Articles Posted in Ombudsman and Resident Advocates News

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.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has designated this week as Resident’s Rights Week. Residents’ Rights Week is celebrated the first full week in October each year to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities. It is a time for celebration and recognition. This is also an opportunity for every nursing home to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. Ombudsmen, citizen’s advocacy groups, family and residents councils and long-term care facilities across the country are honoring residents with several events. NCCNHR has put together five ways to participate in resident’s rights week. First visit a resident of a nursing home. While there, encourage a facility to use one of the activity examples from NCCNHR’s Residents’ Rights Week packet. Also you should educate families and the community about Residents’ Rights by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about Residents’ Rights. Finally host a residents’ rights week event. To read more about ways to celebrate residents’ rights week, please click the link.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has issued their September Newsletter. The newsletter discussed the recent budget cuts to Illinois Ombudsmen Programs. On October 1, planned state budget cuts will significantly reduce funding to Illinois’s long-term care ombudsmen program. These budget cuts will place further strain on the program that helps prevent nursing home abuse and neglect. The budget cuts will reduce funding from $2.34 million to 1.9 million. This will inevitably mean a decrease in ombudsmen, who routinely address the questions and concerns of residents. The president of the Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen stated that the regular presence of an ombudsman is vitally important especially for those who do not have family and friends to advocate on their behalf. The decrease of ombudsmen will reduce the amount of help that elderly residents receive in nursing homes. The newsletter also discussed that nursing home executives are excluded from federal health care programs and the fact that the inspector general has released reports on hospice in nursing homes. To read the entire newsletter, please click the link.

Illinois ombudsmen help the staff understand the rights of residents. In order to make sure those residents’ rights are upheld, the agency sponsors the Long-Term Ombudsman Program which covers 16 counties in Illinois. It serves residents age 60 in over 139 licensed health facilities, 11 assisted living facilities and seven supportive living facilities. There are 10 long-term facilities in Vermillion County that benefit from the ombudsmen work. They aid in issue such as nursing home abuse and neglect. They refer the worse cases of nursing home abuse to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The paid staff with the ombudsman program visits the facilities once every quarter, or four times a year. Residents are urged to call the ombudsman’s office if problems cannot be resolved. One can become an ombudsman by completing an application and interview process. They then have to go through basic training and mentoring. Currently, Vermillion County has one community ombudsman. To read more about how to become an ombudsman, please click the link.

Elderly people across Illinois may suffer when budget cuts are scheduled to take effect October 1. These budget cuts will reduce the number of trained advocates who visit nursing homes to expose and prevent elderly abuse and neglect. The president of the Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen is very worried about the effect that these cuts will have on nursing home care. The 19 percent funding cut will result in layoffs and reductions in staff hours for people who regularly visit facilities. The regular presence of ombudsmen is vitally important to those residents who are unable to speak on their own behalf. Long-term care ombudsmen, who are not state employees, inform residents and families of their rights, resolve care-related problems and help protect residents from financial abuse by relatives. They also assist residents and families in filing complaints with the Illinois Department of Public Health about nursing home care. To read more about the budget cuts, please click the link.

An Illinois judge handed down a ruling that said the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) illegally increased fines against nursing homes. The IDPH may no longer fine a nursing home more than $10,000. This comes as a blow to many nursing home advocates who fear that lowering fines will cause an increase in poor quality care. With smaller fines, Illinois nursing homes will have less incentive to provide quality care. Larger fines motivate nursing homes to avoid punishment by delivering appropriate care to their residents. It is most likely that the IDPH will appeal this decision. According to the IDPH acting director, “We have been fining what we feel is appropriate for what we find.” To read the full story about this devastating ruling about Illinois nursing homes, follow the link.

Proposed changes to federal funding for Medicaid could cost Illinois more than 10,000 jobs and over $400 million in lost wages. Over the next five years, Illinois could see upwards of $2.5 billion in lost funding. Critics of the federal plan warn that reductions in Medicaid funding will shift the bill to the state in an already shaky economy. For Illinois nursing homes
this reduction in Medicaid is a serious threat to resident care and could lead to increased incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect. For instance, a nursing home in Peoria illustrates the problem: more than 70% of its residents are Medicaid funded. Many nursing homes and their residents that count on Medicaid may have to make alternative arrangements if the budget cuts go through.

Read more here.

Today great progress was made in advancing the rights of Illinois nursing home residents and their families. The good news comes in the form of House Bill #5213, which has the potential to improve nursing home care in Illinois by demanding accountability from Illinois nursing homes and long-term care facilities as a prerequisite to obtaining and retaining a license.

Currently, 20% of Illinois nursing homes don’t carry liability insurance. This means many Illinois nursing home residents who are abused and neglected in nursing homes cannot be compensated for injuries they suffer from a nursing home’s wrongdoing. Furthermore, facilities are not even required to notify residents and their families that they are uninsured.

Today, the House Human Services committee passed HB 5213 sponsored by Representative David Miller. HB 5213 provides that no person may establish, operate, maintain, offer, or advertise a long-term care facility unless they provide the Department of Public Health with proof of liability insurance in an amount not less than $1 million. HB 5213 also reinstates a provision that was removed from the statutes in 1995 that provides that a licensee shall pay treble damages (the greater of three times the actual amount of damages or $500) in addition to costs and attorney’s fees when the rights of a resident are violated.

Financial exploitation and abuse is the most common form of elder abuse reported and investigated in Illinois. Recently, the caregiver of an 83-year-old man was found forging checks in the man’s name. Workers at the Sugar Grove, Illinois bank noticed the irregularities in the checks and notified police. The caregiver is being charged with forgery and financial exploitation of an elderly/disabled person. The elderly aren’t always lucky enough to have outsiders discover the source of exploitation. Here are a few ways to protect yourself or a loved one when hiring a caregiver:

-Check the backgrounds and references of future employees -Allow another person (friend, family, lawyer) to have access to bank accounts to monitor spending -Tell the bank that a caregiver will be handling some financial transactions and to monitor them -If employing a caregiver or other worker in the home, secure personal information -Never give bank account or credit card information over the phone -Shred or get rid of papers with personal and bank information
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Kane County, Illinois employs a prosecutor assigned mainly to cases of elder abuse including one of the most prevalent problems, financial abuse and exploitation. Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti has said that he hopes to improve community outreach as well and that elder abuse should be viewed like child abuse, where the very vulnerable can be taken advantage of. Illinois and US laws, however, seem to do much more to protect and advocate for children than for elders. Many elder abuse attorneys and advocates across the United States argue that elder abuse and nursing home abuse and neglect laws need to be stronger.

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