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Abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is not uncommon

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Choosing a place for an elderly loved one is one of the most daunting decisions one can make. There are many great nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the United States. However, there are also some accused of committing terrible acts of elder abuse and neglect.

An example of abuse and neglect in an assisted living facility

A recent story in The Seattle Times detailed one family's lawsuit against Emeritus, a 20-year-old company that owns and runs 483 assisted living homes in numerous states throughout the country, including Illinois. It is the biggest assisted living provider for seniors in the country.

An 81-year-old woman with advanced dementia died at an Emeritus facility in Auburn, California. The woman developed several necrotic pressure wounds at the memory-care unit of the facility.

In the lawsuit, the family claimed that Emeritus accepted the woman as a resident when they should not have, due to her being too physically debilitated for the care that the facility is able to provide. The family also claimed that, on top of accepting her when they should have declined, the caregivers were unqualified, untrained and overburdened.

A 2007 letter from the facility's resident-care director to top Emeritus executives and board members stated that the staff was overburdened due to a staff shortage. The letter stated that there had not been enough staff to cover the day-to-day staffing needs. The executives never responded to the letter, and nothing was done to resolve the staffing problems.

On March 8, 2013, a Sacramento jury sided with the woman's family and awarded $23 million in punitive damages against Emeritus, finding that management was responsible for abuse and neglect. This was the largest award for punitive damages in California last year. The jury also awarded the woman's family $4.1 million in compensatory damages and attorney's fees, although the actual compensatory amount was reduced to $500,000 pursuant to California state law. Emeritus reportedly plans to appeal the jury verdict.

How to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility

U.S. News and World Report has collected data and ratings about nearly every facility in the United States. With the information, they built a database designed to point out the highest-rated facilities likely to meet each user's needs.

The information used to decide how to rank nursing homes came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS ranks each nursing home using a rating of one to five stars by looking at three categories:

  • Physical therapy and nursing staffing
  • State-conducted health inspection reports
  • Quality medical care

Illinois is ranked third in the United States for having the best nursing home facilities. U.S. News and World Report reported that about 20 percent of the nursing homes in Illinois earned a five-star rating.

Even though Illinois has some quality facilities, it is important to keep a look out for potential abuse and neglect within the facility. Someone who suspects that abuse and neglect is happening to a loved one who is living in a nursing home or assisted living facility should contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.

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