Placing an elderly or disabled loved one in a nursing home is never easy. However, it may be the only way to help them get the care and attention they need.
- What is Nursing Home Abuse?
- State and Federal Laws That Protect Nursing Home Residents
- What Are the Types & Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
- Who Is Most Vulnerable to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
- Why Does Nursing Home Abuse Happen?
- What to Do If You Think Your Loved One is Being Abused in Their Naperville, IL, Nursing Home
- How to File a Naperville Nursing Home Abuse Claim
Ideally, you should never have to worry about your loved one’s safety and well-being in a place where they should receive quality care. But unfortunately, not all nursing homes are safe for our vulnerable family members.
Nursing home abuse is a common problem across the US, with thousands of residents suffering from physical, sexual, emotional, and financial exploitation every year.
Often, these victims cannot seek help on their own, let alone stop the abuse from occurring. If you suspect your loved one is mistreated in a nursing home, seek legal help immediately.
The Naperville nursing home abuse lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC are dedicated to helping victims seek justice from negligent nursing homes and recover fair compensation for their damages. We can help you and your family pursue damages through an out-of-court settlement or litigation, whichever is most appropriate.
Contact our Naperville personal injury lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is any action that causes harm to a resident. It can result from the negligence or malicious intent of staff members, visitors, and other nursing home residents.
Elder abuse is the most common form of mistreatment in nursing homes. The law defines it as any harmful action against individuals aged 65 and older.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rates of elder abuse are higher in long-term care facilities, with 2 in 3 employees reporting they have committed some form of abuse in a single year (2019).
State and Federal Laws That Protect Nursing Home Residents
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) defines the quality standards for nursing homes and aims to ensure quality care for all residents. All Medicare and Medicaid-funded facilities must comply with the regulations stated in the NHRA.
This law seeks to protect the rights of nursing home residents, including the rights to:
- Be treated with respect
- Participate in activities
- Be free from discrimination
- Be free from abuse and neglect
- Be free from physical and chemical restraints
- Voice grievances or complaints without fear of punishment
- Receive proper medical care
- Get information on services and fees
- Have your representative notified of changes
- Manage your money
- Receive proper privacy, belongings, and living arrangements
- Spend time with visitors
- Receive social services
- Leave the nursing home for outings
- Have protection against unfair facility transfer or discharge
- Form or participate in groups formed by nursing home residents
- Have your family and friends involved in one’s care plan
Illinois Nursing Home Laws
The Illinois Adult Protective Services Act (Section 320 Illinois Compiled Statutes) was designed to prevent the abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of seniors 60 and above and disabled individuals aged 18-59, including those residing in nursing homes.
The Act also establishes standards for investigating elder abuse and the punishments for those who commit mistreatment against seniors and disabled adults.
Section 210 of the ICS is the Abused and Neglected Long-Term Care Facility Residents Reporting Act. This law makes it mandatory for nursing home workers, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement officers to report suspected abuse to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Individuals who fail to do so may face a Class A demeanor.
Furthermore, Illinois enacted the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act in 2016. This law allows family members to install monitoring devices in their loved one’s nursing home rooms to deter abuse and capture evidence.
What Are the Types & Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Many cases of abuse continue for months or even years because family members don’t notice the warning signs. Recognizing the potential indicators of nursing home neglect and abuse could help you protect your loved one from further harm and take action before it’s too late.
The following are the different types and warning signs of nursing home abuse:
Any physical activity that causes pain, injury, or death to a resident is considered physical abuse. It can include pinching, slapping, shoving, hitting, and slapping. This abuse also includes restraining a resident with physical (e.g., bindings) or chemical (e.g., drugs) restraints and force-feeding a patient without a valid medical reason.
Signs of Physical Assault or Abuse
- Unexplained injuries (e.g., bruises, scrapes, fractures)
- Signs of self-treated injuries (e.g., poorly bandaged wounds)
- Broken eyeglasses or torn clothing
- Delayed medical care for injuries
- Multiple trips to different emergency rooms
- Fearful behavior and changes in personality
- Restraint or grip marks
- Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Emotional or Mental Abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse is any verbal or non-verbal action that inflicts emotional pain, fear, or anguish on a nursing home resident. This abuse includes humiliation, name-calling, intimidation, and gaslighting.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Frequent crying
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Depression or anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding eye contact
- Reduced communication with friends and family
- Other changes in behavior or personality
Any non-consensual sexual act done with a nursing home resident is sexual abuse. It includes groping, coerced nudity, explicit photography, and rape. An abuser may force the victim to engage in the sexual act through intimidation, harassment, threats, or brute force.
Committing a sexual act with an individual who cannot consent (e.g., a minor or mentally-disabled patient) is also considered sexual abuse.
Signs of Sexual Harassment or Abuse
- Injuries around breasts or genitals
- Pain while urinating or walking
- Bloody or torn undergarments
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding
- Unexplained sexually-transmitted diseases or genital infections
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI)
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Refusal to be alone with specific individuals
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Other changes in personality or behavior
Financial Abuse or Exploitation
The law defines financial exploitation as the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of a resident’s assets, money, or property. It includes but is not limited to accessing bank accounts without permission, forcing a resident to sign checks, coercing a resident to buy into fraudulent investments, and stealing a resident’s belongings.
