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Illinois Nursing Home Residents and Families Should Be Aware of Rights

Several weeks ago our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers reminded local community members that October was Residents’ Rights Month 2011. Much of effort is being led by the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. One of the centerpieces of the project is spreading the reminder that those living in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, have the same rights as those in the larger community. Those basic freedoms are not lost because one needs the close, day-to-day care that is provided in these facilities. We know that in our area far too many residents in these facilities that are the victims of Illinois nursing home neglect feel like they are helpless, because they do not understand what level of care they are entitled.

It is vital to remind these seniors-and those who love them-that the law demands a certain level of care be observed. The Nursing Home Reform Law passed in 1987 guarantees certain things at the federal level, while the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act provides further protection at the state level. All of these laws essentially seek to ensure that residents are treated in a way that promotes their quality of life, provides them with a degree of self-determination, and ensures their dignity. Per the terms of these laws, nursing homes are required to provide individualized care that takes the mental, physical, and social well-being of the resident into account as much as practicable. The treatment that a resident receives should be based on a written plan that is prepared in conjunction with a resident, their family, and/or legal representative. Overall, a resident should never experience a decline in health or face problems with their quality of life as a result of the care provided by their nursing home caregivers.

The specific rights entrenched in these state and federal laws are expansive. For example, all residents have a right to be fully informed of certain information. That includes the services available to them, the charges for those services, facility rules and regulations, inspection reports of the facility and correction plans, advance knowledge of roommate changes, and similar questions. In addition, residents have a right to receive this information is a language they understand. Obviously none of this access to information is beneficial if it cannot be understood by the one receiving it.

Many other rights are guaranteed by these laws, and they are often ignored by caregivers. For example, residents have the right to private (and unrestricted) communication with any person of their choice. In other words, caregivers cannot shield a resident from those who she wishes to talk to privately. Further, these seniors have the right to share their concerns and grievances with caregivers without fear of reprisal. They always maintain the right to file a complaint with the state survey agency, and those concerns must be promptly resolved if necessary.

The first step in eliminating elder abuse is having voices standing up and demanding that caregivers do better. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers further believe that residents and their families are less likely to stand up for their rights if they are not aware of exactly what those rights are. We encourage all community members to take the time to familiarize themselves with the basics about federal and state nursing home laws. By so doing, families are arming themselves with knowledge that can ensure standards are met and quality care is provided at all times.

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