Elderly Citizens Suffering Nursing Home Abuse
Illinois estimates that every year, thousands of its elderly senior citizens suffer from some sort of abuse at the hands of their caregivers, whether in private homes or nursing homes. Out of concern for how many elderly across the nation were suffering like this, and in response to encouragement by the Institute of Medicine, the Nursing Home Reform Act became law in 1987.
It provided protections for nursing home residents, established a Residents’ Bill of Rights and delineated certain services that must be provided to all under the care of the nursing home. Required services to be available to each nursing home resident include:
- Periodic assessments
- A comprehensive care plan
- Nursing services
- Social services
- Rehabilitation services
- Pharmaceutical services
- Dietary services
If the facility has more than 120 beds, it must employ a full-time social worker.
In order to receive federal funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), nursing homes must be certified by their state as in compliance with the requirements of the Nursing Home Reform Act.
The homes are inspected routinely and, if violations are found, they are generally given a certain period of time to correct the deficiency. If the problem is not corrected, payment is withheld and, in some cases, it is withheld permanently.
Illinois Ranks Poorly for Elderly Care
Families for Better Care (FBC), an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to informing the public about elder abuse so that nursing home care can improve, publishes an annual “report card” giving each state an overall grade based on violations found by CMS.
In the year 2013, the first year FBC issued grades, Illinois did not do so well. It received an overall grade of “F” and ranked 42 out of 50 when compared to all other states. The 2014 report again gave Illinois nursing homes a grade of “F.” Instead of improving the quality, the homes had become worse and their rank was reduced to 44.
One of the main problems FBC found with Illinois nursing homes is that they are understaffed. The Executive Director commented, “Inadequate staffing levels continue to fuel widespread neglect and abuse. Professional nurses and front line caregivers cannot properly care for residents if they are overworked and short-staffed.”
Inadequate staffing continues to be a problem in Illinois nursing homes. When there is not enough staff, it become impossible to deliver quality care as demanded by the Reform act.
Elder Abuse and Neglect Act
Since 1987, more laws, both state and federal, have been enacted to protect senior citizens and provide them basic rights. Recognizing that elder abuse is not confined to nursing homes, Illinois enacted the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act to apply to senior citizens who live at home with family caregivers.
The Act noted that there are approximately 76,000 Illinois citizens over the age of 60. Every year, about 10,000 of them suffer abuse at the hands of their caregiver. The Act defines various types of abuse from which senior citizens are protected under the Act.:
- Physical abuse: Any instance of intentionally inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
- Sexual abuse: Inappropriate touching, fondling or intercourse, or any sexual activity with an older adult when the adult is unable to understand and unable to willingly give consent.
- Emotional abuse: Verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation.
- Confinement: Includes restraining or isolating an older adult unless for a specific medically necessary reason.
- Passive neglect: This occurs when the caregiver fails to provide life’s necessities, including food, shelter or medical care.
- Willful deprivation: This involves “willfully denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device or other physical assistance, and thereby exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm except when the older adult has expressed capacity to understand the consequences and an intent to forego such care.”
- Financial exploitation: This applies to any withholding of the older adult’s resources to that person’s disadvantage or misappropriating the funds or using them in any way to another’s advantage.
The Illinois Act mandates certain people with whom the elderly person has contact, to report any evidence they see or suspicion they have that the elderly person is suffering from any of the outlined abuse situations such as:
- Home health aides
- Social workers
- Or any others
In general, a mandatory reporter is anyone who comes in contact with the elderly person in a professional capacity.
The Act also provides a way for anyone to report, in an anonymous way, a suspicion that an elderly person is the object of abuse. There will be no criminal or civil liability for anyone who reports a suspicion of elder abuse.