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New Database to Check on At-Home Caregiver Neglect Risk in Illinois

We often advise local residents to be vigilant when selecting the best home for their loved one. Not all facilities are the same, and choosing one home over another may be the difference between your family member being neglected or not. In addition, regardless of neglect risk, there are other factors that have been shown time and again to affect the quality of life for those in these facilities–such as proximity to friends and family members for frequent visits. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ “Nursing Home Compare” website is perhaps the best starting point for investigations in all long-term care facilities nationwide, including in Illinois and Chicago.

However, it is important to recognize that, at the end of the day, most seniors and adults with disabilties would prefer to age in place, instead of moving into a skilled nursing facility. Fortunately, many qualified at-home care providers exist throughout the area to provide the support needed so that the elderly are able to maintain as much independence as possible while still having extra support to keep them safe and secure.

The same concerns about abuse and neglect exist, however. Even though most at-home care providers are caring, supportive caregivers, there are always exceptions. In fact, considering seniors are inviting these individuals into their homes there is perhaps even more risk of the individual suffering physical, emotional, and financial loss if the at-home caregiver is willing to take advantage of the resident’s vulnerabilities.

In the past, there was not a tool like Nursing Home Compare to help families decide upon the best at-home caregiver. Fortunately, that is slowly changing.

Illinois At-Home Caregiver Abuse Database
The Belleville News-Democrat reported this weekend on a new database to help make choices about caregivers. The database of abuse has been maintained by state officials for at least a decade. However, until now, that database was not available to the public. Following journalistic inquiries, limited access will now be available.

The database includes names of abusers as substantiated by state regulatory investigations from the Office of the Inspector General.

Unfortunately, the names of those abusers will not immediately available to the public. Instead, a process is being worked out where the Department of HUman Services will work with those with disabilities and their family members to check on the record of various individuals who they are considering for support.

Many have criticised the hidden nature of the database, particularly because many of these individuals may actually be paid by the public to provide caregiving services. Considering the public pays for the service and paid for the investigations that uncovered the potential mistreatment, it seems natural to provide the public with access to the information about those investigations.

For example, the chairman of the House Humans Services Committee, Chicago State Representative Greg Harris noted that the names should be listed on a public registry “As a way to protect the public.” He went on to note that it doesn’t make sense for the public to “be paying persons to care for disabled adults when they have been substantiated for neglect or abuse.”

Rep. Harris noted that various protocols could be put in place to allow individuals to clear their name in case of mistake or a series of good conduct. But shielding everything from the public does no good.

At the very least the intermediary step of allowing individual members to make inquiries of the database via DHS is a good first step. Let’s hope it continues to its logical conclusion.

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