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chicago nursing home abuse lawyerIn January of this year, an 81-year-old woman with dementia left her Illinois nursing home residence and wandered away, eventually slipping on ice and falling. Police found her after a neighbor heard her calling for help. She was not wearing winter clothing in 25-degree weather, and her pants were soaked through with water. 

Fortunately, this woman’s life was saved due to the help of a watchful neighbor, but stories like hers do not always end well. This incident illustrates one of the most dangerous risks inherent in inadequate nursing home care: Residents wandering into unsafe areas or eloping from the facility and getting hurt. 

Negligence Can Lead to Residents Wandering Into Danger

One of the most common behaviors of individuals with dementia or other memory-related illness is that of wandering or elopement. Wandering refers to when residents walk around the nursing home facility itself; elopement is when residents leave the premises altogether. 

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IL injury lawyerAs we age, certain functions become more difficult. The elderly population is at an increased risk for falls and with decreased bone density, those falls are much more likely to cause injuries or death as a result. With nursing homes catering to the elderly population, it is important for Illinois nursing homes and those around the country to employ safety measures to help protect their residents from these incidents. Unfortunately, falls are a common occurrence. Each year, approximately half of all nursing home residents will experience a fall. The question when a resident does fall is what level of liability, if any, does the nursing home facility and staff have.

Factors for Establishing Liability

When a nursing home resident experiences a fall, the nursing home owner or person in charge of the facility can be found liable if they were negligent. Negligence can be proven if the owner or individual in charge:

  • Owed a duty to the person who was injured - The owner or individual in charge of the nursing home owed a duty to the resident who fell.
  • Breached their duty - The owner or individual in charge must have either taken action they should not have taken or failed to take action they should have.
  • Caused injuries because of the breach - The actions or inactions of the owner or individual in charge led to the resident’s injuries.
  • The injuries of the person who fell resulted in damages - The resident’s injuries resulted in damages (e.g. medical bills).

Situational Proof of Negligence

In some cases, the circumstances surrounding the accident demonstrate the negligence of the nursing home. For example, if the resident fell and suffered injuries due to water that had spilled and was left on the floor for an extended period of time, the nursing home could be found negligent for those injuries if any of the following applied:

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illinois nursing home abuse lawyerFor many elderly people, nursing homes provide the best solution to ensure that they will receive the medical care and assistance they need. When placing a loved one in a nursing home, a family should have the assurance that the person’s needs will be met and that they will be safe from harm. Unfortunately, some nursing homes do not live up to these expectations, and patients may suffer serious physical and emotional injuries because of abuse by staff members or other residents. Families who are concerned about the possibility of nursing home abuse will want to understand the signs that may indicate that their loved one has been the victim of these types of harmful behavior.

Signs of Physical, Verbal, or Sexual Abuse

Physical abuse of nursing home residents can take many forms. Staff members may strike or shove a resident they believe is uncooperative or difficult or even restrain a resident to a bed or chair. Signs that a person has suffered physical abuse include serious injuries such as broken bones or brain trauma, as well as unexplained bruises, cuts, or scratches. Rope marks on a person’s wrists or ankles may indicate that they have been improperly restrained, or bedsores or hygiene issues may show that they have been confined to a bed or chair or restricted from moving about freely.

While verbal and emotional abuse may not be as obvious as physical abuse, these forms of abuse can also be very harmful. Staff members may yell at, berate, or threaten a person or isolate them socially, disallowing them from interacting with others or participating in gatherings and activities. Signs of emotional abuse include agitation, anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, or other unexplained changes in a person’s behavior. A victim may also lack interest in activities they had previously enjoyed, act fearful around certain staff members, or experience suicidal thoughts.

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As the elderly population in the United States continues to increase, more and more seniors are receiving care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Sadly, these facilities are often understaffed, and in many cases, employees are not properly trained or qualified to provide the care that residents need. Instances of nursing home abuse and neglect have become alarmingly common, and statistics show that around 10% of seniors have experienced some form of neglect or abuse. Pressure sores are one of the most serious effects of nursing home negligence, and family members of nursing home residents who experience these types of injuries should be sure to understand their legal options.

What Are Pressure Sores?

Pressure sores, also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, can develop when a person stays in one position for too long. This can occur when a nursing home resident is bedridden or spends most of their time in a wheelchair. When constant pressure is placed on parts of the body such as the hips, buttocks, back, shoulder blades, heels, or ankles, this can cut off blood flow, and it can lead to sores on the skin, infections, and damage to muscles, joints, and bones.

There are four stages of pressure sores:

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DuPage County nursing home negligence attorneyWhen someone reaches an advanced age and is no longer able to care for themselves, a nursing home or assisted living facility is often the best solution for a family. These facilities ensure that our elderly or disabled loved ones receive the medical care they need, as well as providing them with the proper nutrition, physical exercise, and social interaction. However, patients in nursing homes are in a vulnerable position, and sadly, cases of nursing home abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse, are all too common. If you suspect that your family member has been sexually abused while in the care of a nursing facility, you should be sure to understand your legal options.

Elder Abuse Statistics

The elderly population in the United States has increased significantly in recent years, due to the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age. As the number of seniors increase, so does the prevalence of elder abuse. It is estimated that around five million seniors are abused each year, and 10% of all elders have experienced some form of abuse. Unfortunately, only one in every 14 cases of abuse are reported.

While all forms of elder abuse are serious, sexual abuse is particularly shocking, yet it is frighteningly common. A 2017 investigation by CNN found that more than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse were reported in nursing homes across the United States since 2000. In Illinois alone, 386 instances of sexual abuse were reported between 2013 and 2017, and 201 of these cases involved abuse by a caretaker such as a nursing home staff member. CNN also found that between 2013 and 2016, over 1,000 nursing homes were cited by the federal government for failing to prevent sexual abuse or for mishandling reports of abuse, and almost 100 facilities were cited multiple times.

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