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Nursing Home Neglect — A Nationwide Problem

Reports of mistreatment, injuries, and outright abuse in Illinois nursing homes arrive on a near-daily basis. The problem is not isolated to our state. One only needs to look across state lines for a stark reminder of the grim situation facing many seniors in their nursing homes nationwide. In a recent national survey of nursing home quality of care, Indiana, Montana, and Iowa all received failing marks. Illinois also received a failing grade, but ranked several spots higher than Montana and Indiana, which were ranked in the bottom four states nationally.

Several conditions drove the low scores. In Montana, the number of verified complaints by the state’s ombudsman program was the third highest in the country, with 97.77% of complaints verified. According to the report card, nearly one in five nursing homes was cited a severe deficiency, indicating widespread abuse, neglect and mistreatment of residents. State officials cited inadequate staffing as the driving source of the complaints, and also noted that residents were not likely to be cared for properly because they were limited to only 35 minutes of nursing treatment per day.

Indiana fared worse, ranking forty-ninth out of fifty. The state failed to rank above the median on any criteria assessed by the survey, and scored lowest on direct care staffing hours. One in four nursing homes in the state cited a severe deficiency, and only one third of the state’s nursing homes scored above average on health inspections. Brian Lee, the survey group’s executive director, stated “Indiana represents what’s terribly wrong with nursing home care and oversight in America. State officials and industry representatives should be ashamed of their abysmal nursing home record.”

Iowa, while receiving a failing grade, ranked higher than Illinois. However, a recent story by the Des Moines Register has exposed how inadequate nursing home care led to the deaths of five people this summer. Nine nursing homes were linked to the deaths or other injuries stemming from medication errors, drug overdoses, sexual abuse, and assaults. Understaffing was again cited as the cause for the abuse, with senior care advocates noting that nursing homes have been reducing staff for years in order to increase profits. Discussing this string of incidents, Brian Lerner, the state’s former head of the entity that inspects nursing homes, stated, “given the responsibilities these employees shoulder, owners grossly underpay them, under-train them and leave them uninsured, causing turnover rates in excess of 60 percent. It is high time that responsibility for these tragedies be placed squarely where it belongs.”

Nursing home employees also noted that their inability to keep up with complaints from the state’s ombudsman program. When state inspectors examined the Good Samaritan Home in Keoseuqua, IA, workers at the home allegedly told state inspectors that they don’t have enough staff to meet residents’ needs or keep their care plans up to date.

Of other surrounding states, Kentucky scored a D, ranking fortieth nationally. Wisconsin scored a C, ranking twenty-fifth.

If you believe that you or loved one has been subject to similar treatment, is important to remember to discuss your rights with an attorneys working on nursing home abuse and neglect.

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