When you place a loved one such as a spouse or parent or grandparent in the care of a nursing home, you expect that their needs will be met and that they be cared for in a respectful manner. Unfortunately, negligence and elder abuse in nursing homes can occur. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act protects the elderly from gross violations that compromise the health, well-being and dignity of some of our most cherished family members. While laws regulating the standard of care for elder care facilities may vary state to state, almost every state recognizes certain injuries to be indications of nursing home abuse and negligence, violating the rights of and causing harm to the resident. These injuries can occur by accident or at the hand of a caretaker who is acting negligently or maliciously. Residents’ dependence on caretakers makes them especially vulnerable to being abused by those tasked with ensuring their well-being. An injured victim or family has nothing to lose by contacting an experienced nursing home negligence attorney. Contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for an experienced attorney to guide you through the legal process. Check out our recent blog entry regarding nursing home injuries.
Who Can File a Lawsuit for Nursing Home Injuries?
If the resident is of sound mind and has not been declared incompetent, the resident is the primary person to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit against the healthcare facility for the substandard care received. If the resident is not of sound mind, a family member or close friend or person with power of attorney may file the suit on the resident’s behalf.
If the resident is deceased, a family member, such as a spouse or child, may file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of the resident.
What Are Some Common Injuries That Result From Nursing Home Negligence?
Illinois has approximately 1,200 long-term care nursing homes that serve more than 100,000 residents. Each year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), responsible for licensing and regulating all Illinois nursing homes, fields around 19,000 complaints of abuse and neglect against residents of the state’s long-term care facilities.
1. Restraint injuries
These injuries are the most prevalent in nursing home abuse cases. Restraining devices can include bindings for hands and feet, vests, neck supports, bed rails, etc. Some residents will be put in restraints for their own protection. An injury or death caused by the use of restraints can indicate gross negligence on the part of the staff for not properly supervising the resident while in restraint. Such injury or death can also indicate gross negligence on the part of the care facility for not providing enough staff to adequately supervise residents in restraints.
2. Decubitus ulcers (pressure sores)
Nursing home abuse suits filed regarding decubitus ulcers are some of the most disputed of all elder care cases. Vascular disease, diabetes, and other circulatory disorders are common in the elderly and can contribute to the development of the resident’s pressure sores. A careful analysis must be made, therefore, as to when the pressure sores developed and whether it can be proved that the sores appeared while the resident was already in the healthcare facility. Medical evidence supports the position that pressure sores can be prevented, even in patients with compromised circulation.
3. Severe dehydration and malnutrition
Dehydration and malnutrition go hand in hand. One will generally not exist without the other. These are not difficult concepts to understand, but they can be very difficult to prove. Was the resident given enough food to eat and water to drink? The resident’s records and charts may help prove the case. However, extensive investigation will be required.
4. Exposure to the elements
Relatives of residents often are unable to visit frequently. They must, therefore, place an enormous amount of trust in the healthcare staff to monitor the resident and provide care and comfort. This trust is betrayed when a resident is found to have wandered away or was improperly allowed outdoors. Evidence showing that a resident was allowed to wander and suffer or die due to prolonged exposure to the elements has been especially compelling to juries.
5. Falls and fractures
Falls are common among the elderly and the resulting injuries can have a significant impact on a resident’s health. Hip fractures are the most common form of injury from a fall. Hip fractures have a long recovery period, frequently require surgical intervention, and can result in long-term disability. In a case of this nature, it will be important to know if the staff-to-resident ratio was adequate to provide needed supervision of residents. Was the resident’s physical condition properly assessed by the staff regarding vulnerability to such falls and injury? If the patient was vulnerable to falls, did the staff take the proper precautions (use of appropriate restraints and/or supervision) to prevent them?
6. Physical mistreatment and assault
To present a strong case in a suit charging physical mistreatment and assault by a staff member or fellow resident, it will be important to prove that the mistreatment or assault was “foreseeable.” For example, if the injuries incurred were the result of mistreatment by a staff member, it would be important to know if a proper background check on that staff member was conducted before hiring him or her. If the assault was by a fellow resident, was the facility aware of that resident’s tendency to violent behavior? What steps were taken after the assault to prevent further violent behavior?
Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act
The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act was signed into law by Governor Rauner in August, 2015, and will go into effect beginning in 2016. The new law allows cameras to be installed in resident rooms at long-term care nursing homes. Although installation of the cameras is not mandatory under the new legislation, it provides the option to install audio and visual monitoring equipment in residents’ rooms so that family members can check their loved one’s welfare and keep a record of the treatment they are receiving behind closed doors. The Law also prohibits long-term care nursing homes from barring admission to prospective residents just because they choose to have surveillance cameras installed and punishes anyone who knowingly hampers, obstructs, tampers with or destroys the electronic monitoring equipment.
The primary goal of this legislation is to deter abuse and neglect by employees in long-term care nursing homes. Hopefully, monitoring will encourage staff members to uphold their duty to provide a reasonable standard of care. If it does not, these recordings made by a resident’s surveillance equipment can be used in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings to make a showing regarding a resident’s health and safety and the treatment they are receiving and could become evidence in a lawsuit.
An injured victim has nothing to lose and much to gain by contacting us for a free legal consultation concerning an injury claim. You may contact us by telephone at (847) 577-1123 or by e-mail at [email protected] for a free consultation.