Illinois Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Claims

In recent months, stories of nursing home abuse and neglect in the Chicagoland area seem to be everywhere in the news. In late April, the state took action to pull the operating license from a nursing home and assisted living facility in Aurora, Illinois, after multiple reports of abuse. One of the reports included the death of a 57-year-old schizophrenic man with a history of violence. The resident apparently died of a heart attack while assaulting his roommate, who had called for help more than 20 minutes before a staff member came to investigate.

In another example, the LaSalle County Nursing Home now has four lawsuits pending against it stemming from claims that a male resident sexually assaulted as many as 12 female residents at the facility. One of the assaults was so violent that it broke the victim's pelvis. The male patient has a history of sexual assault and has since been moved to a psychiatric facility. The families of four of the victims have filed lawsuits against the nursing home, claiming the facility failed to properly supervise its residents, among other claims.

These types of horror stories do little to make families feel safe leaving the care of their loved ones in the hands of a nursing home. But unfortunately, for some families nursing homes are the only viable option they have for caring for ill, elderly or disabled family members.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act

Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, nursing home residents are guaranteed certain rights while staying in a long-term care facility, including the right to be free from abuse and neglect.

Under the Act, abuse is defined as "any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means." Some examples of nursing home abuse include:

  • Physical abuse, including hitting, slapping or being overly rough when handling residents
  • Emotional abuse, including threatening and degrading residents, yelling at them and/or using swear words
  • Sexual abuse, including unwanted touching and rape

The Act defines neglect as "a failure to provide adequate medical or personal care or maintenance when that failure results in physical or mental injury to a resident or the deterioration of a resident's physical or mental condition." Some examples of nursing home neglect include:

  • Failing to monitor and supervise residents, including their physical and mental health
  • Failing to seek emergency or other medical attention when needed
  • Failing to provide residents with necessary medications
  • Failing to keep residents and their environment clean, sanitary and safe
  • Failing to correctly position and move incapacitated residents to prevent bed sores and ulcers
  • Failing to keep residents properly hydrated and fed

In most cases, nursing home abuse and neglect is perpetrated by those who work in these facilities and who are responsible for providing day-to-day care to the residents. In some cases, the abuse may be caused by other residents living at the facility.

There is a chronic understaffing problem in nursing homes - not just in Illinois, but across the country - that makes it difficult for these facilities to provide the level of care that each resident deserves. It also makes it difficult for the nursing home staff to properly monitor the residents, which may create the opportunity for resident-on-resident abuse.

Regardless of the staffing limitations, nursing homes still owe a legal duty to their residents to provide them with a safe, caring environment that is free from abuse and neglect.

Warning Signs of Abuse and Neglect: Bed Sores, Injuries from Falling and Poor Hygiene

Victims of nursing home abuse and neglect often are helpless to stop the abuse. In some cases, the victims may be incapacitated and not able to communicate what has happened to them. For this reason, it can be very difficult to detect and prevent nursing home abuse. In fact, it is estimated that for every report of abuse made nationally, another 12 to 13 cases go unreported.

While Illinois law makes it mandatory for certain individuals, including physicians, nurses and nursing home staff members, to report suspected abuse to the state Department of Public Health, this does not mean the report is always made. For this reason, it is important that family members stay alert for any signs or symptoms their loved ones may exhibit of abuse or neglect.

Some of the potential signs of abuse or neglect include:

  • Unexplained broken bones, abrasions or other bruising or injury
  • Behavioral changes, including depression and anxiety
  • Hostility towards a specific staff member or other nursing home employee
  • Signs of restraint, including red welts on the arms and wrists
  • Soiled bedding and/or clothing
  • Bed sores
  • Unclean physical appearance
  • Unexplained weight loss, malnourishment and/or dehydration
  • Development of an infection, including sepsis and sexually transmitted diseases

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect while in the care of a nursing home or other long-term care facility, the family has the right to take legal action against the responsible facility.

Nursing homes owe their residents important duties of care, including the duty to properly supervise and monitor each resident and provide care in accordance with the particular resident's medical condition. When nursing homes fail to uphold their duties and a resident is injured, the nursing home may be held legally responsible for those injuries.

For more information on pursuing a legal claim against a nursing home for abuse or neglect, contact an experienced attorney.