today.
Who Regulates Nursing Homes in Illinois?
Multiple public and private agencies license, inspect, regulate, and certify nursing homes in Illinois, including:
- The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH)
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
IDPH ensures that all nursing homes in Illinois comply with the state’s mandatory regulations and also works with CMS to ensure that facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments meet and maintain federal certifications and regulations.
To report nursing home abuse and neglect, or a violation of nursing home regulations, contact IDPH at 1-800-252-4343. Your next step should be to contact a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer to explore your legal options for securing compensation on behalf of your loved one.
Should I File a Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit?
You want to secure justice on behalf of your loved one. If you are ready to hold the facility that caused or facilitated their elder abuse, a nursing home abuse lawsuit is often one of the most effective ways to do so. Most of these lawsuits are settled outside of the courtroom and can:
- Secure compensation for your loved one’s damages
- Force the nursing home to implement changes
- Protect other seniors from suffering similar harm
These cases can be complicated, though, which is why we advise that you work with a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.
Work With a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney To Put a Stop to Abuse Today
At Thomas Law Offices, we prioritize the attorney-client relationship, so you’ll always feel comfortable and confident when asking questions. You’ll never have to worry about how to pay legal fees, either, because we don’t get paid unless you do.
Our attorneys will work tirelessly to advocate for your loved one, including combing through medical records and other documents to build a nursing home abuse and neglect base. If your loved one’s death was the result of that abuse, we’ll help you navigate the process of filing a wrongful death claim.
If you suspect abuse is occurring in your loved one’s nursing home, contact us to schedule a free consultation with a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer today.