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Illinois Nursing Homes Are in the Spotlight

Illinois nursing homes have one of the country’s highest rates of patient injuries caused by inappropriate or lack of resident care, as well as incidents of resident neglect and abuse.

Safety in Illinois Nursing Homes

Illinois nursing homes are licensed and regulated by state and federal agencies. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) oversees resident care for patients in nursing home facilities across the state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees federally funded Illinois nursing homes and long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid funding. According to state and federal regulations, nursing home facilities are required to uphold certain standards of care to ensure the safety of all facility residents. This includes ensuring the highest standard of care for residents’ physical and mental health, medical treatments, medications, and personal care needs.

Every year, IDPH conducts annual on-site inspections for approximately 1,500 Illinois nursing homes to evaluate resident care. Facility inspections include investigations of nursing home procedures; policies; finances; resident care plans; quality of resident care; staff members; and caregivers. In 2019, IDPH reported at least 111 safety violations where Illinois nursing homes were cited for substandard care of residents, as well as actions of resident abuse and neglect. In recent years, nursing home abuse lawyers in Illinois have seen a high rate of violations of the Nursing Home Care Act.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act is a state statute outlining mandatory requirements for nursing homes. Established in 1979, this act was passed to protect the rights of nursing home residents, especially those vulnerable to physical and/or emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Under this act, nursing home residents have the same rights as any other person under the United States Constitution, as well as state and federal laws. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act outlines a variety of resident rights and protections.

Choosing a Personal Physician

Residents have the right to choose a physician for their care according to stipulations by their health insurance provider. Residents also have the right to see their medical records containing information about their medical conditions, diagnoses, treatments, and medications. If a resident uses his/her physician without approval by their insurance provider, the nursing home can’t be held liable for inadequate treatments or medical malpractice claims filed with a nursing home abuse lawyer.

Accepting and Refusing Treatments

Mentally able residents have the right to participate in their medical care and the right to accept or refuse medical treatments, including surgical procedures, experimental procedures, prescription medications, and physical or chemical restraints. If there is no written informed consent or if treatments are not ordered by a resident’s physician, the resident has a right to refuse treatments. Once a resident is admitted to a nursing home facility, he/she has a right to annual assessment and re-screening for medical conditions.

Receiving Private Visitors

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are required to permit residents to receive private visitors such as family members, friends, and social workers during reasonable business hours unless there is a documented medical reason why such visitors should be prohibited. Nursing home facilities must provide adequate space for private visits and allow privacy by knocking before entering a resident’s room when visitors are present.

Private Communications

State and federal laws prohibit censorship or any interference with the right to a resident’s private communications such as phone calls, emails, and receipt of personal mail unless there is documented evidence of harassment or potential harm to the resident. To protect residents, some nursing home facilities install cameras in public areas. Before cameras can be installed in residents’ rooms, the resident and/or family members must provide written permission to the nursing home.

Managing Personal Finances

Financial exploitation is a common problem seen by Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers. To protect residents against financial exploitation, regulations permit residents to manage their finances and assets, unless a resident is diagnosed with cognitive problems and/or mental illness. Nursing homes are prohibited from spending a resident’s funds without written permission. Under Illinois laws, nursing homes are required to provide quarterly financial statements of a resident’s finances to IDPH.

In 1979, the Illinois Citizens for Better Care (ICBC) played a major role in getting the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act passed in legislation. Over the last 40 years, they have been a leader in nursing home reforms, most notably restrictions on using restraints and psychotropic drugs on nursing home residents. In 2010, ICBC was responsible for requiring air-conditioning in all Chicago nursing home facilities to protect the health and safety of Chicago residents during hot summer weather, a known time when nursing home abuse lawyers see a high rate of heat strokes and heat-related illnesses and deaths.

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