When a resident suffers abuse or neglect in a nursing home facility, he or she should hire a nursing home abuse attorney who can investigate the circumstances, hold responsible parties liable for their actions, and recover compensation for physical injuries and emotional trauma.
Understanding Nursing Home Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse and the American Association for Justice, nursing home abuse and neglect occur in 1 out of every 3 nursing homes in the United States. Out of the 1.4 million residents living in nursing homes around the country, 10 percent will become victims of some type of physical or emotional abuse and neglect during their stay.
In the last decade, Chicago nursing home attorneys have witnessed a significant increase in nursing home abuse and neglect cases in nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the country. Illinois nursing homes have one of the nation’s highest rates of resident injuries caused by inappropriate or lack of resident care, as well as incidents of resident physical and emotional abuse and neglect.
According to the Illinois Department of Aging, records show the following statistics:
- Adult Protective Services receives an average of 17,000 reports of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation each year
- Most abusers are family members
- A high percentage of abusers are nursing home staff members and caretakers
- 67% of victims are female, and 33% of victims are male
- 51% of abusers are female, and 49% of abusers are male
- Most victims experience more than one type of abuse
What Constitutes Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse can take many forms, so it may be difficult to recognize. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), there are five common types of nursing home abuse: (1) physical abuse; (2) emotional abuse; (3) sexual abuse; (4) neglect; and (5) financial exploitation.
Physical nursing home abuse usually results in bodily harm or injuries to the victim. Common signs of physical abuse include cuts and bruises, facial lacerations, fractured or broken bones, head and neck injuries, dislocated hips, and leg and foot injuries. Physical injuries are often caused by getting slapped, punched, or kicked, getting pushed or shoved into objects, or being physically restrained by straps or ties.
Physical abuse may be perpetrated by nursing home staff and caretakers, as well as other residents in the nursing home facility. Physical abuse can be committed against any nursing home resident, but residents with cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are at much higher risk for physical abuse because they are not likely to remember it or report it to authorities.
Emotional abuse (also known as verbal or psychological abuse) occurs when someone uses verbal insults or threats as a method of control. It is the most common type of nursing home abuse. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one-third of nursing home staff members admit to emotional abuse against residents.
Emotional nursing home abuse often includes making threats and insults, tactics of intimidation, demeaning a resident’s confidence, isolating residents from family, friends, and other residents, and controlling a resident’s activities against their will. Residents that suffer from emotional abuse often become fearful and withdrawn, show changes in mood and behaviors, and develop long-term mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sexual abuse occurs when a resident experiences any form of unwanted sexual contact such as inappropriate touching, fondling, or sexual intercourse which is not consensual. Nursing home sexual abuse can lead to physical injuries like cuts and bruises, injury to private parts, and sexually transmitted diseases. It often leads to emotional trauma as well as causing a variety of disorders that impact a resident’s physical and mental health.
In many cases, nursing home sexual abuse is committed against residents who are disabled or have cognitive dysfunction. They are vulnerable targets because they can’t put up a fight, are unable to give consent, and likely won’t remember the event to report it.
While nursing home abuse involves deliberate acts that cause physical harm, nursing home neglect stems from carelessness or apathy on the part of the perpetrator, usually nursing home staff members or caregivers. Nursing home neglect occurs due to a lack of proper care. As a result, a resident usually suffers physical injuries, emotional trauma, and a variety of negative or life-threatening health conditions. Common signs of nursing home neglect include:
- Skin infections
- Malnutrition and/or dehydration
- Severe weight loss
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Unsanitary living conditions
Nursing home neglect can result in severe health problems, even death, for a resident, especially if the resident has serious existing health conditions. Bedsores can lead to skin infections and open wounds that require prescription antibiotics. Malnutrition and dehydration can lead to rapid weight loss, heart problems, and loss of consciousness. Lack of personal hygiene and unsanitary living conditions invite a variety of bacterial infections that can impact internal organs.
Nursing home financial exploitation usually involves theft or manipulation of a resident’s finances. Financial exploitation may include stealing a resident’s valuables, cash, or credit cards; stealing a resident’s bank statements or financial records; preventing a resident from accessing their own bank account; and misusing power of attorney to make changes to a resident’s will. Since these actions may constitute criminal charges, they suggest why you need a nursing home abuse attorney for representation.
Financial exploitation in nursing homes is a growing problem that often goes undetected until it’s too late. It can be extremely stressful for residents because they often lose their savings and income that’s essential to pay for their long-term care.
Prior to admitting a family member to a nursing home, it’s important to discuss finances. Victims should be aware that some nursing homes may insist on managing the resident’s finances. Setting up trust accounts with the nursing home is not mandatory and residents have a legal right to handle their own finances.
Who Regulates Illinois Nursing Homes?
Illinois nursing homes are regulated and licensed by both state and federal agencies. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) oversees resident care for patients in nursing home facilities throughout the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees and regulates federally-funded Illinois nursing homes and long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid funding.
