Articles Posted in Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA)

nursing home abuse and neglect

CMS Will Publicly Post All Names of Most Concerning Care Facilities

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is reacting to the highly publicized release of U.S. Senators Bob Casey’s (D-PA) and Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) report titled, Families’ and Residents’ Rights to Know: Uncovering Poor Care in America’s Nursing Homes, by announcing it will soon disclose all of the names of care facility candidates in the agency’s Special Focus Facility (SFF) program. SFFs have a “persistent record of poor care” and were previously not available for the public to review. Some lawmakers and resident advocates even called the list a “scary secret” kept from the public to protect nursing home owners and their reputations.

The Pennsylvania lawmakers list included only 400+ facilities, 22 of which are located throughout Illinois, but there are almost 3,000 nursing homes that have a one-star rating on their health inspections, the worst ranking possible. With only 88 SFF program slots funded that likely leaves so many additional poor performing candidates for the program to publicly acknowledge. 

nursing home ombudsman program

Illinois Ombudsmen May Be a Neglected Nursing Home Resident’s Only Lifeline

When a resident does not have family or friends who can visit them on a regular basis, Regional Ombudsmen or Ombudsman Volunteers may be the only persons available to help identify a problem, report care concerns, and act as a voice for those who have been neglected, forgotten, or abused. The individuals working through the Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program are also crucial in protecting the rights of residents who are disabled and may have a hard time advocating for themselves. Ombudsmen oversee assigned regions across the state and stay focused on these six main goals.

  1. Advocating to improve the quality of care and quality of life for residents of long-term care facilities in Illinois.

Effective July 29, 2010, the Illinois General Assembly amended the Nursing Home Care Act to include what it termed “whistleblower protection”. 210 ILCS 45/3-810 (West 2010). Section 3-810 specifically provides a private right of action for nursing home employees who are retaliated against for reporting or threatening to report to a supervisor or a public body any action or incidents they believe to be a violation of the law, a rule, or a regulation regarding care and treatment of nursing home residents. Prior to this amendment, Illinois Courts did not recognize a private right of action for nursing home employees who reported violations and were retaliated against. In Young v. Alden Gardens of Waterford, Bethany Young, RN filed suit alleging, in part, that she was retaliated against for refusing to falsify medical records on November 9, 2009. The trial court dismissed her claim under Section 3-810 based on the fact that the Nursing Home Care Act did not provide a private right of action for retaliatory discharge at the time the conduct occurred. The court noted that because the amendment affected a substantive change in the law, it could not be applied retroactively to Young’s claim. Young v. Alden Gardens of Waterford, LLC, 2015 IL App (1st) 131887 ¶ 11.
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A new elder neglect lawsuit was filed recently in Cook County alleging mistreatment by home health caregivers. The complaint, filed last week, can be viewed online in full.

Several different Chicago home health companies and facilities are named in the complaint, which seeks to hold the entities accountable for the actions of their employees in the scope of their employment.

The plaintiff in the case is a man filing suit on behalf of his now-deceased father. The father was receiving care at his home. However, in mid-November of 2011, the senior was brought to a local hospital for a range of problems, including several bed sores, an infection, diabetes problems, and sepsis. His lower leg was amputated to stave off the infection, but the senior died a few days later as a result of complications.

The federal Nursing Home Reform Act covers many of the rights that nursing home residents are guaranteed. These rights are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 42- Public Health Law, Part 483.

These rights include:

The right to choose a doctor The right to receive advance information about treatment The right to be free from all kinds of nursing home abuse The right to obtain clinical records upon request The right to have notice before a room or roommate change happens The right of residents to manage their personal finances.

It is a sad tale that plays out in our community every day. Local resident Nancy Rivera’s mother began suffering cognitive challenges. Like so many others, the senior, Carmen Marrero, suffered from Alzheimer’s, and her condition slowly deteriorated. About three months ago her health was in such a place that she needed around-the-clock care. It was more than Rivera could provide on her own.

To ensure her mother’s safety, the adult daughter moved her parent in a facility she assumed would provide the close care needed–the Grove at the Lake Living & Rehabilitation Center in Zion.

Sadly, in just that very short time, evidence suggests that Ms. Marerro did not receive anywhere near the care she needed. As discussed in a recent Sun Times report, since moving into the facility, Marrero needed to be taken to a local hospital for medical care at least twice.

A nationwide nursing home resident advocacy group, “Families for Better Care,” recently released a comprehensive “Nursing Home Report Card.” The study culls 2013 data in at least eight different criteria to grade each individual state on the quality of nursing home care provided. The grade is an easy-to-understand gauge of the current state of long-term care in each region.

So how did Illinois stack up in this effort? Not good. Nursing home caregivers in Illinois received the lowest grade possible, an F. Overall, the state was in the bottom ten nationwide. Those of us who work on IL nursing home neglect cases fully appreciate the scope of mistreatment faced by so many seniors. But it is still discouraging to see even more confirmation of the inadequate services provided to some of our most vulnerable community members.

Poor Illinois Nursing Home Care

There is such variety in the quality of nursing homes that it is absolutely essential to take care when making a selection for a loved one. Weighing the facility’s track record, location to family members, available amenities, perspective of current residents, and other factors is critical. It is not a stretch to say that the life of your relative is on the line, and it is well worth it to take all the available time to make the appropriate choice.

But as far too many Illinois families know, there often is not much available time. Many seniors suffer a fall, stroke, heart attack, or other accident that forces them to move into a facility where they can receive around the clock assistance right away. Adult children, other relatives, and friends often have to help make a nursing home decision almost immediately.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Nursing home neglect and abuse lawsuits are guided by state and federal statutes, administrative/regulatory rules, and common law principles. Attorneys working on these cases may draw on any of these in order to ensure proper accountability for nursing home owners, operators, caregivers, and others whose mistakes (or intentional actions) may cause harm to seniors.

Considering the various sources of law, sometimes these legal cases can be quite complex. At times, the basis for accountability is not straightforward. For example, most understand that an individual caregiver can be held responsible when they intentionally harm a senior. However, rules about oversight of those employees may also mean that the operators of a nursing home (or owner/shareholders) may similarly be accountable for the actions of their employees.

In addition, facilities can also be held accountable in various ways not only for the damaging mistakes they make, but also for their response (or failed response) to claims of neglect or abuse. In other words, the poor response itself is a separate form of negligence, on top of the underlying mistreatment.

Honesty is always the best policy. That is true is so many facets of life, from politics and family relationships, even to things like nursing home care. Nursing home residents and their families do not expect perfection when it comes to long-term care giving. But they do expect a commitment to providing the best care possible and openness if any sort of adverse event occurs. Time and again, however, nursing home owners and operators not only fail to ensure elder neglect is prevented, but they try to cover up their errors or sweep problems away.

This should never be tolerated.

State regulators in Illinois and throughout the country appreciate that ensuring proper response to adverse events–falls, development of pressure sores, outright abuse–is just as important as preventing the problem itself. In other words, not only should things like pressure sores be prevented, but facilities must be required to act in a timely fashion to report the sores and otherwise make relevant parties aware of the problem.

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