Illinois Nursing Homes Obligated to Not Neglect Residents’ Safety
When an elderly or infirm Illinois citizen moves into a nursing home or another long-term care facility, that facility assumes responsibility for all aspects of the person’s safety. This includes their health as far a medical science allows, and their security from accidental injury or abuse. Nursing home negligence
can easily lead to injury or death of an elderly or infirm resident. When avoidable injury or death occurs in a nursing home, SI Elder Law can help them or their family obtain compensation they are due for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
Nursing Homes Assume Full Responsibility for Residents’ Well-Being
A person enters a nursing home because they require medical care and can no longer care for themselves. They put their lives in the hands of the long-term care facility’s staff and management.
The nursing home, by contract and moral obligation, agrees to care for its residents and keep them safe from harm.
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Failure to provide a nursing home resident the care and services they depend on the facility for is neglect. By law in Illinois, neglect of a nursing home resident is 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 in the resident’s physical or mental condition.
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Nursing home neglect occurs in two fashions:
Active Neglect in Nursing Homes
Active nursing home neglect is willfully failing to provide care, such as withholding food, water, heat, hygiene, or health-related services.
Passive Neglect in Nursing Homes
Passive nursing home neglect encompasses failing to meet responsibilities for residents’ health and welfare because of negligent hiring and retention, inadequate staff training, or because management and/or staff do not value providing adequate services.
Reasons You May Need an Illinois Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer
Nursing home neglect is a failure or refusal by responsible parties to provide residents with food, shelter, health care or protection. Various forms of neglect that may lead to injury and death in a nursing home include but are not limited to:
This is withholding or otherwise failing to provide proper medical care or treatment. Medication errors, including administering the wrong medicine, or providing incorrect dosages or doses at incorrect intervals, are a frequent form of medical neglect. Failure to summon staff or outside medical doctors in a timely manner is also medical neglect. In addition to not adequately treating illness, medical neglect can allow an illness to progress and cause what may have been avoidable damage to the patient’s health, or death.Certain medical conditions require nursing homes to provide a higher level of attentiveness or continual monitoring to ensure the resident’s safety. Nursing home personnel must not neglect:
Fall prevention protocols. Certain medications, illness, and the frailty of age increase the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Nursing home residents fall more than two and a half times a year on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Elderly people who fall are highly likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or hip fractures, either of which immediately diminishes the quality of life and is a potentially fatal injury. Fall protocols should be in place and followed to monitor and assist residents at risk of falling.
Periodic repositioning of immobile residents. Bed sores (pressure ulcers, pressure sores) are open wounds that are caused by lying or sitting still for long periods of time. They are highly painful and susceptible to infection. Residents who are immobile must be regularly repositioned or “turned” to prevent bed sores. Staff should be trained to turn patients on schedule, and be kept abreast of which residents require turning.
Wandering and elopement prevention. Individuals who have developed early-stage Alzheimer’s disease are likely to wander. Nursing homes should accommodate and supervise residents’ need to walk or otherwise be active, but failure to keep wanderers safe is neglect. Nursing homes have an obligation to ensure residents likely to wander or elope (leave the premises) are protected by staff supervision, electronic / coded latches on doors, security cameras, warning devices triggered if residents cross boundaries, etc.
Withholding adequate food and drink, including nutritional supplements, is neglect that can damage health. Nursing homes must also be prepared to help residents who have physical or mental problems that keep them from feeding themselves or chewing and swallowing, or that inhibit their desire to eat. Lack of food or lack or the ability to absorb the nutrients in food can cause malnutrition, weakening the individual and increasing the risk of falling and being injured, and developing infections or other medical problems.Dehydration, an insufficient intake of liquids, adversely affects all body functions. Dehydration is a symptom of malnutrition but can also be caused by high fever, diarrhea or certain medications, such as diuretics.
Failure to help nursing home residents keep themselves and their environment clean is negligent. Lack of personal cleanliness, as well as unsanitary conditions in bedrooms and bathrooms, or affecting beds, bedding, clothing, toiletries, etc., can lead to disease or infection, including staph infections.
Emotional / Social Neglect
Nursing home staff members have an obligation to provide some level of companionship to individuals under their care. Proper emotional support includes patiently and individually spending time with residents, providing appropriate physical comfort, listening and responding appropriately, and empathizing and providing feedback about problems and concerns. Isolating a resident from activities they can and want to participate in through inaction, i.e., not going to get a resident who needs assistance or not prodding them to join a group or activity, is social neglect.Social and emotional neglect may cause psychological problems, such as depression, distress, regressive behavior, regression in personal care and/or withdrawal from caregivers or family.