Both state and federally regulated nursing home facilities are required to uphold certain standards of care to ensure the safety of all facility residents. This includes ensuring the highest standard of care for residents’ physical and mental health, medical treatments, medications, and personal care needs.
IDPH conducts annual on-site inspections to evaluate resident care. Each year, IDPH conducts approximately 1,500 inspections in Illinois nursing homes around the country. Facility inspections include investigations of resident care plans; the quality of resident care; nursing home staff members and caregivers; and facility procedures, policies, and finances.
In 2019, IDPH reported over 110 safety violations where Illinois nursing homes were cited for substandard care of residents and actions of resident abuse and neglect. This high rate of violations shows why you need a nursing home abuse attorney to address problems.
What is the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act?
A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney sees a high rate of lawsuits filed against Illinois facilities for violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Established in 1979, this act outlines mandatory guidelines and requirements for all Illinois nursing home facilities and protects the rights of nursing home residents, especially those who are vulnerable to physical or emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act falls under State Health Facilities and Regulation laws. This Act is designed to protect residents in nursing homes and other institutions that are defined under the law as long-term care facilities and ensure the safety of residents in both non-profit and for-profit nursing home facilities. The Nursing Home Care Act does not protect patients in hospitals, assisted living facilities, Illinois federally-funded facilities, and childcare facilities.
Under this act, Illinois nursing home residents have the same rights as other people whose rights are protected under the United States Constitution, as well as state and federal laws. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act outlines a variety of rights and protections for nursing home residents:
Choosing a Personal Physician
Residents have the right to choose a physician for their care according to stipulations by their health insurance provider. Residents also have the right to see their medical records containing information about their medical conditions, diagnoses, treatments, and medications. If a resident uses his/her physician without approval by their insurance provider, the nursing home can’t be held liable for inadequate treatments or medical malpractice claims filed with a nursing home abuse attorney.
Accepting or Refusing Medical Care
Mentally stable residents have the right to participate in their medical care and the right to accept or refuse medical treatments, including surgical procedures, experimental procedures, prescription medications, and physical or chemical restraints. If there is no written informed consent or if treatments are not ordered by a resident’s physician, the resident has a right to refuse treatments. Once a resident is admitted to a nursing home facility, he/she has a right to annual assessment and re-screening for medical conditions.
Receiving Private Visitors
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are required to permit residents to receive private visitors such as family members, friends, and social workers during reasonable business hours unless there is a documented medical reason why such visitors should be prohibited. Nursing home facilities must provide adequate space for private visits and allow privacy by knocking before entering a resident’s room when visitors are present.
Receiving Private Communications
State and federal laws prohibit censorship or any interference with the right to a resident’s private communications such as phone calls, emails, and receipt of personal mail unless there is documented evidence of harassment or potential harm to the resident. To protect residents, some nursing home facilities install cameras in public areas. Before cameras can be installed in a resident’s room, the resident and/or family members must provide written permission to the nursing home.
Managing Personal Finances
Financial exploitation is a common problem seen by Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys. To protect residents against financial exploitation, regulations permit residents to manage their finances and assets, unless a resident is diagnosed with cognitive problems and/or mental illness.
Nursing homes are prohibited from spending a resident’s funds without written permission. Under Illinois laws, nursing homes are required to provide quarterly financial statements of a resident’s finances to IDPH.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse
If nursing home abuse is suspected, it should be immediately reported. In Illinois, there are several agencies that deal with nursing home abuse claims.
The Illinois Department of Public Health
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is the state agency responsible for enforcing regulations in Illinois nursing home facilities. IDPH also coordinates with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for eligibility to participate in federal payment reimbursement programs.
IDPH maintains a Nursing Home Hotline (800-252-4343) for complaints. Upon receiving a complaint of abuse or neglect, the IDPH’s Bureau of Long Term Care may launch an investigation. Although it does not participate in lawsuits, it can sanction or even close down nursing homes that violate the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act or federal regulations. The results of its investigation can also be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit against a nursing home facility or a nursing home employee.
Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services (APS) has offices in every state. As a social services program provided by state and local governments, APS workers investigate complaints of elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation while working closely with police officers and medical professionals.
National Center on Elder Abuse
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is a national resource center dedicated to the prevention of elder abuse and neglect. As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NCEA does not investigate complaints but works with various resources that provide help.
A Long-Term Care Ombudsman
A local ombudsman serves as an advocate for adults in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He or she will address the concerns of family members, investigate facilities for signs of abuse and neglect. and help victims take legal action through a nursing home abuse attorney.
Local Law Enforcement
When nursing home neglect presents dangers or causes harm, local law enforcement should be notified right away. They can remove a resident from a facility or a dangerous situation. If laws are broken by the nursing home or staff, police will conduct a criminal investigation.