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Nursing Home Abuse: No Criminal Case Needed (But it can help)

Posted On January 11, 2019

A criminal case is not required to achieve a successful verdict in a civil lawsuit when a nursing home resident suffers intentional neglect or abuse. A criminal conviction often results in prison time and fines for those responsible for the abuse, and it may help support a civil suit. A civil lawsuit can provide monetary damages for the victim.

Filing a Lawsuit with a Nursing Home Neglect Attorney

If nursing home neglect is suspected or discovered, taking legal action can ensure the victim is compensated for the injuries, help restore the victim’s dignity, and punish the nursing home facility. There are three avenues of pursuit – a formal investigation, a civil lawsuit, or criminal prosecution.

  • Formal Investigation – A formal investigation by Adult Protective Services (APS) can provide immediate relief for a neglected or abused nursing home resident and prevent future incidents that cause harm.
  • Civil Lawsuit – A civil lawsuit filed by a nursing home resident or a resident’s family seeks monetary damages for neglect and abuse, including pain and suffering and emotional distress. In some cases, punitive damages are awarded to punish the facility when particularly egregious conduct is involved. A civil lawsuit can be filed by a nursing home neglect attorney.
  • Criminal Prosecution – Criminal charges can be filed in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. In such cases, a nursing home often faces serious federal and state violations and penalties.

Illinois nursing homes are overseen by the State Department of Public Health. They are responsible for enforcing all regulations. According to state regulations, nursing homes are required to provide the highest quality of resident care possible. Facilities that fail to meet proper standards of care are subject to fines and other enforcement actions, including closure.

Nursing Home Residents are Owed Proper Care

Nursing home neglect and abuse by staff members and caregivers cause a variety of physical and emotional problems for elderly residents. Filing criminal charges and a civil suit will produce consequences for the nursing home that can lead to a better living environment for elderly residents.

Elderly adults who experience neglect and abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death compared to elderly adults who are properly cared for. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse occurs frequently in long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. It’s often perpetrated by nursing home staff members, nurses, and caregivers who are hired to take care of elderly residents. When it occurs, it has a profound, negative impact on a resident’s physical and emotional well-being.

  • Physical Abuse – Inflicts physical pain and injuries caused by hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, and kicking.
  • Emotional Abuse – Inflicts mental pain, anguish or distress from verbal or nonverbal acts such as threats of violence, intimidation, and verbal assaults.
  • Sexual Abuse – Inflicts trauma from non-consensual sexual contact or coercing an elderly person to witness sexual behaviors.
  • Neglect – Inflicts physical and mental harm by failing or refusing to provide basic needs like shelter, food, health care, protection, or assistance.
  • Abandonment – Inflicts harm by deserting a vulnerable elderly adult and depriving them of basic care and human rights.
  • Financial Exploitation – Inflicts physical and mental anguish by illegally taking or misusing funds, property or assets of an elderly person.

Recognizing the Signs of Neglect and Abuse

Although federal and state laws require nursing home facilities to report incidents of neglect and abuse, it’s estimated that up to 30 percent of cases go unreported. Cases of undetected or unreported nursing home neglect and abuse often have significant consequences for elderly residents. Acts of physical violence result in cuts, abrasions, bruises, fractures, and broken bones. Wounds that are not promptly treated can lead to life-threatening complications. Emotional abuse leaves residents depressed and confused causing sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, incontinence, anxiety, and social withdrawal. Incidents of neglect and abuse perpetrated by caregivers that residents know and trust create fear of future attacks. The consequences are often severe mood changes, anxiety, and depression that lead to declining health and premature death.

Signs of Physical Neglect and Abuse

  • Cuts, abrasions, and bruises
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Significant weight loss
  • Dirty hair or hair loss
  • Bedsores
  • Unsanitary clothing and appearance

Friends and family members of residents should be aware of the warning signs of neglect and abuse. Many elderly residents who suffer harm can’t or don’t tell anyone, especially residents with severe cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s important to look for significant changes in a loved one’s physical condition, mental status, personality, and normal behaviors.

Signs of Emotional Neglect and Abuse

Although signs of physical neglect and abuse are often visible, signs of emotional neglect and abuse are usually hidden. Sudden changes in a loved one’s normal personality, behavior, or mood may be the only visible signs, so it’s important for loved ones to be observant of sudden changes.

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