Under the provisions of the Illinois Nursing Home Act, residents have the right to:
- Complain without retaliation;
- Own their own clothing and personal property and have storage space for them;
- Choose their own doctor;
- Be informed of the potential consequences of medical treatment and the right to refuse it;
- Examine their own medical records or have their appointed caregiver examine them;
- Manage their own finances;
- Be free of physical restraints unless they agree to them;
- Communicate freely; and
- Practice their religion.
Where any of these rights are violated, individuals, or their representatives, may file legal action against the nursing facility.
FEDERAL - THE OMNIBUS BUDGET RECONCILIATION ACT OF 1987 (OBRA 1987)
The law established a nursing home Resident's Bill of Rights and required certain services for all residents in federally funded long-term care facilities. Some nursing home provisions in OBRA 87 include:
- Nursing homes must employ sufficient staff
- Nursing homes must perform an initial assessment of all new residents
- Nursing homes must develop an individualized, comprehensive care plan for each resident
- Nursing homes must provide services to assist residents with daily tasks if they cannot perform them on their own
- Nursing homes must ensure that residents do not develop pressure sores and if they do, nursing homes must give the proper treatment to encourage healing, avoid infection, and prevent new sores from developing
- Nursing homes must properly supervise residents to prevent accidents, such as falls
Nursing homes must keep accurate, complete, and easily accessible medical records for all residents Some of the rights afforded to nursing home residents under OBRA 87 as part of the Residents' Bill of Rights include:
- Residents have the right to receive adequate or appropriate care to address medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
- Residents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect
- Residents have the right to communicate freely
- Residents have the right to be involved in planning their own care and must be informed when a nursing home wants to change treatments
- Residents have the right to be free from nursing home abuse and neglect
- Residents have to right to be free from chemical and physical restraints
- Residents have the right to refuse medication
- Residents have the right to privacy and confidentiality in personal, medical, and financial affairs
- Residents have the right to get involved with nursing home resident groups and family groups
- Residents have the right to file complaints without fear of discrimination or punishment
Any intentional physical or mental injury or sexual abuse inflicted on a resident is prohibited under all circumstances.
Restraints used to confine residents can be classified as abuse when they are used improperly or unnecessarily. Anything attached to a resident’s body that is not easily removed and restrict movement, including medications, can be categorized as a restraint. These can only be used with consent, only after less restrictive means have failed, and must be the least restrictive means possible. Furthermore, a physician must order the use of the restraints and document use in the resident’s clinical file.
Reports of abuse or neglect should be made to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and no one has the right to screen or withhold reports from the Department. All reports will be investigated and those in which the resident appears to be in imminent danger must be investigated within 24 hours.
Nursing homes are required by law to deliver a quality of care to residents that include providing adequate medical, personal care, and maintenance. Where their failure to do so results in physical or mental injury to residents or in the deterioration of a resident’s physical or mental condition, the facility may be found guilty of negligence.
Nursing staff, including aides, assistants, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses, should provide most of the care to nursing home residents. Federal and state laws require specific education, training, and certification for nurses at all levels. Laws also require minimum staffing levels to ensure that quality of care standards are being met.
COMMON WARNING SIGNS THAT MAY INDICATE ABUSE OR NEGLIGENCE IS TAKING PLACE:
- Unexplained injuries (e.g. bruises, welts, scars, broken bones, sprains)
- Broken eyeglasses or frames Signs of restraint (e.g. rope or strap marks on wrists and ankles)
- Refusal to allow visitation with resident alone
- Witnessing any behavior that seems abusive such as threatening or name-calling
- Signs of sexual abuse such as bruises on genitals, STD's, evidence of bleeding in and around genitals
- Unexplained falls or falls where a resident was not properly supervised
- Weight loss, signs of dehydration, malnutrition, and rapid deterioration of health beyond what the patient's medical conditions would cause
- Bedsores, particularly bedsores that last for a long time, get worse over time or go untreated
- Unsanitary conditions (e.g. soiled bed linens, bugs)
How to Prove Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence
Sometimes, evidence of abuse and neglect is obvious and other times, it’s difficult to discern. There are many signs of nursing home accidents such as frequent falls, bruises, and broken bones. Malnutrition, dehydration, unclean conditions, wandering, and over-medication are other signs that may indicate wrongful care.
As a protective measure, residents and their loved ones have the right to install electronic devices in their rooms, including “granny cams,” if they have written consent of roommates and have advised the nursing home of their use. The facility is not allowed to access the device or recordings without the resident or their representative’s written consent.
By law, anyone who contributed to the abuse or neglect is liable and can be named in a civil suit. This includes physicians, nurses, ancillary staff, management, and owners. Each of them is responsible for ensuring that residents are well cared for via proper training and certification of staff, complying with staffing requirements, and delivering a mandated standard of care.