Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys in Chicago
Senior citizens deserve respect, good care, and kind treatment. Unfortunately, they often find themselves at facilities that offer none of these things. Perhaps your mother recently moved into a nursing home after developing dementia. Or maybe an aunt or older friend has complained to you about difficult conditions at a home. How can you clarify the problem, provide sensible support, and seek justice?
Our lawyers offer detailed insight into the issue of nursing home abuse and neglect. We’ll start by giving you perspective on the scope and nature of these cases. Next, we’ll explain the typical injuries that occur as well as signs and symptoms. Then we’ll discuss what you can do to advocate for nursing home victims and report wrongdoing. Finally, we will address FAQs, so you can be in control of your next steps.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Statistics
The nursing home industry is a big business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.4 million people reside in 15,600 nursing homes in the United States (in Illinois, there are more than 732 facilities caring for more than 100,000 patients). Nearly 70% of these are operated as for-profit facilities. According to Medicare data, nearly 37% of the facilities were deemed to be below average by surveyors.
While there is nothing illegal about making a profit by caring for people, a conflict arises when operators attempt to maximize profits by reducing the staffing levels and hiring inexperienced workers. These cost-cutting measures impact patient care, often causing serious injuries and deaths.
Individuals 65 and older make up about 13 percent of the total U.S. population. It is estimated that at least 2.3 million seniors will become victims of nursing home abuse. Most cases go unreported. Family members are often oblivious; victims are too afraid to come forward, or they don’t know that the inadequate care constitutes abuse under federal regulations. The American Association of Justice reported that only 1 in 14 nursing home abuse cases are reported to the proper authorities and estimated that 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed.
This problem won’t be solved overnight. The industry needs an overhaul—for starters: new hiring processes; adequate background checks; new training; stronger sanctions for abusers; and better reporting processes.
If a nursing home in Illinois fails to abide by standards that have been established by federal and state law, then it may have its license revoked. In 2009, 99 nursing homes had a conditional license due to abuse complaints. Only three nursing homes had a license revoked or denied due to the abuse and inadequate care of residents. There were no nursing homes that had a license suspended as a result of abuse complaints.
Common Nursing Home Injuries
Cases that may be categorized as abuse by a nursing home neglect lawyer include: physical harm (perpetuated by staff, residents, or visitors); sexual assaults (facilities have a responsibility to screen staff and residents who have a history of aggressive behavior and sexual assault); dropped patients; medication errors (facilities must provide the correct medication and dosage as prescribed by the resident’s physician); bed rail entrapment; and untimely death.
Nursing home neglect, meanwhile, leads to situations like bedsores (when staff fail to reposition patients with limited mobility, the blood supply to tissue is interrupted and the flesh dies. An open wound may develop.); repeated falls; choking (many patients have special diets to accommodate difficulty swallowing. When staff fail to adhere to the dietary restrictions or monitor patients, they may choke on solids or liquids.); dehydration and malnutrition; and wandering (facilities must identify those prone to wandering, including dementia or Alzheimer’s patients, and implement safeguards to prevent them from leaving the safety of the facility.)
How do You Know Abuse and Neglect are Happening?
Trust your instincts. Some conditions may be attributable to old age or illness. But be on the lookout for the following: pressure sores; sexually transmitted diseases; bruises and bleeding; broken bones; emotional withdrawal; financial problems; changes to a will or power of attorney; silence or crying around the staff at a facility; and rapid weight loss.
If you notice any signs of abuse or neglect, report them to your nursing home ombudsman, the police, the state Department of Public Health, or an attorney who has experienced prosecuting nursing home cases.
Protecting Patients’ Rights
Over 16,000 residential nursing homes in the United States provide care to more than 1.5 million men, women, and children. To ensure the health and safety of residents, both federal and state agencies regulate nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and assisted living facilities.
The state Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conduct inspections or "surveys" on nursing homes to ensure they are meeting all regulations.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 intended to minimize abuse, neglect, and mistreatment occurring in facilities across America. Per the AARP, patient rights should include: freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect; freedom for physical restraints; privacy and dignity; accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs; the ability to participate in resident and family groups; the right to participate in a review of one's Care Plan; and the right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
Medicare and Medicaid both provide financial payment for the care residents receive in short and long-term nursing facilities. However, to receive federal dollars the facility must remain in compliance according to the Nursing Home Reform Act requirements.
Illinois expanded upon the federal Nursing Home Reform Act to mandate further protection of nursing home patients with the Nursing Home Care Act. This law grants nursing home patients’ numerous legal rights when they are at a licensed facility in the state. These include rights to manage your own financial affairs; permission to retain and use or wear personal property; permission to see your own physician; permission to refuse medical treatment, unless such refusal would be harmful to the health and safety of others; permission to inspect and copy all of your medical records; and “unimpeded, private, and uncensored” communication with respect to mail, telephone calls, or in-person visits. Residents and their families may also conduct authorized electronic monitoring of the resident’s room via electronic monitoring devices.
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable
When the rights of a nursing home patient are compromised or when a nursing home provides inferior care and a patient is injured, it’s time to call a nursing home negligence attorney. Chicago residents may pursue a case for civil damages to recover financial compensation for personal injury or death. Illinois recognizes the following types of damages in nursing home cases: past and future medical expenses; disfigurement; disability; pain and suffering; and wrongful death.
By holding facilities accountable for their conduct, our nursing home abuse lawyers hope to improve the care that all nursing home patients receive. Nursing home operators must learn that abusive and negligent care will not be tolerated.
Reporting Illinois Nursing Home Abuse
First, contact the police immediately. Call 911 if you believe your loved one is in a life-threatening situation. Other resources include the following.
The Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Care Financing Administration both regulate nursing homes.
Other professionals—like your loved one’s primary care physician, an elder patient advocate, or a social worker—can help. They may have access to additional resources and can help you report abuse.
Contact a qualified nursing home abuse lawyer to build a case, while you assist your loved one with the transition into a new home.
Red flags include: the development of pressure sores, particularly on the buttock and heels; sudden behavioral changes or moody, angry, withdrawn, or upset behavior; clothing that is dirty or bloody; joints that are stiff or stuck in one position; bruising, cuts, fractures or burns; sexually transmitted diseases; sudden weight loss; of the appearance of being overly medicated or fatigued.
Pay attention to how staff acts around you and your family member when you visit. Does they refuse you on some visits or seem annoyed by your presence? Does your loved one act differently when they’re present?
Assess the situation yourself. If it seems minor, make your concerns known to staff at the facility, or contact a nursing home ombudsman.
If there are signs of physical abuse, contact the authorities immediately. Visit the Illinois Department of Health website, or call the Nursing Home Hotline by dialing 800-252-4343. Contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as well to consider your options.
Both the federal Nursing Home Care Reform Act of 1987 and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act protect nursing home patients. These statutes set forth standards to ensure that nursing home residents receive the “highest practicable” mental, physical, and psychosocial wellbeing. This regulatory framework enforces quality care, establishes a resident Bill of Rights, and makes provisions for certain services for residents. To receive Medicaid or Medicare payments, each facility must comply with the requirements of the Nursing Home Care Reform Act.
In Illinois, you have two years to file a lawsuit against a negligent nursing home. Illinois law states that “[a]ctions for damages for an injury to the person… shall be commenced within 2 years... after the cause of action accrued.”
How to win a nursing home case depends on the type of claims that you bring. Some typical nursing home injury claims involve nursing home negligence, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. In a negligence action, you must show that the defendant: 1) owed you a duty; 2) the defendant breached that duty; 3) you suffered injuries; and 4) the defendant's breach caused those injuries.
Medical malpractice actions are similar to negligence actions. In these suits, you must show that: 1) a patient-provider relationship existed between yourself and the defendant; 2) the defendant owed you certain standard of care; 3) the defendant failed to provide you with that standard of care; 4) you suffered injuries; and 5) your injuries were because of the defendant's failures. Finally, in wrongful death actions, you must prove that: 1) your spouse or loved one died; 2) the defendant caused the death, and 3) the death caused you damages.
To determine your best options for an Illinois nursing home abuse case, you should consult an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
Each nursing home neglect case is very different, and the compensation will be dependent on the unique circumstances of your case. Some things that can be used to determine the financial value of the case in both nursing home negligence and wrongful death are medical costs; pain and suffering of the patient and family; disfigurement; loss of income; loss of normal life; and survival damages, in the case of wrongful death.
The total amount awarded will depend on the extent of the injury and can also be affected by some state laws that limit the amount of compensation. Other relevant factors include age of the individual; conduct of the facility; the facility’s history of care; whether the nursing home is insured; and whether the family was regularly involved in the care of the loved one.
Here are some examples of successful nursing home abuse actions:
$250,000 Settlement. This case was based out of Chicago, Illinois. The plaintiff was an 87-year-old woman elderly woman. During her time in the nursing home, staff failed to properly watch over her or take precautions to keep her from falling. As a result, she fell four times, breaking her hip on the last fall. That injury required surgery for doctors to insert a pin into her hip, leaving her with pain and disability. She sued, alleging negligence because the nursing home failed to follow reasonable procedures to keep her safe. As a result, she was injured and suffered damages, including pain, broken bones, handicaps, and medical bills.
$972,000 Jury Award. The events of this suit arose in Anna, Illinois. A woman in her 80s with a history of health issues entered a nursing home. Her conditions included dementia and hypertension and doctors considered her at risk for falls. They warned the home’s management company about this too. The next few years of her life passed without a problem. Yet, when she was 92, she fell down on the floor of her room. Home staff didn’t see this happen. They found her on the floor in a pool of her own blood in the early hours of the morning. They rushed her to the ER. Doctors diagnosed her with a fractured spine and hematoma, and she had many bruises and scars. Just hours after these events, she slipped into a coma. She passed away about a week after this. Her five adult children brought an action against the home, alleging negligence and wrongful death. A jury awarded the family $972,000.
$325,000 Settlement. A 90-year-old resident contracted a serious stage 4 bed sore on the lower part of his spine and also fell at some point during his stay. Doctors had to perform debridement surgery, wound treatment, biopsies, and antibiotic care. As a result of his injuries, the resident needed a catheter at all times and dealt with constant pain. He also faced almost $100,000 in medical bills from the bed sore and fall. He sued for negligent care; the nursing home settled for $325,000.
$725,000 Settlement. An 83-year-old woman entered a nursing home in Illinois with a bed sore. She was also at risk for falls. The sore progressed to stage 4 while in the nursing home and became infected, leading to sepsis. During her stay, she also fell from her bed, breaking her femur. Her medical bills related to the bed sore and fall reached more than $150,000. Her family felt that the injuries and resulting complications led to her death. The nursing home settled for $725,000 to cover her medical bills, pain, and suffering, the most common damage categories claimed in wrongful death and negligence cases.
Contact Our Chicago Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys Today
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers appreciates the feelings of anger and guilt after a loved one has suffered an injury or abuse during admission to an Illinois nursing home. Our law firm has experience prosecuting complex cases against skilled nursing facilities across the state. We encourage you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights and options for pursuing a claim or lawsuit against a facility. Our lawyers are available 24-7 and we can schedule a meeting at your home or our office.