Signs of Financial Exploitation or Abuse
- Unexplained transactions on credit or debit cards
- Sudden changes in financial habits
- Strange “investments”
- Forged signatures on financial documents
- The sudden disappearance of personal belongings or money
Nursing home neglect occurs when staff members fail to provide proper care to nursing home residents. The most common neglect is failing to give basic patient needs, such as food, water, clothing, medical care, and sanitary living conditions. Whether intentional or unintentional, neglect is considered abuse.
Signs of Neglect
- Malnutrition and dehydration
- Medication errors
- Bedsores or pressure sores
- Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
- Poor personal hygiene
- Recurring infections
- Untreated injuries or health conditions
Common Injuries Caused by Nursing Home Negligence
Nursing home abuse can lead to severe injuries, such as:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI), e.g., concussion
- Broken bones
- Bruises and lacerations
- Spinal cord trauma
- Soft tissue injuries, e.g., sprains and strains
- Soft tissue infections
- Recurring infections
- Pressure sores
- Internal bleeding or organ damage
Who Is Most Vulnerable to Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?
Anyone can be a victim of abuse or neglect in nursing homes. However, some nursing home residents are more vulnerable to mistreatment than others due to physical or mental limitations. These groups include:
- People With Mental or Physical Disabilities: Disabled individuals are most at risk for mistreatment. These people usually depend on others for care, increasing the likelihood of their inability to speak out against their abuser. Many disabled residents are also unable to physically fight back against their abusers.
- Dementia Patients: Most elder abuse victims are patients with dementia. These patients are less likely to be able to report their abusers.
- Women and Children: Like other settings, women and disabled children in nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), 68% of elder abuse victims are women.
- People With Access to an Abundance of Wealth: Patients who still have access to their money and assets may become targets for financial exploitation.
- Bedridden Patients: Residents confined to their beds can rarely defend themselves or report abuse to nursing home officials.
- People With Lower Income: Socioeconomic status often defines the quality of nursing home care. People who receive Medicaid services may be more likely to end up in lower-quality nursing facilities, where abuse and neglect are usually more rampant.
Why Does Nursing Home Abuse Happen?
Several factors contribute to abuse and neglect in nursing homes, including:
- Understaffing: A chronic shortage of registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, direct care employees, and other staff members increase the likelihood of mistreatment happening in a nursing facility. Understaffed facilities often experience the deprioritization of essential tasks, toxic working environments, and lack of supervision, creating an environment more conducive to abuse.
- Inadequate Employee Training and Experience: Illinois nursing homes that fail to hire competent workers may inadvertently increase the risk of harm to residents. A lack of education, training, and experience may increase a staff member’s likelihood of committing medical negligence, abuse, or neglect.
- Lack of Background Checks: If a nursing home fails to conduct proper background checks, it could hire staff members with histories of abusing or exploiting others.
- Poor Management: Nursing facilities that lack good leadership teams may be more prone to inadequate supervision, lack of accountability, and employee burnout, leading to abuse and neglect.
- Underreporting: Although reporting nursing home abuse is required by law, many cases remain unreported and, therefore, unaddressed. This factor allows the cycle of abuse to continue and abusers to stay in power over residents.
What to Do If You Think Your Loved One is Being Abused in Their Naperville, IL, Nursing Home
Many nursing home victims don’t show obvious signs of abuse right away. If you strongly suspect your loved one is being mistreated in their nursing home, contact the Naperville Police Department. The police may investigate your claim and take legal action against the facility if they find evidence of mistreatment.
Call emergency services if you think your loved one or another resident has a severe injury or is in immediate danger. Consider relocating your loved one in the meantime.
You should also file a formal report to the following Illinois agencies:
- Adult Protective Services
- Department on Aging
- Department of Public Health
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman
- Office of Attorney General
You may also report to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Government-funded facilities could lose Medicare or Medicaid funds, face hefty fines, or close down if they violate state or federal nursing home laws.
Perpetrators of abuse could face criminal charges from the police for wrongful conduct. Punishments for abusing nursing home residents may include prison time, fines, and a misdemeanor or felony charge. Additionally, individuals who witness nursing home abuse but fail to report it to the authorities could face a misdemeanor charge.
Contact a Naperville nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to determine your legal options.
How to File a Naperville Nursing Home Abuse Claim
Nursing home abuse falls under personal injury law. Victims can file claims to recover monetary compensation if they get injured or ill due to someone else’s negligence.
Like personal injury claims, the burden of proof is on the victim or their representative. To file a valid claim, you must prove that:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one. All nursing homes and their constituents are legally obligated to prevent injury to residents.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. A ‘breach of duty’ is usually a negligent act that leads to harm, e.g., failing to prevent a patient from falling off the bed.
- Your loved one suffered considerable injuries. You must show that you or your loved one suffered significant physical, psychological, or financial harm.
- Your loved one suffered damages. You must show that you or your loved one suffered damages from the abuse, such as physical pain, emotional trauma, and lost wages.