Nursing home neglect is on the rise in Chicago, Illinois, with residents reporting emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Common signs of neglect include lack of basic amenities, unclean environment, unexplained changes in behavior, and isolation. These signs are common in nursing homes with inadequate staffing, high turnover rates, untrained/unsupervised staff, profit-driven motives, and financial issues.
Illinois laws protect residents’ rights in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. As such, you may have grounds to pursue compensation from a liable nursing facility if your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect. State enforcement agencies can also impose penalties on the facility for neglect.
Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
What is considered neglect in a nursing home, and how does this problem manifest? Neglect occurs when nursing home residents suffer from improper care that results in illness, harm, or death.
Victims of nursing home neglect are often helpless or incapacitated, making it difficult to communicate what they face. As such, Illinois laws mandate staff members, including nurses and physicians, to report any suspected cases of neglect or abuse to the Department of Public Health. Since most cases go unreported, you should regularly visit your loved one and watch out for the following nursing home neglect symptoms or signs:
- Behavioral changes, including anxiety and depression
- Unexplained broken bones, bruising, abrasions, or infections
- Signs of restraints, including red welts on the wrists and arms
- Hostility towards staff members
- Bed sores and soiled clothing or bedding
- Unclean physical appearance and unexplained malnourishment, dehydration, or weight loss
Prevalence of Nursing Home Neglect in Chicago, Illinois
The National Census Bureau reports that about 20% of the country’s population will be 65 years or above by 2030. About half of these individuals may become nursing home residents. However, with rising cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, there might be skepticism about seeking long-term care in these facilities.
Illinois has a huge nursing home staffing problem that has contributed to the increase in neglect and abuse cases. Overcrowding is also a problem in nursing homes. Cases involving lack of an infection control program and preventable deaths due to infections are increasing rapidly.
Impact on the Physical/Mental Well-Being of Residents
Nursing home neglect can have mental and physical health impacts on residents. Residents may suffer from inadequate nutrition or hygiene. Neglect may also force them to cope with intense physical discomfort during their stay at the nursing home.
Neglect may prevent your loved one from receiving the much-needed medical care. When this happens, your loved one’s illness may go untreated and worsen.
Residents may feel abandoned or isolated if their emotional needs are unaddressed. They may also be deprived of meaningful social interactions needed to maintain their mental well-being. Consequences of emotional and social neglect include profound feelings of despair and loneliness.
Reasons Behind Nursing Home Neglect in Illinois
Nursing home workers in Chicago, Illinois, must act reasonably and respect the residents’ rights. The administrators should also ensure that the facilities have adequate measures to ensure the comfort and safety of individuals seeking different types of care. However, both nursing home staff and administrators are to blame for neglect or abuse due to the following reasons:
Inadequate Staffing and High Turnover Rates
As staffing in Illinois nursing homes continues to be an issue, residents report frequent falls, deadly infections, and bedsores. These cases are as a result of inadequate staffing. They can also be attributed to high turnover rates, especially when nursing home administrators have to hire new employees quickly.
Understaffed nursing home workers may fail to attend to the residents as expected. They may also feel overworked and exhausted. If this problem is not solved, more residents will complain that the facility does not meet their care needs.
Some nursing homes have high employee turnover rates, increasing the need to hire people quickly. However, quick hiring can attract unsuitable individuals to the facility. These new workers may lack the patience and skills to attend to long-term care patients.
Nursing home administrators may fail to do background and referee checks if they try to fill vacant job positions quickly. As such, they may hire potential abusers or individuals with questionable backgrounds or histories. The new hires may also be unaware of the residents’ special medical regimens or needs.
Lack of Proper Training and Supervision
Nursing home workers, including physicians and nurses, should know disease causes, treatment, and physiology. They should also understand the physical and mental needs of each patient. Providing residents with a safe, comfortable, and satisfying environment can be difficult without this knowledge.
Lack of proper training and supervision is a common problem in nursing homes with limited budgets. These facilities may hire volunteers to look after the residents. Volunteers can put your loved one at risk of neglect or abuse since they might not be trained or licensed.
Nursing home administrators must ensure that their staff adequately supervises the residents. As such, workers can be held liable if a resident under their care suffers abuse or neglect. The administrators can also be liable for their workers’ actions if they fail to instruct them about their duties.
Financial Issues and Profit-Driven Motives
Since nursing homes are profit-oriented, they can experience financial or cash flow problems in tough economic times. The nursing homes can downplay these troubles to protect their reputation. As a result, workers may be subjected to unreasonable working hours and wage cuts, affecting their motivation and making them more likely to neglect, abuse, or mistreat residents.
Nursing homes may also offer low-quality care when profit drives them to cut operational costs.
Legal Consequences for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Unlawful conduct in nursing facilities involving neglect is subject to criminal and civil laws. As such, you can take legal action by filing a civil lawsuit against the liable nursing home with the help of a personal injury attorney. State prosecutors are responsible for bringing criminal charges against the nursing home facility for neglect.
Civil suits often result in financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses arising from the neglect. Criminal lawsuit may result in penalties such as jail time and fines.
Criminal and civil laws on nursing home neglect apply depending on the type of neglect. Minor cases of negligent conduct aren’t considered a violation. However, the conduct qualifies as neglect if it is repetitive and serious.
Laws That Protect Nursing Home Residents in Illinois
A nursing home resident’s rights include the right to be free from neglect and abuse when receiving long-term care.
Laws on nursing homes consider abuse as any mental or physical injury or sexual assault inflicted on a nursing home resident intentionally. They also define neglect as the failure to provide maintenance, personal care, or medical care. These laws acknowledge that neglect causes mental or physical injury or degrades the resident’s mental or physical condition.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to protect residents from neglect or abuse. In addition to monitoring and supervising residents’ mental and physical health, they can do that by:
- Providing medical help and medication for residents when needed
- Keeping the environment at the facility safe, sanitary, and clean
- Ensuring incapacitated residents are correctly moved and positioned to prevent ulcers and bed sores
- Keeping residents properly fed and hydrated
- Handling residents with compassion, kindness, dignity, and respect without making them feel degraded or humiliated
- Allowing residents to make long-term care decisions and choose their activities, treatments, and physicians
The Statute of Limitations in Nursing Home Neglect Cases
A lawyer with experience in helping nursing home abuse victims secure compensation can guide you on how to prove nursing home neglect. Your lawyer will also help you file the lawsuit on time to beat the deadline for filing, known as the statute of limitations. In Illinois, this deadline is two years from when the incident happened.
However, exceptions to the statute of limitations can help you file the lawsuit if you missed the deadline. You might be exempt from the two-year filing deadline if the nursing home knowingly kept you from recognizing that you have grounds for a lawsuit or hid its negligent actions.
While nursing homes must hand over residents’ medical records, some may hesitate to give them to you. You might be eligible for an exception to the two-year deadline if this applies to your case. Your lawyer can argue that you missed the deadline because the nursing home refused to provide relevant medical records that could support your claim.
An Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer can help prove civil liability against a nursing home and secure a payout through settlement negotiations or a nursing home abuse lawsuit on your behalf. So, hire a lawyer soon after discovering that your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect.