Unfortunately, the neglect of elderly individuals is very common within nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities. According to a 2020 survey from the World Health Organization (WHO), 12% of nursing home employees actually admitted to neglecting residents during the previous year. It is important to recognize the signs of nursing home neglect and to report these signs to the appropriate parties if you suspect a family member or any other residents are victims of neglect or mistreatment. The following article will further explore the concept of nursing home neglect and provide some helpful information regarding how to report suspected instances of nursing home neglect in the state of Illinois.
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Nursing home neglect is a form of elder abuse committed against older adults in assisted living facilities, which often involves the substandard quality of care of a resident, or the breach of a duty owed to a resident that results in harm to that resident.
Types of Nursing Home Neglect
There are four main types of nursing home neglect, which include:
- Medical Neglect: This type of neglect describes a situation where nursing home staff fail to properly attend to or prevent the exacerbation of a resident’s medical concerns. One example of medical neglect is staff making medication errors. This in turn, can result in inadequate diabetic care, bedsores, infections, mobility issues, and other health problems.
- Neglect of Basic Needs: This type of neglect describes a situation where a nursing home facility or nursing home staff fail to provide a resident with enough food, water, or a clean, safe living environment.
- Neglect of Personal Hygiene: This type of neglect describes a situation where a nursing facility fails to properly help a resident with dental care, laundry, bathing, and other hygienic needs.
- Social or Emotional Neglect: This type of neglect describes a situation where a nursing home facility or nursing home staff intentionally ignores a nursing home resident by leaving them alone or failing to provide them with enough social and emotional care.
Illinois Law Regarding Nursing Home Neglect
The law regarding Illinois nursing home neglect is codified in 210 ILCS 30, otherwise known as the “Abused and Neglected Long Term Care Facility Residents Reporting Act.” Under this section, Illinois defines nursing home neglect as a failure to provide adequate medical or personal care or maintenance, which results in physical or mental injury to a resident or the deterioration of a resident’s physical or mental condition.
What are Some Contributing Factors of Nursing Home Neglect?
Though nursing home neglect is never acceptable, it is important to understand some of the contributing factors that result in nursing staff choosing to neglect residents. Some of these contributing factors include:
1. Staffing Shortages and General Burnout
One of the biggest contributing factors to nursing home neglect is burnout. Some nursing homes experience frequent turnaround in staff, meaning that there are often staffing shortages. Staffing shortages, in turn, means that the staff present will have to spread themselves thin to attend to all of the various competing needs of the elderly residents. This can be frustrating and cause staff members to neglect the needs of these residents, whom they might blame for their frustration.
2. Inadequate Pay
Many nursing homes are private companies. As such, there are no state-mandated wage requirements, which means that these companies can pay employees whatever they wish. As a result, some nursing homes do not pay very much. Nursing home care requires a lot of work. If a staff member feels like they are overworked and underpaid, they may begin to resent the job and begin to neglect the needs of the residents.
3. Inadequate Training and Lack of Experience
Training and experience is crucial in nursing home care. Because these residents are elderly and may have various disabilities and illnesses, it is important to know how to deal with them respectfully and carefully. If a staff member does not have any experience dealing with elderly residents, they are more likely to neglect the needs of these residents.
4. Poor Supervision
When nursing staff are not being properly supervised, it is likely that the needs of elderly residents will be overlooked and neglected. New staff members should be constantly monitored by a supervisor to ensure that they are following the standards set by the facility and that they are properly addressing the needs and concerns of the residents.
5. Lack of Accountability
If staff members have neglected the needs of residents in the past but were never held accountable for their actions, they will likely continue to neglect these residents. Every nursing home facility should have a code of conduct or employment contract which outlines consequences for improper behavior. This could include issuing a verbal or written warning, placing the staff member on administrative leave, or requesting the staff member’s termination. As such, these procedures should be strictly followed to ensure that problematic staff members are being held accountable for their actions. Holding staff members accountable for every incident of neglect should hopefully help them see that there are negative consequences for their neglectful actions, which should theoretically discourage this kind of behavior in the future.
How to Recognize Signs of Nursing Home Neglect
There are often several warning signs of nursing home neglect, which can include:
- Unexplainable injuries (i.e. fractures, broken bones, cuts, or bruises)
- Unsanitary living conditions (i.e. untreated bedsores, unchanged diapers, frequent infections, etc.)
- Sudden changes in behavior, such as agitation or withdrawal
- Malnutrition, as well as rapid weight gain or loss
- Resident is consistently sedated or on heavy medication
- Resident is frequently ill but these illnesses have not been reported to the family/caregiver
- Unexpected and unexplained deaths in the nursing home
It is important to note that the presence of any of these warning signs is not by itself dispositive of whether elderly residents are being neglected. As such, it is vital for family and other caregivers to consistently visit and talk with residents and the nursing staff to get a clearer picture of whether residents are being neglected. Knowing these signs will help you identify nursing home neglect and put a stop to it before it is too late.
How to Report Suspected Cases of Nursing Home Neglect in Illinois
If you suspect that there is neglect in an Illinois long-term care facility, there are several entities that you can report your suspicions to, which include the following:
The Regional Ombudsman located in the region or county of the nursing home facility
An ombudsman is an official who is appointed to investigate individuals’ nursing home complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities. Please keep in mind however, that ombudsmen are not emergency responders. As such, if you feel that the person you are concerned about is in immediate danger, you should call 9-1-1. After contacting the regional office located in the region or county of the nursing home facility, the Ombudsman will explain the options of reporting abuse, residents’ rights, and the ombudsman protocol for responding to complaints of nursing home neglect. Processing complaints made by or on behalf of residents is the highest priority service for ombudsmen in the state.
The Senior HelpLine accepts complaints of suspected abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an adult aged 60 or older. You can call their statewide, 24-hour Adult Protective Services Hotline at 1-866-800-1409 or 1-888-206-1327 (TTY). Additionally, the Senior HelpLine will provide the contact information for the Regional Ombudsman upon request.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) operates a Central Complaint Registry which records and investigates complaints regarding potential instances of elderly abuse and neglect in nursing facilities, hospitals, and home health agencies. You can contact the Central Complaint Registry (Nursing Home Hotline) at 1-800-252-4343 or 1-800-547-0466 (TTY). However, due to the high volume of calls the registry receives, it is highly recommended that you submit any complaints online at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/health-care-regulation/complaints
You can also report nursing home abuse and neglect to Illinois’ Department of Healthcare and Family Services Complaint Hotline at 1-800-226-0768, (from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 8:00AM and 5:00PM). All calls made will be kept confidential.
The Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates long-term care facility complaints related to Medicaid fraud, abuse and/or neglect. Medicaid fraud is often described as any effort to defraud the Medicaid system by billing for services not delivered or under-delivered. However, Medicaid fraud can also be represented in cases where physical abuse or neglect has occurred, which includes, but is not limited to, battery, sexual assault, and/or a failure to deliver services or medications. Please note that in order to make a valid complaint for Medicaid fraud, Medicaid funds must be involved. To report a potential instance of Medicaid fraud, abuse, or neglect in a nursing home facility, you can call 1-888-557-9503.
If You Have a Potential Case of Nursing Home Neglect, We Want to Help
If you or a loved one have been subjected to nursing home abuse or neglect, the Palermo Law Group wants to help you hold the liable parties accountable for their actions. Our Oak Brook personal injury law firm serves the greater Chicago area and consists of knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorneys with over 20 years of experience litigating personal injury cases. We will do our best to ensure that you or your loved one receive justice. Please contact us today at (630)-684-2332 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.