Nursing Home Abuse Prevention
There are several things that you can do to keep your loved one, who is entering a nursing home, or who is already a resident, from becoming a victim of elder abuse.
- Check out potential nursing homes completely. Ask to see the different areas in the facility. Keep an eye out for the condition of the rooms and the other patients. Talk to other residents. Do they seem alert and engaged? Are they well taken care of?
- Before making a decision, look for resources on nursing home facilities like Nursing Home Compare , a Medicare website which rates different aspects of individual nursing homes, or the Illinois Department of Public Health Nursing Home Violations Report , which lists violations at specific nursing homes, classified as type AA, the most severe, type A, type B or type C, the least severe.
- Become involved in the care planning process right away, and let the staff know that you intend to be involved along the way. Attend care meetings and ask questions about the plan for your loved one’s care and treatment. Make sure all key players will attend the meeting so everyone is on the same page regarding your loved one’s care. Request concrete, measurable plans and a timetable for treatment.
- Visit often, without advance notice, at different times of day and on different days of the week. In this way you can interact with all the different staff members who deal with your loved one. This will give you a full picture of the patterns of care and the performance and attitudes of care staff on different shifts.
- Get to know all the key staff who will be taking care of your loved one on different shifts. Give them information that will help them take care of your loved one, and praise them when they provide good care. Don’t forget to develop a good working relationship with administration and supervisors. Know the policies that apply in the event you have concerns.
- Monitor your loved one’s care closely. Maintain close contact with the doctor, and take notes when talking to staff and medical personnel. Check records to make sure the plan is being followed. Get a second opinion if you have any doubts about a diagnosis or treatment plan. Insist on being told about any significant changes in your relative’s physical, mental or behavioral condition or their treatment plan, as soon as possible. Lastly, check prescribed medications and notice how they affect your relative.
- Look for any of the warning signs of abuse. Listen to your loved one carefully and take their concerns seriously. Make a physical inspection of your relative. Take action immediately if you suspect anything.
- Act as an advocate for your loved one, by knowing their rights . Follow up on all concerns you have and ask for meetings with key staff who can address any problems right away. If you do not get satisfactory action from the staff, contact the Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman, and file a complaint with the proper agency, if necessary. Get to know the laws that protect nursing home residents, including nursing home standards of care and patient’s rights. (See sections below)
- Evaluate the situation: Has your loved one talked to you about her or his treatment at the nursing home? Have you seen abuse firsthand or have you seen signs of neglect or abuse such as cuts, bruises or bedsores? If so, ask your loved one what happened, when the abuse occurred and who inflicted the harm. Check to see if any other residents experienced similar harm. When you are satisfied that you have as many answers as you can get, write a summary of the situation. You should also decide if you believe your loved one is in imminent danger. If so, you should move them to a safer facility as soon as possible.
- Take Your Concerns to the Nursing Home Administration: One of the first things you should do is tell the administration at the nursing home about the abuse or neglect. Perhaps this is an isolated incident--rather than a pattern of behavior--which they can correct. In other cases, they might not be aware of a dangerous situation. Hopefully the administration will take your concerns seriously and address the problem immediately. If they do not, you will have to pursue one of the following options, and even if they do, the abuse may be serious enough to warrant taking other action as well.
- File a Complaint with the Senior Helpline or Your Local Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman: Once you believe that abuse has occurred you should file a complaint with your local Illinois Long Term Care Ombudsman . This is a program offered by the Illinois Department on Aging which investigates complaints of suspected abuse and neglect at nursing homes. You can find contact information for your Ombudsman here . You can also report the suspected abuse with the Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966.
- File a Complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health: If you decide to file a complaint with the IDPH you can reach them at 1-800-252-4343. Download the Healthcare Facilities Complaint Form, on the IDHP Forms page and be prepared to: answer questions about your loved one; tell them what happened and who was involved; and give them information about the nursing home. Once you have made a report, the IDPH must complete an investigation within seven days. Note that the nursing home cannot retaliate against your loved one because you have filed an abuse complaint with IDPH.
- Contact an Experienced Lawyer: It is important to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your loved one is protected. Your lawyer can be the liaison between you, the nursing home and the IDPH during the investigation into the suspected abuse or neglect, and can even conduct a separate investigation into the situation on your behalf, if necessary. An experienced elder abuse attorney can advise you on your relative’s rights and how to proceed with a lawsuit against the caregivers and facility, if warranted given the facts. If you choose to pursue a legal remedy, your lawyer can help you get just compensation for your loved one for any emotional, physical, or financial harm that they have suffered. Call The Collins Law Firm at (630) 527-1595 for help or contact an attorney here.