For the most part, elderly people who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are there because they are unable to properly take care of themselves. They typically need “around the clock” assistance, and in some cases require frequent medical attention. They are dependent upon, and rely almost exclusively on, nursing home staff to facilitate their care. That is why it is completely unfathomable that nursing home abuse and neglect takes place in Chicago and in cities across the country. If you are concerned that a loved one is, or has been subjected to, nursing home abuse or neglect, it is important to contact a local attorney experienced in such matters to help you understand your rights and protect your loved one.
Unfortunately, Genevieve Klimczak, a 91 year-old Alzheimer’s patient, did not receive the proper care she deserved, and froze to death outside the doors of the nursing facility where she lived. According to a complaint filed by her nephew Donald Lorenz, the special administrator of Klimczak’s estate, she was an Alzheimer’s patient and a resident of the McHenry Villa retirement community (also known as the Fox River Retirement Center). Last February, Klimczak went out an exit door near her room and was unable to get back into the building. According to a Northwest Herald article, the charges allege that Klimczak was able to wander without supervision, leave her room and exit out of a one-way, self-locking door.
The most distressing part of this story is that she was not discovered for more than 12 hours, still outside the building and frozen to death on the sidewalk. It was reported to be as cold as seven degrees that night. The wrongful death lawsuit brought on Klimczak’s behalf asserts that the facility did not have an alarm or security cameras and did not follow through with its promise to maintain 24-hour security for its residents. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendant knew or should have known that Klimczak suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to care for herself. Lorenz claimed that defendants failed to maintain a safe environment and that the facility was not properly managed, resulting in his aunt’s death.
Klimczak did not have any children of her own, but according to an article on NBCChicago.com, her niece and two nephews treated her like their own mother. The complaint alleges that the family has experienced anguish, grief and sorrow, and that they have been deprived of the companionship, society, love and affection of their aunt.
As our country’s population is aging, there will continue to be an increase in nursing home residents. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act guarantees nursing home residents certain rights, and most significantly in this case, to be free from abuse and neglect. Despite such laws, there continue to be violations that threaten the care of the elderly. As of last year, Illinois State Representative, Kelly Cassidy, proposed nursing home safety reforms to curtail the increasing number of nursing home resident deaths and neglect, among other things. Cassidy reported that more than one in three Chicago-area nursing home residents live in understaffed facilities. She further stated that the city needs new legislation to strengthen quality of care standards for nursing home residents.