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Nursing Home Abuse

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Dec 30, 2020
Nenye Uche

This article educates families on how to spot nursing abuse or neglect and what to do about it when you do.

A nursing home is also called a skilled nursing facility. They provide a wide range of health and personal care services. These services usually include medical care, 24-hour supervision, assisted living, and assistance with everyday activities.

Some people stay at a nursing home for a short period of time, then go home when they recover. But most people reside in nursing homes because of ongoing medical or physical conditions. Nursing homes are particularly useful for older persons with some form of disability.

Many times, due to the occurrences of life, we are unable to provide adequately the  skilled and professional  care we know our elderly loved ones deserve. Nursing homes help us to eliminate this problem and provide the skilled and professional care we are unable to. They make sure the elderly get the proper attention and 24-hour supervision their families may have been unable to provide.

But what happens when this facility entrusted to take good care of your elderly loved ones, causes them harm instead. What happens when your loved ones do not get the care you specifically requested but instead are victims of abuse and/or neglect? While this may just seem too horrifying to be true, the sad truth is that nursing home abuse is very common.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse and the American Association of Justice, nursing home abuse and neglect happens in approximately 1 out of every 3 nursing homes in the US. And around 10% of the 1.4 million nursing home residents will be a victim of abuse or neglect when they stay in nursing homes.

The Illinois Department of Aging reports that as at 2019 there were 21,348 reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation received by Adult Protective Services. When looking at these nursing home abuse and neglect statistics, it should be kept in mind that the numbers are likely incomplete and higher because many cases such as this go unreported. Nursing home abuse is more common than most people realize.

If anyone has made your elderly loved ones a victim of abuse and/or neglect, you can hold them responsible. At Uche PC, our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers have assigned themselves the task to see that responsible parties are held to account for every abuse or neglect your loved ones have suffered.

In order to hold these parties responsible, you need to have a full understanding of what your case entails and how much it is worth. This article explains nursing home abuse and neglect in Chicago. It outlines the signs, forms, and examples of nursing home abuse and what you can do about it.

What Is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is also known as elder abuse. Elder abuse is any action which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by somebody they know and trust. The Administration on Aging defines it as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult”.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified 5 types of maltreatments that are common to people aged 60 and above. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and abandonment.

  • Physical Abuse: This includes using an unreasonable amount of force as a means of restraint. It could also involve the improper application of medical or physical restraints. Physical abuse may include slapping, pushing and hitting. They may be the source of unexplainable injuries like bruises, burns or broken bones.
  • Sexual Abuse: If an elderly one has been forced into an unwanted and non-consensual sexual contact, their physical and emotional health can suffer greatly. It may be the source of bruising on the thighs or genitals, an unexplained sexually transmitted disease (STD) or a strange relationship between the caregiver and the elder.
  • Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse may not leave physical scars but it can be just as damaging to an elderly person. It can include constant screaming at, or shouting or threatening an elderly person. It can also include verbal insults or instilling fear in the elderly. This might be the cause of serious mental conditions such as anxiety or depression, or being hesitant to talk freely or withdrawing from others including family members.
  • Financial Abuse: Financial abuse may go unnoticed for a period of time but will ultimately affect the senior’s health. As it can leave the senior unable to afford even the most basic health care needs. It includes strange or inexplicable transactions, large sums of money missing or the inability of the senior to access financial records.

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing home neglect can also be referred to as elder neglect or abandonment. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act defines neglect as “any willful failure to provide adequate care deemed necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness of a resident”. The statistics have shown that nursing home neglect is the most common type of elder abuse in nursing facilities.

Elder neglect can simply be understood as the failure of a caregiver or hired staff to perform their duties and obligations towards the care of the elderly.

It should be noted that elder neglect is not the same thing as negligence. It is also slightly different from elder abuse. Nursing home neglect requires the presence of ‘intention’ on the part of the caregiver to cause harm to the elderly person. As an example, the caregiver’s neglect might have been intentional but intent to cause harm might have been unlikely. On the other hand, nursing home abuse means a breach of duty or abuse of power in relation to the care of the elderly.

Nursing home neglect may take the form of denial of essential needs like shelter, food, clothing, hygiene or medical care.  

Forms of Nursing Home Neglect

There are many forms of nursing home neglect.  Some of these forms include:

  • Medical Neglect: Nursing homes have a legal binding duty to attend to the medical needs of their residents. Neglect occurs when the nursing facility fails to address the medical concerns of the resident. Neglect may also occur when pre-existing conditions like bedsores, infections, mobility issues or lacerations, are caused by the caregivers or left unattended.
  • Neglect of Personal Hygiene: Every resident, in addition to a clean and safe environment, should be aided in maintaining personal hygiene. Denying the nursing home resident adequate assistance with personal hygiene is neglect.
  • Neglect of Basic Needs: Basic needs are necessities that include food, water and clothing. The nursing facility is obligated to provide these adequately. Neglect occurs when a nursing facility fails to provide the resident with these basic necessities.
  • Social or Emotional Neglect: The law has also recognized social or emotional neglect as a form of nursing home neglect. Depending on the circumstances, isolation or ‘abandonment’ may qualify as social or emotional neglect.

The majority of nursing home residents are senior citizens. And so, they stand a higher risk of being prone to physical injuries or illnesses and infections. But a closer look should be taken as injuries could be signs of abuse and/ or neglect.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Noticing nursing home abuse and neglect is not often the easiest task. This is because the signs can be incredibly subtle. And the worst part is that there may be no physical indication of abuse or neglect.

This can even prove more difficult when our loved ones are in nursing homes that are a bit far from us. Bruises and changes in behavior may go unidentified because of this distance. Additionally, things get worse, when you consider the fact that many senior citizens are unable to express concerns about abuse or neglect.

But despite these difficulties, there are irrefutable signs that may point to the presence of nursing home abuse or neglect. Some of these include:

  • Bed Sores and frequent infections.
  • Signs of physical injury, including bruises, scars, broken bones, dislocations, sprains or falls.
  • Abnormal changes in behavior like withdrawing, hesitation to speak, rocking and mumbling.
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Alterations in appearance or personal hygiene
  • Dehydration due to inadequate supply of water
  • Unsafe environmental conditions, like slippery floors, unsafe wheelchairs, walkers or unsafe furniture.

These signs are not sufficient in themselves to strictly signify the presence of nursing home abuse or neglect. They only serve as reminders that we should always pay close attention to our elderly loved ones in nursing homes. If any of the above is observed, it is important that you follow up with questions and persist till you get satisfactory answers.

Why Does Nursing Home Abuse and/or neglect Happen?

There are many reasons why nursing home abuse and/or neglect occur in the nursing home. The cause of this abuse or neglect is largely dependent on the individual nursing home. The nursing home quality, the caliber of staff and overall facility management are all important.

A nursing home that is lacking in resources, professional management or supervision is difficult to operate and run smoothly. This can cause the quality of care to decline and result in neglect and or abuse.

The unique needs of residents could also be a factor in nursing home abuse. If there are high maintenance patients with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, they are at a higher risk of suffering abuse and neglect. Here are some of the top factors, experts feel are responsible for nursing home abuse amongst caregivers:

  • Inadequate number of staff
  • Underpaid staff
  • Undertrained staff
  • Burnout and stress
  • Personal issues at home like divorce or financial troubles
  • Inadequate background checks that can lead to hiring staff who have mental illness or a personal history of being abused;
  • No supervision or accountability for wrongful doings.

Nursing Home Abuse During Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19)  is a global pandemic unlike the world has ever seen before. It is a serious respiratory disease which can cause serious damage and complications. The most at risk for this virus are the elderly who generally, already have underlying medical conditions.

The increased risk of the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes can be attributed to the fact that the coronavirus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets.  Thus, nursing homes residents and staff members are vulnerable to the spread of the virus since care-giving is based on close interactions.  

If the nursing home staff are undertrained, underpaid and overworked, they will be unable to provide the highest standard of care necessary in these unprecedented times.

There are several guidelines on how to proceed and significantly reduce the spread of the virus. But if certain incentives and safety measures are not made available by nursing home management, the number of nursing home abuse during coronavirus/lockdown may increase.

If you have any concerns about your elderly loved ones during these periods, you can contact the nearest nursing abuse center or get information on how to proceed here.

What To Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse Or Neglect

Deciding to wait for more conclusive evidence or proof of nursing home abuse may do more harm than good. You really cannot afford to delay in taking the necessary steps.

If you sense or have any reasonable reason to suspect nursing home abuse, you can contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS) Agency to make a nursing home abuse complaint. The APS is a government department in charge of investigating   abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of senior citizens residing in nursing homes.

When your report is made to the APS, the APS will begin an investigation. This might involve meeting with the victim. All Adult Protective Services caseworkers are trained and certified by the department. As it is only a report, you might not be required to provide ‘conclusive’ evidence.

While this is the initial step to take, sometimes government agencies might not take the immediate and swift action you expect. In such a scenario, contacting an attorney might be necessary to explore the possibility of a lawsuit or restraining orders against the nursing home suspected of abuse or neglect. If you are interested in pursuing legal action, hiring a qualified Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer will be the best course of action.

If you do decide to take legal action, you should be aware of the laws guiding nursing home abuse and neglect. For instance, the Illinois statute of limitations puts a strict timeline on when a lawsuit can be brought. Generally, in Illinois, you have two years from the date or discovery of the injury to make a nursing home abuse or neglect claim.

If your loved elderly one has been a victim of nursing home abuse and neglect, make a nursing home abuse complaint. And if you’d like to bring a lawsuit, speak to a qualified and skilled lawyer who has the experience and is knowledgeable in this area. Hiring the right attorney is important to ensure that your case is reviewed accurately and that you have solid representation

Consult With A Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

At Uche PC, we strongly believe that nobody should be taken advantage of or abused, least of all elderly citizens. We know you have every right to be furious, and we are willing to utilize every resource to get you the justice you and your elderly loved one deserve.  

Consult with our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers to set up a consultation today. We will ensure you have a full understanding of your rights and options.  You can reach out to us here or call us on (312) 874.5924.

For further information feel free to review our practice area page on nursing home abuse in chicago and Illinois.  For other practice areas we specialize in, click here.

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