Like nursing homes nationwide, nursing homes in Illinois are not devoid of elder abuse. However, a recent series of articles published by the Chicago Tribune has highlighted a growing trend among Illinois nursing homes that admit dangerous residents. According to the articles, Illinois nursing home residents are increasingly found to be either psychiatric patients, or to have criminal backgrounds.
While local Illinois nursing homes are assuring residents that those residents with psychiatric or criminal histories are segregated from those residents who are elderly, infirm, or ill, this does not always prevent the nursing home residents from coming to harm. There have been reports of elderly residents being attacked, injured, or raped by some of the mentally ill residents or those who are convicted felons.
In addition, the methods used to identify residents with a criminal history tend to be faulty. Not only do the background checks not catch all types of crimes, but some were not done until several weeks to a year after the former criminals were placed in the nursing home. Without proper information about an ex-convict’s history the nursing homes cannot make adequate assessments of their risk to other residents. The result is that many of the dangerous residents are identified as being less of a risk then they really are.
A perfect example of this dilemma is Maplewood Care, where in one instance a 78 year-old was allegedly punched in the face by another resident after that same resident allegedly struck and bruised a 75 year-old patient. Obviously there had not been appropriate monitoring and assessment after the first incident to prevent the recurrence of this nursing home abuse. Among Maplewood Care’s roughly 200 residents there are 15 convicted felons, and over 40% of the population has a diagnosis of mental illness.
Maplewood has been involved in an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of a resident following a fatal overdose of morphine tablets. The resident was placed at Maplewood for treatment of his drug addiction. He received the morphine from another 25 year-old resident who had stolen the tablets from a cart that had been left unattended. The 2002 wrongful death case was just settled by Maplewood this past July.
These new reports are extremely disturbing for those of us who are making decisions about placement of our loved ones in Illinois nursing homes. Nursing homes can be a necessary step for elderly residents who are no longer able to provide for themselves. But placing elderly people with medical needs in an environment where they are more at risk for being harmed is not the answer. Lawmakers and attorneys need to make sure that Illinois nursing home residents are protected and that screening processes are strong enough to ensure a safe environment in what is these residents’ home.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois nursing home abuse lawsuits for over 30 years, serving the areas in and near to Cook County, including Skokie, Elmwood Park, Naperville, and Oak Park.