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visitation rights open again covid-19

As Illinois Nursing Homes Allow for Outdoor Visitors, Family Members Can Look Out for Signs of Distress

COVID-19 is still spreading in Illinois with officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reporting 715 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, June 24, while deaths increased by 64. That brings the total cases in Illinois to 138,540, including 6,770 deaths, in 101 Illinois counties. Infections at long-term care facilities comprise nearly 16% of the state’s total cases, but nursing home residents who have died from the virus make up more than 55% of the state’s fatalities. IDPH has started to require testing of residents and staff members at those facilities, and recently announced new measures which allow for nursing home visitors to meet with residents and loved ones under strict precautions.

In a released statement by IDPH on June 18, 2020, Illinois long-term care facilities may begin to allow outdoor visitation for residents when certain conditions are met. Visits to Illinois nursing homes have been restricted since mid-March.

nursing home abuse and neglect

Senators Blame Government Regulating Office for Growing Number of Nursing Home Deficiencies

On Tuesday, July 23, bi-partisan members of the Senate Finance Committee, led by ranking committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), once again raised alarming concerns over the rising amount of physical, verbal, mental and sexual abuse incidences occurring inside U.S. nursing homes. In addition, and not for the first time this year, confusion regarding the current lack of oversight role the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is playing, and funding needs to support sufficient resident-to-staff ratios were recognized and discussed at great length.

Several lawmakers referenced a same-day released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found:

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.

residents' rights month

Part 2: Residents’ Rights Month

October is Residents’ Rights Month, an annual event created by advocates to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities. This is an important time for family members and residents to be reminded of the rights anyone living in a nursing home has, protected by the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. In a previous blog post, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti reviewed the first half of these rights to ensure readers understand residents must be treated with the same rights as those individuals residing in the larger community. Those rights found in a blog post titled Part 1: Residents’ Rights Month, include the 1) right to be fully informed, 2) right to complain, 3) right to participate in one’s own care, and 4) right to privacy and confidentiality. The remaining four residents’ rights outlined in the reform law include:

  1. Rights During Transfers and Discharges

nursing home rights
Part 1: Residents’ Rights Month

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law is a federal law requiring nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” in support of individual dignity and self-determination. Unfortunately, the law is often violated without repercussion because most seniors (and their family members) are not aware of the legal protections that support an individuals’ rights when residing in a nursing home facility. The month of October has been recognized as a time to address these needs and protections. To show support, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti would like to review the first four residents’ legal rights outlined within the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law in Part 1 of this Residents’ Rights Month blog series.

Four Nursing Home Rights You Need to Know

Choosing the right nursing home for a loved one is a difficult task. The potential for mistreatment and abuse of a vulnerable relative is often on family member’s minds. According to McKnight’s Longterm Care News & Assisted Living, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is striving to make this process easier. The government agency responsible for administering Medicare and other programs, as well as providing information to health professionals and the public, is currently in the process of expanding its database to provide more detailed information about nursing home deficiencies.

CMS began posting nursing home deficiency reports last summer, based on information reported to the agency through standard health and complaint surveys. CMS conducts these investigations as part of its role in overseeing that nursing homes comply with health and safety laws. The data currently provides information as far as fifteen months back and one survey cycle, but CMS aims to provide information as far back as three cycles for standard health surveys, and three years for complaint surveys. In addition to the increased time period, CMS also intends to provide indicators as to the severity of each deficiency cited. All in all, the added information will likely give families a greater sense of control and security in the nursing home selection process, and will help to hold deficient nursing homes accountable.

CMS’s pledge to provide greater information to the public couldn’t come earlier. Recently, in Connecticut, a string of nursing homes have been found to have left vulnerable elders in desperate conditions. The CT Post reports that the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), a state agency, found numerous violations of the state’s regulations for nursing homes. In one case, a resident with a leg wound had refused treatment for so long that maggots were found to be festering inside of it. The DPH found that the nursing home responsible had performed a psychiatric evaluation on the resident, but had failed to approve her for psychiatric admission, and had failed to provide an alternative treatment plan. In another case, a resident suffered extreme weight loss due to loss of dentures, a condition to which the responsible facility’s nutritionist was never alerted. In the final case, a resident was moved from a wheelchair to a bed without a mechanical lift, contrary to the patient care plan. The resident was injured from being dropped during the transfer. The DPH administered fines for each deficiency cited.

