Understanding Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect, and Malpractice in Illinois: Explained by Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers in Springfield, IL
It can be a very difficult decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, adult care home, assisting living facility, or another type of residential home. This can be for a number of reasons, including that you and your family may no longer be able to care for a loved one at the level that he or she needs. Fortunately, there are many facilities throughout Illinois that provide care for individuals at a very high level, which are monitored by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Many of these facilities can help extend the lives of our loved ones, allowing them to enjoy some level of independence they may not be able to have outside of a facility. Although many of these nursing home facilities provide this high level of care, unfortunately, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at the Noll Law Office in Springfield, IL know that this is not always the case.
The legal team at the Noll Law Office understands that it can be difficult for families to learn that a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, neglect, or malpractice. That’s why their experienced nursing home abuse lawyers offer free case evaluations and consultations, where you will be able to meet with them to discuss what happened, ask questions, and get answers. If you retain them, and if they accept your case, there’s also no upfront cost or financial risk because they pay the upfront costs of litigation and only get their legal fees paid after you recover compensation. To learn more, call the Noll Law Office to schedule your appointment at (217) 414-8889.
How Often Does Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect, and Malpractice Actually Occur?
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one in six adults over the age of 60 will have experienced some form of abuse or neglect within the last year. In the United States, that number is roughly one in ten adults over the age of 60, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). However, other statistics from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reveal that this still equates to up to five million older Americans that are abused every year. This sentiment is echoed by researchers and investigative reporters, who have found that Illinois is one of the leading states for nursing home abuse and neglect out of compiled survey data.
Although these statistics are shocking, what is more concerning is the fact that each of these sources acknowledges how difficult it is to evaluate and measure the true extent of nursing home abuse, neglect, and malpractice. To that extent, they also contend that for every instance of nursing home abuse and neglect that is reported, there may be three other cases not reported. This makes nursing home abuse much more common and serious a problem because it goes undetected.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
There are many reasons that nursing home abuse and neglect can go undetected. Abusers are good at hiding their actions and often choose the most vulnerable persons to abuse. Seniors may not report abuse and neglect, through fear of retaliation, shame, embarrassment, or because they are physically or mentally unable. Many nursing home residents already suffer from one or more medical conditions. Alzheimer’s or dementia can further complicate matters. This can make it more difficult to accurately identify abuse or neglect. Nursing homes may be understaffed and have financial motives to under-report abuse and neglect.
Although it can be difficult to accurately detect signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, here are some of the most common warning signs:
- Frequent injuries such as bruises, cuts, and scrapes
- Sudden weight loss, perhaps due to malnourishment
- Increasing depression or anxiety without a known cause
- Poor hygiene and malodor
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Sudden or unexplained confusion or disorientation
- Symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Frequently reported falls
- The development of bedsores
- Fearful or angry behavior around certain nursing home staff
- Sudden requests to leave the facility
- The disappearance of your loved one’s personal items, or unexplained monetary loss
- Irritation of the skin or genitals, and unexplained STDs
- Withdrawal from group activities previously enjoyed by the resident at the nursing facility, and
- Any other unexplained or odd injury, condition, or development.
Common Injuries from Nursing Home Abuse, Neglect, and Malpractice in Springfield, Illinois
Although your loved one may have unique injuries related to the specific type of abuse, some of the most common injuries indicating nursing home abuse include the following:
Also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, bedsores often occur when a nursing home resident is left in one position for long periods of time, without being repositioned by nursing staff. This could be in a bed, or in a wheelchair. Many nursing home residents are not able to turn over, or shift positions in their wheelchairs. Without frequent movement, the skin breaks down under constant pressure from other surfaces against the skin.
Nursing home staff must regularly perform skin assessments and take note of medical issues that might make bedsores more likely. The development of bedsores could be due to nursing home malpractice. Many experts will contend that bed sores are “never events” – meaning that they should not happen in a nursing home or adult care facility when the proper standard of care is being followed.
