Nursing Home Abuse
Elder abuse is a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2010 Census recorded that there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older, making up 13 percent of the population. This is referred to as the Boomer Generation and it is expected to continue to increase for decades. In fact, by 2050 this population is expected to make up 20 percent of the population. Seniors 85 years old and older are the fastest growing population segment, though with 5.8 million recorded in the 2010 Census. By 2050 this number will grow to a projected 19 million.
In 2008, an estimated 3.2 million people in the United States resided in nursing homes or long term care facilities. There are two recorded studies on nursing home abuse that highlight its magnitude and scope. In 2000 a study interviewed 2,000 residents of nursing homes. Of those interviewed, 95 percent reported neglect or that they had witnessed neglect of another and 44 percent reported being abused. A study conducted in May 2008, by the U.S. General Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of state surveys miss one or more deficiencies while 15 percent missed harm, danger, and immediate jeopardy of a resident in a nursing home.
Overview of Illinois Nursing Homes
There are approximately 12,000 nursing homes or long term care facilities in Illinois. More than 100,000 residents live in these facilities. Not all residents are elderly; many young people are also residents for a variety of reasons. The Illinois Department of Public Health oversees these facilities, regulating, licensing, and conducting annual inspections. It also aids the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with certification of the facilities so that they can participate in federal payment reimbursement programs.
There are several private and public agencies at the federal and state levels that regulate nursing homes and are tasked with licensing, inspection, and certification. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) are two of the primary regulatory agencies. They have separate jurisdictions, but some overlap in areas. Here is an overview of Illinois Nursing Home Laws and the Illinois Nursing Home Act.
Signs of Abuse in Nursing Homes
There are several different types of abuse so knowing how to identify each type is imperative. There are two primary signs of elder abuse:
- Changes in the elder’s behavior or personality
- Frequent tension or arguments between the elderly person and the caregiver
- Physical Abuse – Unexplained injuries including wounds, welts, bruises, or scars, especially if they are symmetrical on both sides of the body. Also broken bones, dislocations, sprains, medication irregularities such as overdoes or failure to take it regularly. Broken eyeglasses or eyeglass frames, restraint marks on wrists, and if the caregiver will not allow you to see the elder alone.
- Emotional Abuse – You witness that the caregiver is controlling, belittling, or threatening. The elder shows behavioral changes like sucking, rocking, or mumbling to himself.
- Sexual Abuse – Bruises around the genitals or breasts, unexplained genital infections, venereal disease, or anal or vaginal bleeding. Also, underclothing that is bloody, stained, or torn.
- Neglect – Unexplained or unusual dehydration, malnutrition, or weight loss. Bed sores or other physical problems that are untreated. Dirty or soiled clothing and bedding, bugs, dirt, the person is left unbathed or dirty, and other unsanitary living conditions. The person is dressed in clothing that is not suitable for the weather. Living conditions that are unsafe. The elder is deserted at a public place.
- Financial Abuse – Changes in the elder’s finances such as significant withdrawals from their accounts. Case or valuable items missing from their home or possession. Suspicious changes in policies, titles, power of attorney, and wills. Names added to their signature card. Bills that have not been paid or medical care that is lacking even through the elder has the means or money to pay for it. Financial transactions or activity that the elder could not have done. Subscriptions, goods, or services that are unnecessary.
- Healthcare Fraud and Abuse – Duplicate billing, evidence of under medication or overmedication, and evidence of insufficient care even though the bills are fully paid. Also, care facility problems including crowding, staff that is insufficient, understaffed, poorly paid, or poorly trained, and questions about care are met with inadequate responses.
How to Report Abuse in a Nursing Home
There are several agencies that accept nursing home abuse complaints. There is a Central Complaint Registry that is operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It investigates and records complaints regarding home health agencies, hospitals, and nursing home facilities.
File Complaint by Phone: 1-800-252-4343 or 1-800-547-0466 (TTY)
File Complaint via the Web: www.idph.state.il.us/pdf/CCR_ComplaintForm_Fields.pdf
Healthcare and Family Services: 1-800-226-0768, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday (all calls are confidential)
Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit: 1-888-557-9503
To report abuse or neglect of someone who has a developmental disability or mental illness, call the OIG hotline: 1-800-368-1463 (24 hours)
Contact an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
If you suspect your loved one is a victim of elder abuse in a nursing home, we can help. Call The Rooth Law Firm and get the help that you need. We will work with you to identify abuse and provide the legal support that you deserve. Elder neglect and abuse can be difficult to identify and it can be painful to watch someone you love endure suffering. You don’t have to fight the battle alone; we can help.