Overburdened Nursing Home Staff Can Be Heroes to Abused or Neglected Residents
Attorney Steven M. Levin, a partner at Levin & Perconti, was recently featured in Chicago Lawyer Magazine’s feature on whether the heroes of the new Avengers movie could be held liable in a court of law (you can read the interview here). While Steve had fun and the story was lighthearted, it reminded us about some of the everyday heroes we get to work with at Levin & Perconti. They are the staff responsible for one of our nation’s most vulnerable groups of citizens. The nursing assistants, janitors, nurses, therapists, administrators, practitioners and staff who serve nursing home residents and long-term care patients. Because the truth is, not all heroes wear capes.
At Levin & Perconti, we recognize the frustrated, overworked and underpaid care workers who ultimately save lives by speaking up and reporting violations of the law, rules, or regulations regarding the care and treatment of nursing home residents in their charge. The act of reporting can feel extremely uncomfortable and create fear and anxiety for most individuals who chose to get involved in reporting, but when national reviews of care residents indicate an abuse rate of 44 percent and a neglect rate of 95 percent, the need for staff who speak up and report wrongdoings has become a sad requirement to protect nursing home residents who cannot advocate for themselves. When these brave staff report issues their actions will continue to save lives and improve care standards while holding the right people accountable for any wrongdoings.
Common Staff Complaints
There are dozens of typical complaints nursing home and long-term care staff report. Most include direct issues related to:
- Inadequate staffing, equipment and resources
- “Staffing up” and putting on false presentations of facility procedures for Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) inspections
- Improper resident billing or excessive charges
- Discrimination against Medicaid-eligible residents
- Falsification of patient medical records
- Forced transfer within nursing home after Medicare payment ends, wrongful eviction and involuntary discharge
- Failure to respond to resident call lights
- Forcing residents to give up legal rights and commit to arbitration
- Physical and sexual abuse of the residents
- General neglect of residents including but not limited to:
- personal hygiene
- weight loss
- feeding tubes
- disregarding patient preferences
- lack of attention to an illness or obvious deterioration
- Unnecessary physical restraint of residents
- Improper use of behavior-modifying medication
These events can occur at any type of nursing home or long-term care facility but is mostly prevalent in environments where staff-to-patient ratios are poor, and equipment and resources are lacking. In most instances, these issues are focused on nursing home policy and are not directly against a particular employee. While staff actions are what most news stories blame, nursing home owners, not the employees, are often the worst offenders for providing substandard care because they choose to operate their facilities at minimal staffing levels, with limited resources, in order to increase personal profits.
Any staff person can report violations in care or events when abuse and neglect are present. Staff most common to speak up are typically:
- Certified nursing assistants
- Registered nurses
- Licensed nurse practitioners
- Food service or janitorial staff
- Administrative staff
- Physical or occupational therapists
- Maintenance or groundskeepers
When care staff speak up, they are not only helping residents under their direct care, they are also helping to protect future residents from substandard care, abuse and neglect. Our firm helps overworked and underappreciated employees fight for better working conditions as well as better living conditions and care for the residents.
Don’t Be Afraid: Report Nursing Home Problems and Violations
If you are a nursing home employee who has witnessed poor care and abuse in an Illinois nursing home, you may be frightened to report abuse and neglect for fear of losing your job or other retaliatory actions by the nursing home. Retaliatory action is defined as any:
- Denial of promotion
- Denial of transfer
Any changes in the terms and conditions of employment of an employee precipitated by that employee’s participation in any of the aforementioned protected activities are also examples of retaliation. If an employer retaliates against an employee in violation of the Nursing Home Care Act, the affected employee may bring a civil action against the employer for multiple types of relief, including but not limited to:
- Reinstatement of the employee to either the same position held before the retaliatory action or to an equivalent position
- Double back pay
- Interest on back pay
- Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights
- Payment of reasonable costs and attorney’s fees
Neglect and abuse should be reported immediately and should never be put off because an employee feels they need more information or evidence before sharing what is suspected or known.
Sharing Your Concerns, Reporting Issues and Contacting a Lawyer
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act & the Illinois Whistleblower Act give employees rights and offer protection from retaliation for reporting or threatening to report a violation of the law or regulation concerning the care of nursing home residents. Therefore, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti strongly encourage you to:
- Call our nursing home whistleblower hotline at 312-332-2872 to discuss how we can work together to protect the safety and well-being of residents at the facility.
- Email us confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website contact form. All calls and consultations are confidential.
Direct care workers and nursing home support staff members can be heroes too. We frequently have them contacting our attorneys to report violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Many of these workers feel helpless because they are stretched too thin to devote the appropriate time and attention to vulnerable residents under their care. Don’t feel helpless. Be a hero and know we are here to help protect your rights and those rights of your patients.
Consultations with our attorneys are both free and confidential. Please call us at (312) 332-2872 or complete our free online consultation request form.