The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that nursing home neglect affects at least one in three residents of nursing homes in the United States. The Elder Abuse and Neglect Act defines neglect as caregivers’ actions that harm the elderly or cause risk of harm by failing to provide them with necessities, such as food, clothing and health care. Experts believe instances of elder abuse are much higher than reports due to the lack of effective investigation by state agencies. For example, professional service workers in Illinois are not required to report signs of abuse unless residents are unable to report it themselves.
The nonprofit elder advocacy group, Families for Better Care, reviews nursing home care in each state and issues rankings based on deficiencies, complaints, staffing and inspections. According to their website, nursinghomereportcards.com, Illinois maintained a failing grade in every area except health inspections in 2013 and 2014.
Nursing home complaints and deficiencies remain high
Nearly all of the nursing home facilities in Illinois had deficiencies, which are violations of federal regulations regarding the deliverance of care. State regulators inspect facilities every 15 months or less, and the inspections examine a number of factors, including the following:
- Medical, nursing and rehabilitative care
- Infection control
- Dietary and activity services
- Physical environment
- Social interaction
More than 25 percent of Illinois’ nursing homes had severe deficiencies. There was also a rise in verified ombudsman complaints, bringing the number close to 75 percent.
Inadequate staffing continues to cause problems
Although the state’s nursing homes increased the number of direct care staff in 2014, there was not a correlating rise in the number of hours staff spent with each resident. Lack of care often leads to personal injury issues such as bed sores and pressure sores. On average, staff spent an average of two hours per day on direct resident care, which is not enough to raise the failing grade received in 2013.
Illinois increased the number of professional nursing staff by almost 10 percent, but again, residents did not significantly benefit from this increase in staffing. In the comparison to other states, this lack of care resulted in a ranking drop from number 26 in the nation to number 38, and continued to negatively affect the quality of life for residents.
Nursing homes may only be held liable for neglect or abuse if the victims or family members establish negligence. After a complaint has been filed with a long-term care ombudsman, it is advisable to seek the help of an attorney familiar with Illinois nursing home abuse laws to receive compensation to cover medical expenses, pain and suffering.