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Hiding & Misleading in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Most nursing home neglect and mistreatment goes unreported. This is usually forgotten by those calling for more barriers to be erected which limit the rights of community members to access the civil justice system. However, when fighting back legislative attempts to change legal rules, advocates should be reminded that many seniors and those with disabilities in long-term care facilities are hurt (and even killed) on a frequent basis without any accountability at all. There are a bevy of hurdles to jump through even after a lawsuit is filed to ensure accountability. Yet, many situations which would warrant legal accountability never even lead to a suit because family members never learn of harm that has befallen their loved one.

Unfortunately, each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm knows that a significant part of the problem is that those working at some of these homes often engage is deception to cover up abuse and mistreatment. That was the topic of a recent editorial in the Arizona Republic. The article shared the story of one man who lived in an assisted-care facility because he had developmental and physical disabilities. His condition required that he have close supervision around the clock. Several years ago his family received a surprise call from the employees at the group home where he lived. They explained that the man had fallen and his skull was fractured. Making matters worse, the fall, they claimed, occurred during the night, and he did not receive any medical treatment until the next morning. The man was unconscious when his family arrived to see him. He never re-gained consciousness and died a few weeks later.

These sorts of accidents are frequently indicative of nursing home abuse or neglect. In this case, the local county medical examiner’s office investigated and found that the death was caused by blunt force trauma. The examiner rejected the facility’s claim that the fall was caused by a fall. Instead, he was likely hit on the head by a blunt object. Eventually a nursing home neglect lawsuit was filed on behalf of the man that was settled out of court.

However, the case is indicative of many where those in charge of these facilities make false claims after a resident is hurt. In many cases, family members never actually learn that their loved one’s injuries were preventable and caused by mistreatment. Much abuse is swept under the rug.

That is why it is hard to understand the motives of some who continue to push for legal changes that would make it even harder for families to receive accountability following these incidents. For example, this latest editorial was spurred by efforts in Arizona to make it harder to families to file suit against negligent long-term care facilities. As the author notes, “the problem, however, is it [the legislation] doesn’t help reduce the amount of abuse going on. It just masks the neglect without holding anyone accountable.”

Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know that there is a tendency to have an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective with these senior care issues. But that urge must be fought against. Seniors and those with disabilities who live in these homes must have their rights respected at all times. When those rights are trampled on, accountability must be had. Changes which make that accountability harder to come by should be avoided at all times.

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