Nursing Home Neglect: Caregivers Who Could Not Care Less

By Nicole Morrison

Imagine that you are faced with placing your elderly mother in a nursing home. You search for the right facility, take a tour and meet with the administrator and other staff members, and eventually arrange to have her admitted. One night, you get a call from the nursing home: your mom has fallen out of bed and is being rushed to the hospital. She has broken her hip and will need to have surgery. No one seems to have any answers about what happened. What can you do? Is the nursing home responsible for your mom’s injuries?

In many cases, the answer is yes. Nursing homes in Illinois are governed by state and federal regulations, including the Illinois Department of Public Health regulations, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act sets forth the rights of residents and the responsibilities of nursing home owners to protect residents from abuse and neglect. The Act creates a private right of action for residents whose rights have been violated, which means that residents (or their legal representatives) can file a lawsuit when the resident has been the victim of abuse or neglect.

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The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act sets forth an extensive list of resident rights, sometimes known as the “resident bill of rights”. These rights cover everything from the right to manage your own financial affairs to the right to free exercise of religion. Perhaps most important, the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides that residents have the right to remain free from abuse and neglect by the owner, licensee, administrator, employees, or agents of the nursing home. “Abuse” is defined in the Act as any physical or mental injury or sexual assault inflicted on a resident other than by accidental means. “Neglect” means a failure to provide, or willful withholding of, adequate medical care, mental health treatment, psychiatric rehabilitation, personal care, or assistance with activities of daily living that is necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness of a resident.

Sadly, abuse and neglect at nursing homes is not uncommon and can result in serious injuries. The most common nursing home injuries include falls, bedsores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), choking, malnutrition and dehydration, infection, and physical or sexual assault by staff members or other residents. Nursing home injuries frequently arise when a facility does not have enough staff to care for the residents, when staff members are not adequately trained, and when the facility does not budget its resources for resident care. All too frequently we see residents who have suffered broken bones from falls that could have been prevented if there had been another aide to assist with a transfer, or residents who have developed ulcers so severe that they must have surgery, all of which could have been avoided if the facility had provided the proper type of mattress or had enough staff to turn the residents every two hours. If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home, contact the attorneys and Woodruff Johnson & Palermo for a free consultation.

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Nursing Home Neglect: Caregivers Who Could Not Care Less