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Nurse avoids criminal sanctions for elder abuse

When family members permit their relatives to enter a nursing home facility, they have a reasonable expectation that those people will be properly cared for by trained, competent staff. Although Chicago residents may expect this type of treatment, however, the reality is that some staff members are simply not qualified, or they are so lazy that they resort to nursing home abuse and neglect. Family members have the option of bringing a civil suit against the nursing home and its administrators if nursing home violations are proven; however, those who perpetrate the abuse may never be punished by the criminal justice system.

That is exactly what happened to one West Coast family, who recovered a $2.9 million settlement from the owner of a nursing home where their 77-year-old female relative perished in 2008. The woman's husband blamed the facility for the woman's death after her short stay at the home. Two nurses were charged by the state in connection with the death, but one had already pleaded no contest to felony elder abuse charges. Prosecutors said they would abandon their case against the nursing supervisor after the jury was unable to return a verdict.

Official reports show that the victim was sent to the nursing home for recuperation after she suffered from a bout of pneumonia in 2008. Just 13 days after entering the facility, she died because of constipation and severe fecal impaction. So far, it appears that the nursing director who was exonerated may have actually abided by the rules, while the subordinate nurse perpetrated the abuse.

Even though the nursing supervisor was not found guilty on criminal charges, her organization still was forced to pay for mistakes that happened on her watch. Nursing home administrators and staff members may not always be convicted of crimes, but they are vulnerable to civil suits for wrongful death, pain and suffering and a variety of other claims related to nursing home deaths.

Source:, "After a hung jury, attorney general's office abandons elder abuse case against Placerville nurse" Marjie Lundstrom, Nov. 20, 2013

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