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Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

With people living longer than ever, more and more of our family members and loved ones will spend time in a nursing home. Although most nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are reputable and provide good care for their residents, a few do not. Reported cases of abuse and neglect are rising as the number of nursing home residents rise, and the elderly and infirm are often the least able to help themselves.

Although nursing homes are regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is responsible for insuring that nursing homes in Illinois fully comply with the Nursing Home Care Act and other state and federal regulations, state officials cannot be everywhere at once. Everyone with a friend or a relative in a nursing home should be aware of certain danger signs and should know who to contact if they suspect there is a problem.

The most common cause of neglect in nursing homes is the lack of sufficiently trained staff. With an eye on the bottom line, some facilities do not hire enough staff to properly care for their residents. Staffing shortages lead to overwork, and inexperience can result in a breakdown in care. Neglect attributable to a lack of staff can include giving improper medication, failing to assist residents with their hygiene (leading to bedsores), and not making adequate provisions for residents' comfort.

More disturbingly, some nursing home employees take advantage of the elderly under their care. Cases of theft, assault, and even sexual assault of nursing home residents have been reported. Although such examples of outright abuse are rare, you should always be alert for signs of trouble.

If you suspect that the residents of a nursing home have been abused or neglected, do not assume the problem will resolve itself. Make sure to follow up. A good checkup is a surprise visit when the nursing home is not expecting you. Such a visit allows you to see how the home operates on a daily basis, rather than on just the days when someone is likely to come and visit. When visiting, get to know the staff. Staff members are excellent sources of information about what is happening in the home. If you do not like what you see, complain. Often, potential problems can be avoided if the nursing home is told what is expected of it.

If you believe there is a serious problem at a nursing home, the State of Illinois has resources available to help. The Department of Health Bureau of Long-Term Care can be reached at 800-252-4343, and it will respond to all complaints it receives. In fact, the Bureau's employees handle approximately 5,000 complaints about nursing homes in Illinois every year. In cases involving serious or repeated violations, the Department of Health can impose additional penalties, including fines, revocation of the facility's license, and even closing of the facility. Finally, you may need an attorney to represent you or a loved one.

© 2011 Lucas Law

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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