In addition, some other factors that may result in bedsores due to nursing home abuse, neglect or malpractice include the following:
- Poor nutrition and diet provided by the nursing home
- Failing to use springless beds or other special mattresses, padding, or devices to alleviate pressure
- Timely and properly cleaning wounds and bandages
- Engaging in regular position changes or encouraging residents to stand up or go for a walk
- Preventing dehydration
- Performing timely physical examinations by a doctor for possible bedsores
- Increasing dietary protein for a resident who is at a risk for bedsores or who has a bedsore
- Taking regular baths or showers, or performing other basic hygiene
- Regularly changing a resident’s clothing and bedding
- Increasing routine checks on patients who are nonverbal, have diabetes, have clotting or blood circulation issues, or who otherwise are at an increased risk for bedsores, and
- Otherwise acting reasonably in monitoring, examining, and treating skin injuries that could be bedsores or develop into bedsores.
Falls (Slips and Falls, Trips and Falls, Falls out of Bed, Falls out of a Shower, or Falls out of a Bathtub)
Falls are common in nursing homes that do not properly evaluate and create plans for residents to avoid or minimize these risks. In some cases, a fall is nothing more than an accident. In others, it could indicate abuse or neglect. Overt abuse, such as pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, or kicking can cause a resident to be seriously injured by a fall. More subtle abuse can also be responsible for nursing home falls.
In addition, falls could be a product of nursing home negligence. There may be spills or slick spots on the floor, as well as loose rugs, raised thresholds, or electrical cords. Any of these present a slip-and-fall hazard to elderly residents. Transferring a patient from bed to a wheelchair, toilet, walker, or standing is also a high-risk fall situation.
Falls may also be due to nursing home malpractice. The nursing home staff may not be administering doctor-prescribed medications or maybe wrongfully using unprescribed sedatives. In fact, the standard of care requires healthcare providers to evaluate residents for their fall risk. Residents who are a fall risk should be given special socks, their beds lowered, furniture moved away from beds, bed alarms used, and other precautions. Sometimes a resident is obviously a fall risk after having leg or back surgery, or who may be on medications that may cause impairment. Other times a resident may have already fallen and should already be considered a fall risk.
Further, a large number of fall injuries in nursing homes can occur during lifts. This includes both one and two-person lists for a resident who may have difficulty getting up by themselves. This is particularly true when it is required that a resident have a two-person assistant team but, due to staffing issues, only one staff member attempts the list, and the resident falls. Such an incident is often a type of nursing home neglect.
The same is true of lifts using machines or devices such as a Hoyer lift. Although a Hoyer lift, when properly used, is safer than a one- or two-person lift, unfortunately far too many nursing homes fail to properly train and supervise their staff on Hoyer lifts. In addition, some staff will use a Hoyer lift in circumstances where it is not appropriate. Other times forgetting to do certain things before attempting a lift, such as lowering the bed closer to the ground, can also be a reckless cause of nursing home fall injuries. Unfortunately, many elderly patients never fully recover from a serious fall.
Any type of infection is extremely dangerous to the elderly. While UTIs are probably the most-reported infection in nursing homes, pneumonia is the leading cause of hospitalization and death. Patients with feeding tubes also have a higher risk of a serious infection. There are between one and three million infections in nursing homes across the U.S. annually. In addition to UTIs and pneumonia, other common infections include MRSA, staph infections, and influenza.
Medication errors and improper medication administration can be considered nursing home abuse or nursing home malpractice. When staff gives medications without consent, or without telling loved ones, dangerous outcomes can result. Unprescribed medication may be “contraindicated” and caused severe side effects, while prescribed medication that is not properly administered, or not given in the proper dosage, may cause it to lose its intended effect or alternatively have negative side effects. Additionally, improperly mixing medications or giving them on an empty stomach can cause physical injury to a resident.
