Millions of families place the care of their loved ones in the hands of nursing homes every year. While some individuals receive excellent care, it’s an unfortunate fact that some nursing home residents fall victim to neglect and abuse from caretakers and other staff members.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 15,600 nursing homes in the United States that house 1.4 million residents. With the number of individuals in elderly care facilities, it’s important to understand nursing home abuse, how to recognize and prevent it, and what your legal rights are. Our Marion, Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers are ready to answer your questions.
Nursing Home Abuse Facts
The following facts are based on studies done by the National Council on Aging.
- It is estimated that 1 in 10 elderly Americans (60 years or older) has experienced some form of elder abuse.
- Only 1 in 14 cases are reported to the authorities.
- 60 percent of elder abusers are family members.
- Mental impairment and social isolation are the two primary factors that make elderly individuals targets for abuse.
- Abused elders have a 300 percent high risk of death than those who have not experienced abuse.
- Financial exploitation, neglect, and physical and emotional abuse are the most common forms of nursing home abuse.
- There are only 1.7 million nursing home beds in the country, which does not meet the needs of the elderly population.
- The ratio of nurse’s aids to patients is typically 1 to 15; however, it can get as high as 1 to 30 in underfunded or nonprofit assisted living facilities.
- Skilled nursing home care can cost more than $100,000 dollars per year, which is a contributing factor in financial exploitation abuse.
- Every year, one out of four nursing homes is cited for the serious injury or death of a patient.
Common Types and Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse occurs when intentional harm is inflicted upon a nursing home resident. This may include excessive use of restraints, slapping, kicking, or punching. Giving prohibited medications or withholding prescription medication are also forms of physical abuse.
Physical abuse is the easiest form of nursing home abuse to detect, primarily due to the physical symptoms a resident may exhibit.
If your loved one is being physically abused in a nursing home, they may have unexplained injuries or unexpected signs of restraint like bruising. Caregivers and staff members may be reluctant to leave you alone with your loved one, and you may hear about a refusal to take medication or even overdosing on medication.
If your loved one is being physically abused they may have unexplained bruising or welts, broken eyeglasses, or broken or dislocated bones. They may also experience malnutrition or dehydration.
Emotional abuse is often harder to detect, compared to physical abuse; however, the impact can still be catastrophic. When a caregiver or staff member inflicts emotional abuse on a resident, they are often intentionally causing fear or anxiety by name-calling, yelling, or ignoring requests.
Your loved one may become despondent if they are a victim of emotional abuse. Additional physical ailments can manifest after the infliction of emotional abuse, as well.
You may suspect your loved one is experiencing emotional abuse if their caregiver refuses to leave you alone with them or if you sense threatening behavior. Your loved one may also exhibit unusual behaviors like mumbling, rocking, or thumb sucking.
Nursing home residents are incredibly susceptible to financial exploitation. Caregivers may take advantage of poor eyesight or hindering mental capacity. They may also have direct access to banking information.
When financial exploitation occurs, identities are often stolen and money disappears. If your loved one is being financially exploited, you may notice some of the following signs: unpaid bills, missing money, unexpected changes to wills, life insurance policies, or power or attorneys, or unexpected account withdrawals or credit card use.
While sexual abuse is a more sensitive topic, it does need to be addressed in regard to nursing home abuse. Most sexual abuse crimes in nursing homes go unreported. If your loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home, they may report genital pain or be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. They may also become withdrawn.
Ways to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse
While you are never at fault if your loved one has been abused in a nursing home facility, it’s important to think about what you can do to prevent abuse.
Keep in touch with your loved ones. An open and honest line of communication is incredibly important once your loved one has gone into a nursing home. Make sure they’re comfortable talking to you about everything. You want them to be able to come forward if they’re a victim of abuse.
Encourage them to stay active. Encouraging your aging loved one to exercise and stay active can make them less vulnerable to abuse and prolong their life.
Avoid isolating your loved one. Abuse, regardless of the type, often happens behind closed doors. Transparency is important with nursing home care. Isolating also encourages loneliness and depression – both of which should be avoided.
Ask the care facility about their hiring policies and background checks. When touring the nursing home for the first time, ask to see everything – even if it’s not on the tour. Taking a look at the residential rooms and bathrooms, and areas like the kitchen, will give you good insight into what the facility is like when visitors aren’t there. It’s also important to understand how they hire their caregivers, so you can be assured they only hire the best.
Keep your loved one in the loop in regard to their care. While this may seem obvious, it can be easy to forget to include our elderly loved ones in the discussions about their care. Make sure they have input and understand what will likely happen once they enter an assisted living facility. The best care can only be provided when everyone is on the same page.
Illinois Nursing Home Laws and Standards
Nursing home standards are managed at both the federal and state level. The federal regulations are determined and enforced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Illinois’ Nursing Home Act (210 ILCS 45) established the protocols and regulations for elderly health care facilities.
Under federal law, nursing homes are required to provide services that maintain residents’ highest possible level of physical, mental, and social wellbeing. All nursing homes are required to have a sufficient nursing staff. They must ensure all residents have the ability, with or without assistance, to bathe, dress, eat, drink, groom, and communicate. Residents must receive correct medical treatment and have the right to maintain their pride by being respected.
To ensure the state regulations are being followed, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) inspects all facilities. Every year, the IDPH completes 1,300 inspections and receives 6,000 complaints. All Illinois nursing home residents are entitled to the following:
- The using or wearing of personal property
- The right to manage their own financial affairs
- An understanding of the spousal impoverishment rights
- Adequate storage for their belongings
- Access to their chosen doctor
- The assurance that all medical treatments, procedures, and medications are ordered by a physician, including the use of restraints
- The right to refuse medical treatment
- The knowledge that the nursing home facility has an individualized plan for each resident
- The right to not be abused or neglected
Seek Help from Our Southern Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
If you feel as though your loved one has suffered neglect or abuse at the hands of a nursing home, it’s imperative you seek legal guidance – especially if a lawsuit is necessary. You may be able to seek compensation on behalf of your loved one, hold the nursing home accountable for their negligence, and assist in the prevention of future cases of elder abuse.
Prince Law Firm serves residents in Southern Illinois. Contact our Marion, IL nursing home abuse lawyers today to begin the legal process with a free evaluation of your case. We’ll fight for you and your loved one.