Occasionally I am asked to review cases in which there is suspected elder abuse or nursing home malpractice. Most experts agree that approximately 30% of all nursing facilities are cited for instances of abuse.
While nursing homes in Illinois are highly regulated, because of the current financial condition of the state, the number of inspections and the current inspection process of nursing home facilities creates an atmosphere where many abuses go unreported and/or under reported.
In hopes that more abuses are brought to justice, here are the answers to commonly asked questions when determining whether or not a family or friend has been the victim of elder abuse.
What is elder abuse?
Elder abuse is any knowing, intended or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person. This can include physical, mental, emotional or financial harm.
What are the signs of elder abuse?
Signs of abuse may include frequent or unexplained injuries (i.e. bruises, black eyes, welts or lacerations), signs of malnutrition or dehydration, lack of personal cleanliness, bed sores, skin lesions, fractures, open wounds or sexually transmitted diseases.
Be on the lookout for these signs of elder abuse, especially if the person is in an older or understaffed nursing care facility.
What do I do if I suspect someone has been the victim of elder abuse?
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse, you should immediately report it to the Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Neglect Abuse hotline at 1-888-557-9503 or the Illinois Department of Public Health Abuse Neglect hotline at 1-800-252-4343.Consider moving the patient to another facility if you believe the physical and mental safety of your loved one is at risk.Finally, contact an attorney who practices in this area to determine whether or not you have a legal cause of action against the provider for nursing home neglect.
How can a private attorney help?
With a private attorney, the only remedy that will be available is a civil lawsuit which can be filed on behalf of the elderly person in order to recover money damages for the bodily injury, medical costs and the suffering that occurred as a result of the abuse.
There are statutory provisions that allow for monetary payment if there is a determination that the nursing home was negligent in their care of the elderly.
How do I ensure my loved one is not the victim of elderly abuse?
Keep in mind that prevention is the best way to make sure that your family or friend does not become the victim of abuse.
Research the citation records of nursing homes online. It is important to investigate a nursing home that has a history of substantiated complaints before placing your loved one there.
For those with loved ones already in nursing homes, make sure you visit them often, talk to them, talk to the staff and look for the signs listed above.