Other Types of Nursing Home Abuse in Springfield, Illinois
In addition to those very common types of injuries, some of the other common types of nursing home injuries include the following:
- Scars or disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Spiral fractures
- Burn injuries
- Neck and back injuries
- Joint dislocations or joint separations
- Exposure to the elements (eloped and left outside)
- Organ injuries
- Loss of hearing
- Nerve injuries
- Wrongful death, and
- Many other injuries that our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers in Springfield, Illinois can help you recover compensation for in a case.
Legal Duties of Nursing Homes in Illinois
Nursing homes are required by law to provide appropriate care to residents. Should the nursing home violate these duties, the resident or their family may have the right to file a lawsuit. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and associated state and federal regulations provide many of the rules that nursing facilities must follow. Additionally, nursing homes must also follow the common law, or judge-made law, which sets the standard of care based on reasonableness.
Since there is statutory law (made by the Legislature), regulatory law (made by an administrative agency), and common law (made by judges), it can get very technical very quickly, requiring expert medical testimony, medical records review, and depositions of the nursing home staff for litigation to move forward. Having an experienced, local attorney to help you can be a huge help in proving your case.
Generally, the Illinois Nursing Home Act prohibits nursing homes from abusing or neglecting residents. It creates a resident’s bill of rights which prevents any nursing home facility or staff member from depriving a resident of any right, benefit, or privileges guaranteed by law. This includes the following rights to:
- Food and water
- Medication and medical care
- Toileting and personal hygiene
- Manage one’s own finances, including control over the nursing home’s spending of your funds without your permission
- Your personal property
- Right to your own physician, medical records, and medical appointments, and to participate in the decision-making process of your healthcare
- Right to respect and privacy in your medical care by a nursing home
- Right to unnecessary physical restraints or chemical restraints
- The ability to accept or deny an identification wristlet/bracelet
- To not be given medically unnecessary drugs like antidepressants or sleeping medications
- For free private communications and visits with family and friends, including your spouse, and
- Several other important rights that your nursing home abuse lawyer can review for you and protect.
How Do I Choose the Best Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Springfield, IL for Me?
Choosing from nursing home abuse lawyers can be daunting. You will probably want to find an attorney who is experienced in medical litigation and is willing to personally meet with you to discuss the case. Pay attention to the geographic area that the lawyers are in because there will be traveling involved that affects your litigation costs.
Some important questions that you can ask include the following:
- Find out how many years your attorney has been litigating nursing home cases and whether they will personally work on your case or will send the file to a newly graduated associate attorney to handle.
- Ask whether your attorney is willing to explain the medical records to you, and help you find an agency to file an abuse and neglect complaint with.
- Ask how many depositions or trials the attorney has done.
- Ask what percentage of the attorney’s practice is dedicated to medical litigation.
The Noll Law Office is a central Illinois, experienced personal injury law firm that practices in medical litigation every single day of the work week, and if necessary, more often than that. Its attorneys will clearly communicate the medical litigation process to you. They will work tirelessly for a positive outcome for you and your loved one and are not afraid to break down the case to provide you with the good, bad, and neutral facts of your claim so that you can make informed decisions moving forward. At the Noll Law Office, no charge is rendered unless a verdict, arbitration award, or settlement results in compensation for you. Their law firm is from the community, for the community.
What is the Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Case Process?
The beginning of the nursing home abuse, neglect, and malpractice claim process can differ based on the facts and circumstances around what happened. For some, the beginning of the process of a nursing home abuse claim is filing a claim with the appropriate governmental agency for investigation and ensuring that your loved one has received medical attention.
Although this can be a good starting point, in reality, all claims should start with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. That includes even before filing a complaint with a government entity, which could be used against you in your civil case.
In either situation, claims also focus on your loved one’s medical records for review. You will want a full copy of the medical records, nursing home contracts, medical bills, and other relevant information. Your attorney will begin evaluating the file, and if meritorious, then file a nursing home negligence or abuse claim on your loved one’s behalf. If a settlement cannot be reached, litigation usually follows. The nursing home must respond to the lawsuit or risk automatically losing the case.
