Throughout the U.S., nursing home residents are suffering injuries and illnesses caused by medical care they receive from their nursing home facilities. In Illinois, nursing home residents who suffer harm due to unsafe conditions and improper medical care have a right to file a lawsuit with a nursing home abuse lawyer for damages.
The Dangers of Nursing Home Medical Care
According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one-third of Medicare patients discharged from hospitals to nursing home facilities are harmed by the care they receive in those facilities. Sixty percent of those harmed are readmitted to hospitals for emergency care and followup treatments for their injuries. Medicare officials state that such injuries cost approximately $2.8 billion in hospital costs each year, not including physician visits and long-term nursing home costs.
Between 2008 and 2011, Congress mandated studies to determine a national incidence rate of individuals on Medicare who suffered adverse affects from nursing home medical care. The results show that 22 percent of residents experienced significant harm, and 11 percent experienced temporary harm during their stay in nursing homes. Physicians who examined residents determined that associated injuries and illnesses were caused by improper assessment of resident health conditions, substandard medical care, delay or failure to administer necessary care, errors in medical judgment and skill, and inadequate monitoring and supervision. Physicians determined that at least 59 percent of harm caused to residents was preventable.
Common Dangers for Residents
Many nursing home residents are incapable of even the most basic functions such as feeding themselves, bathing, changing their clothes, and brushing their teeth. When a resident receives substandard care or improper medical treatment, the result is often increased illness and injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nursing home residents are often harmed by:
- Negligent or improper care by staff
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Lack of proper nourishment
- Lack of proper hygiene
- Improper medications and doses
- Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
A nursing home abuse lawyer commonly sees nursing home residents who suffer injuries including bed sores, skin infections, malnutrition, dehydration and heat stroke due to neglect, as well as physical and emotional trauma from intentional abuse. Infectious diseases are also a major concern in nursing homes. Skin infections, urinary infections, gastrointestinal infections, influenza, and bacterial pneumonia are common in elderly nursing home residents. Viral, bacterial and fungal infections often begin with vague signs and symptoms such as loss of appetite, decline in physical abilities, changes in mental health, and incontinence, then rapidly progress to serious conditions, and even death.
Laws to Protect Residents
Under state and federal laws, nursing homes owe a duty of care to residents to ensure that their basic needs are met. Failure to provide safe housing and proper medical care is considered to be a form of nursing home neglect or abuse. According to Illinois and federal laws, nursing home employees and staff can be held liable for neglect if any of the following conditions occur:
- Failure to provide residents with proper shelter
- Failure to assist residents with proper hygiene
- Failure to provide residents with clean or proper clothing
- Failure to protect residents from health and safety hazards
Nursing homes also have a duty to protect residents by hiring trained, competent professionals who are qualified to provide proper care. If a nursing home fails in its duty to protect residents by hiring under-trained, incompetent, or unfit employees, the nursing home can be held liable for harm caused to residents.
Illinois Nursing Homes
Illinois nursing homes are regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), where officials work to ensure that state and federal regulations are met. Each year, IDPH conducts over 1,400 on-site inspections and responds to over 6,500 complaints to evaluate nursing home staff, equipment, policies and finances.
Nursing homes in Illinois are typically inspected once every 12 months without a warning notice to the facility. On-site inspections are conducted by state surveyors with qualified teams that evaluate all aspects of nursing home practices and resident care. State inspections often include observation of residential care, evaluation of medical records, and interviews with staff, residents and family members. All alleged cases of abuse and resident accidents, injuries or deaths are promptly investigated and IDPH findings are given to nursing home administrators. Facilities that fail to meet state and federal regulations for medical care are issued violations and are subject to steep fines and other enforcement actions. If a nursing home has excessive or repeats violations that are not resolved, the facility can be permanently closed.