The fight to improve the lives of seniors occurs on many fronts. Part of it involves holding facilities and caregivers accountable in the civil law following neglect and mistreatment. Another is the larger public policy fights to push for fair rules and regulations that most benefit seniors generally and nursing home residents specifically. The Consumer Voice is one of the leading organizations advancing the policy goals of the community. Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorney Steven Levin currently serves on the Leadership Council of the Consumer Voice.

Consumer Voice Public Policy Vision

Recently, the organization released a list of goals to flesh out its public policy agenda for the next one to two years. The list is a helpful checklist to follow in the coming months as debate about these issues advances at various levels, including state and local governments. The four most recent goals include:

The Consumer Voice, the premier national nursing home residents’ advocacy group, recently issued the December issue of its monthly newsletter, The Gazette. In it the group sends out a reminder on the importance of visiting nursing home residents-during the holidays and throughout the year.

It goes without saying that visits help improve resident health and quality of life. As with all of us, residents’ general sense of well-being is improved with more interaction with friends and family. It is vital that nursing homes not feel like locked-down isolation where residents are cut-off from activities outside of the facility.

The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 is very clear in its endorsement and protection of visits. The law requires nursing home staff to provide immediate access to the resident for all relatives with consent. The family is free to determine when to visit and what to do while visiting. There are many options to make the visits interesting and enjoyable. They could include eating meals together at the facility, helping the resident decorate a room, or watching old family movies together. The most important thing is simply taking the effort to be by their side.

In addition, visits from others often ensures that residents receive reasonable care-facilities usually dislike the embarrassment of having visitors see unkempt locations or negligent treatment of residents.
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The Consumer Voice-one of the nation’s foremost organizations devoted to quality long term care at elder facilities-has recently launched a new project to improve the treatment and services provided at nursing homes.

The project, Consumers for Quality Care, No Matter Where, is committed to expanding the organization’s current effort to advocate for health care issues faced by elder nursing home residents as well as seniors in other living situations. The program will build upon previous grassroots efforts to ensure that these vulnerable consumers are given access to the quality, well-coordinated care that they need.

More specifically, the new project will allow development of models to engage consumers in state pilot projects, collaborating with national health reform organizations, ultimately hoping to report policy recommendations to assist policy-makers in providing for the needs of long-term care residents. In addition Consumers for Quality Care, No Matter Where will provide work training and grant opportunities to other advocates of these consumer rights.

Manor Court of Clinton, a Clinton, Illinois nursing home, has not only been cited for deficiencies but its administrator has been replaced. This comes after many complaints and an inspection by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Pantagraph.com is reporting that the IDPH discovered that the nursing home was not in compliance with several federal regulations. Manor Court will now receive a daily fine of $400 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until it is back in compliance. The IDPH is instrumental in investigating cases of nursing home negligence throughout the state of Illinois.

The home was cited for failure to maintain hot water and failing to relieve residents’ pressure sores. The negligent nursing home was also unable to prevent a resident from falling and was found to have insufficient nursing staffing. These issues may have led to an inability to administer and monitor resident medications. A regional long-term care ombudsmen with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging , Tami Wacker, said her office has investigated many complaints with the Manor Court administrator. They found that when their complaints were voiced, there was an obvious lack of cooperation from the nursing home administration.

The Nursing Home Compare website does not give favorable ratings to Manor Court. The overall rating is one out of five stars and they only give the home one star for nursing home staffing. The compare website is a helpful tool in choosing a nursing home. If you or a loved one has experienced nursing home negligence at Manor Court of Clinton, please consult an Illinois nursing home attorney. To read more about the Illinois nursing home inspections, please click the link.

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