During the discovery part of the process, each party will obtain information from the other, which is evidence that will be usually used at trial. This can include depositions, which is recorded testimony from witnesses. It can also include investigative reports, photographs, videotapes, medical records, and other evidence. Nursing home lawsuits are commonly resolved through a settlement, sometimes after mediation. If the case cannot be settled out of court, it will move to the trial phase. In a trial, both sides will present their evidence and a judge or jury will decide the outcome.
How Can the Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at the Noll Law Office Help You?
The Noll Law Office has helped victims of nursing home abuse, as well as their families, over the years against some of the largest nursing homes and insurance carriers in the region. The Noll Law Office has a proven track record of success representing victims of nursing home abuse, neglect, and malpractice throughout Illinois. They are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims and their families, willing to take cases against the largest nursing homes or insurance carriers. They will not let defense lawyers and adjusters protect dangerous providers, and will ensure that victims have their rights protected under the law. Although some large law firms and lawyers spend their time and money advertising verdicts and settlements while their new staff and overworked associates work on files, the experienced lawyers at the Noll Law Office spend their time actually handling your case in-house. That’s because the Noll Law Office does not apply a cookie-cutter approach, but handles cases on an individual basis that best fits that client’s needs – not the law firm’s churn-and-burn bottom line.
You deserve to have an informed legal opinion that is created with an eye toward the facts of your case – not blanket advertising. You deserve an experienced, local medical litigation attorney who will investigate your claim, give you an informed opinion of your different options, and then aggressively advocate on your behalf. You deserve an attorney that will go to trial.
The Noll Law Office will fight aggressively for you and your loved one. You and your family will work directly with an attorney throughout the claims and litigation process. The initial comprehensive consultation is always free. If the firm can’t negotiate a fair settlement, there is no cost to you. There is absolutely no risk for you to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer from the Noll Law Office, so contact them today by dialing (217) 414-8889.
An Example of How Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Can Happen
Unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse are common. So common that the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act was passed by the legislature which recognized that elderly persons in nursing facilities were often unable to protect themselves from abuse and neglect. At times, nursing home abuse and neglect can overlap. While nursing home abuse can happen in many ways, consider this case illustration.
Ruth, an elderly woman who resides in a nursing home experienced a serious fall when getting out of bed. The bed was much too tall for Ruth, who was barely 5 ft. tall, and, even though her doctor ordered two people to assist her in getting in and out of bed, on this day due to understaffing there was no assistance. Ruth’s family wasn’t even notified for over three weeks. A staff member thought she was “faking” her pain and maybe suffering from depression. Once Ruth was finally admitted to the hospital, they found she had a fractured hip and shoulder.
Since Ruth did not receive timely treatment, the hip could not be surgically repaired. In fact, it had become much worse through continuance movement in the weeks following the fall. She rapidly declined. Ruth refused food and refused to move due to discomfort. She developed bedsores from laying down too long without positional changes. These sores became infected. Ruth’s family members were horrified that they had not been notified of Ruth’s fall and devastated when she later died from the infection.
The family sought legal counsel who helped them file a complaint with the local government agency assigned to review nursing home abuse and neglect cases. The case was investigated, and a lawsuit was filed for several violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Experts were retained to testify to the standard of care that nursing home residents are supposed to be provided. In addition, the experts were able to identify statutory violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act as well as violations of Illinois administrative rules of nursing home care. The case was victorious at trial. More importantly, a precedent was set to dissuade future acts of abuse and neglect in the nursing facility and to prevent other people from being injured in the future.
Have a Case Like This? Call the Noll Law Office.
If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers in Springfield, Illinois at the Noll Law Office would be honored to speak to you to determine if the nursing home has deviated from the standard of care and help you report the nursing home to the appropriate licensing body. The Noll Law Office provides free initial consultations where they can discuss the claim and advise you whether the claim has merit. The Noll Law Office represents individuals all over the State of Illinois on nursing home abuse and neglect cases.
To learn more about your rights, contact them today by dialing (217) 414-8889 or by sending them a message through their “Contact Us” box available here.