Neglect of Premises
Unsafe conditions in nursing homes can lead to injuries from accidents, illness and, in case of intruders or elopement due to security lapses, even assault. In addition to falls caused by illness and infirmity, such conditions caused by faulty maintenance, such as wet floors, loose tiles or rugs, poor lighting, etc., increase the risk of slip-and-fall accidents. Poor cleaning and sanitation habits in a facility can cause the spread of illness. Poor security, i.e., lack of doors and windows that lock, as well as lack of proper surveillance of the premises, can lead to elopement or intrusion by individuals who easily prey on the elderly and infirm.
Nursing homes must be properly staffed to provide the level of medical and socialization care, security and premises maintenance that residents require. This includes ensuring staff members are qualified and available to provide one-on-one care and assistance. Managers and other supervisory personnel are responsible for hiring, training, scheduling and supervising staff to ensure nursing home residents receive proper care 24 hours a day. Lapses due to staff changes should be dealt with swiftly and effectively, and in a manner that does not diminish the level of care provided to residents.
How to Report Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing homes have an obligation to adopt, follow and enforce policies and protocols that ensure the health and safety of residents. They must hire staff, including medical staff with qualifications and in numbers prescribed by law, and ensure they are adequately trained and are properly performing assigned duties.
Those who hire staff also have the responsibility to run background checks to identify inappropriate behavior, including incidents of assault or other criminal behavior, as well as prior work performance related to interpersonal contact with clients or customers.
Failure to hire adequately qualified and screened personnel for a nursing home, and to train and supervise them to ensure they are providing residents adequate care is negligence.
Often, nursing home neglect continues until a family member or friend of the victim recognizes what is going on and takes action. Anyone who thinks a nursing home resident is being subjected to harm has an obligation to report it to authorities.
Where to Report Nursing Home Neglect
Report your suspicions of neglect at a nursing home to a manager of the facility, but do not automatically accept their assurances and excuses. Some nursing home managers will deny allegations of neglect, which go to the heart of their job performance as a manager of the facility, or otherwise place their own needs ahead of an individual resident’s.
Therefore, it is also necessary to report any suspicions you have about neglect in a nursing home to state authorities. The Illinois the Department on Aging is charged with investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of elderly Illinois residents. Report your concerns to:
The Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at (866) 800-1409 or (888) 206-1327 (TTY), or find aregional Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program near you at the bottom of this Department on Aging web page.
The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at (800) 252-4343.
If you believe a nursing home resident is in imminent danger, you should contact law enforcement and/or emergency medical response by calling 911.
In addition to reporting nursing home neglect to authorities, you should contact an attorney who focuses on Illinois elder law, including taking on cases of nursing home negligence. Hiring an attorney to assist a victim of neglect ensures that their situation is thoroughly reviewed independent of the state’s investigation.
An attorney working on behalf of the neglected nursing home resident can work fast to obtain medical assistance and other help they need, and work to obtain compensation for the elderly person’s losses and expenses related to the neglect.
SI Elder Law Responds to Nursing Home Neglect Cases
The Illinois Department on Aging is required by the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act to investigate complaints of nursing home neglect. When criminal acts are identified, law enforcement and the criminal justice system become involved.
But obtaining financial restitution for the costs, losses and pain and suffering caused by nursing home neglect requires experienced legal assistance like the attorneys of SI Elder Law provide.
Our attorneys investigate cases of nursing home neglect in Southern Illinois. We work independently of but often parallel to ongoing state investigations, and share information with the state when appropriate.
Because SI Elder Law is not burdened by the caseload and bureaucracy that slows state investigations, we can move faster and be more thorough when investigating cases of nursing home neglect. We work diligently to see that a harmful situation is corrected, and to ensure that victims of neglect are made whole financially. If possible, we will pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for such losses as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and relocation costs if necessary.
If you have reported a suspected case of nursing home neglect or are concerned about how an elderly person is being treated and need legal advice, we urge you to take action now. If a personal injury lawsuit is warranted, it is a time consuming matter. A complaint would have to be filed within two years to avoid the Illinois’ statute of limitations.
If you have concerns about how someone you care about is being treated in a Southern Illinois nursing home, contact SI Elder Law for help today. We provide free initial consultations about cases of nursing home neglect.