Under the Nursing Home Care Act in Illinois, nursing home residents are guaranteed certain rights while staying in a long-term care facility, including the right to be free from abuse and neglect. The Act underwent major overhauls in 2010 that established important new standards for the treatment and care of nursing home residents. The Illinois Department of Public Health helps to enforce violations. You should call Parker & Parker and the IDPH hotline if abuse or neglect happen to you or someone you know. The IDPH hotline is 1-800-252-4343 or 1-800-547-0466 (TTY), and information is also available on the Department of Aging website.
How do you know if abuse or neglect have occurred?
Under the Act, abuse is “any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on the resident other than by accidental means.” Examples of this can include: physical abuse, including hitting, slapping or being overly rough when handling residents; emotional abuse, including threatening and degrading residents, or yelling at them; and sexual abuse.
Under the Act, neglect is a “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 of a resident’s physical or mental condition.” Neglect is different from abuse, and examples of neglect would include:
- Failing to monitor and supervise residents, including their physical and mental health;
- Failing to seek emergency or other medical attention when needed;
- Failing to provide residents with necessary medications;
- Failing to keep residents and their environment clean, sanitary, and safe;
- Failing to correctly position and move incapacitated residents to prevent bed sores and ulcers;
- Failing to keep residents properly hydrated and feed.
Many instances of nursing home abuse or neglect are perpetrated by those who work regularly in the facilities and are responsible for providing day-to-day care to the residents. In fewer cases, the abuse is also caused by other residents living at the facility.
Unfortunately, nursing homes across the country, including Illinois, have a chronic understaffing problem. The facilities experience difficulty in providing the level of care that each resident should receive. They also are less able to monitor residents, which may create the opportunity for falls and abuses by other residents. Regardless of these limitations, the nursing homes still do owe their residents a legal duty to provide them with a safe, caring environment that is free from abuse and neglect.
Illinois law makes it mandatory for certain individuals, including physicians, nurses, and nursing home staff members, to report suspected abuse to the IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health). This does not always mean the report is made. For this reason, it is important that family members stay alert for any signs or symptoms that their loved ones may exhibit. Often they are helpless to stop the abuse, and in some instances the victims are incapacitated and not able to communicate what has happened to them. For every report of abuse made nationally, another twelve to thirteen cases go unreported. Some potential signs of abuse or neglect include:
- Bed sores;
- Unclean physical appearance;
- Soiled bedding and/or clothing;
- Development of an infection, especially including sepsis or STD’s;
- Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition, and/or dehydration;
- Signs of restraint, including red welts on the arms and wrists;
- Hostility towards a specific staff member or other employee;
- Behavioral changes, including depression and anxiety;
- Unexplained broken bones, abrasions, or other bruising.
If a loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in the care of a nursing home or a long-term care facility, the family has a right to take legal action on their behalf against the responsible facility. The duty of care nursing homes owe their residents is important, especially the duty to properly supervise and monitor each resident, and provide care in accordance with that person’s particular needs. When nursing homes fail to uphold these duties and a resident is injured, we can help you to hold the nursing home legally responsible for those injuries. When you bring a lawsuit against a nursing home, you can also get attorney fees.