CHICAGO, IL – Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home facility can be very stressful for the person, as well as the family. You can do all the research for your loved one and where you think may be best suited for their needs. You can even talk to the facility, staff members, and tour the facility to make sure it is their best option.
But even then, the facility may not turn out to be as great as you thought it was. What if you visit your loved one, and notice something may be off? Nursing home abuse is more common than you think, and often is not reported. You may be confused and not know what’s going on, and sometimes your loved one can’t verbalized what they’re experiencing. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, these are the steps you should take if you suspect your loved one is being abused:
- Evaluate the situation
Before reporting abuse, you should assess why you want to report suspected abuse or neglect. It’s a good idea to write a summary of what has happened so you don’t miss anything when reporting a nursing home facility. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Did my loved one complain about treatment that he or she is receiving in the nursing home? Have other residents voiced similar complaints?
- Have I seen signs of abuse and neglect such as bed sores, cuts, or bruises?
- Did I personally witness abuse or neglect of my loved one?
- Who has inflicted the harm my loved one has suffered?
- When did the harm occur?
The more you understand your concerns, the better you will be able to communicate these concerns to authorities. Please assess whether your loved one may be facing immediate harm. If so, you should take steps to immediately remove him or her from the facility.
- File a complaint with local Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman or Senior Helpline
Once you understand the situation at hand, contact your local Illinois Long-Term Ombudsman Program. This program provides nursing home residents with their own advocates that will help them with any complaints they may have, as well as enhance their overall quality of life. This program is normally free of charge. The Ombudsmen are able to:
- Listen to the concerns of the patient and their family members
- Inform residents of their rights and possible legal action
- Provide information on different nursing home options
- Work with the current nursing home staff to make changes
- Get law enforcement involved, if necessary.
You can find contact information for your local Ombudsman by visiting the Department of Aging website, or by calling the toll-free number (866) 800-1409 or (888) 206-1327 (TTY).
The Ombudsman may attempt to work directly with the nursing home facility to address the issue raised by your complaint. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, the Ombudsman will assist you in a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
You can also report suspected abuse or neglect by contacting the Senior HelpLine. The Senior HelpLine is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can call their toll-free number at (800) 252-8966 or (888) 206-1327 (TTY) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- File a complaint with IDPH
The next step is to file a complaint with the IDPH. You can download the IDPH Complaint Form and send it to IDPH by fax or mail, or you can use the form to guide you if you’d like to report by phone.
Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Who was the resident that was abused or neglected? Be prepared to give the name and age of your loved one. Please provide the names of staff members or administrators you believe to be involved.
- What happened to the nursing home resident? Be prepared to describe specific acts of abuse or neglect that you believe to have occurred. For example, was your loved one assaulted by a staff member? Are staff members administering medications without authorization? Have you found bedsores on your loved one from nursing home staff failing to re-position them?
- When did the abuse or neglect occur? Provide specific dates or time periods in which the abuse or neglect occurred.
- Where is the facility located? You will need to provide the name of the nursing home and where the facility is located. You can verify this information by visiting the IDPH’s nursing home directory. Please provide the room number and floor number the mistreatment occurred on.
- How was the resident harmed or potentially harmed? Keeping a journal to note the harm your loved one has endured is important so you are able to relay this information to IDPH and potentially the authorities. Being able to describe specific instances of harm your loved one has experienced is critical.
You can contact IDPH at:
Phone: (800) 252-4343 or (800) 547-0466 (TTY)
The hotline is open from Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Fax: (217) 525-8885
Mail: Illinois Department of Public Health
Office of Health Care Regulation
525 W. Jefferson Street, Ground Floor
Springfield, IL 62761-0001
If you would prefer to stay anonymous, you can do so; however, if you would like to receive a written confirmation that your complaint has been received and to be informed of the results of IDPH’s investigation, you must give your name, address, and phone number. IDPH will not reveal your identity as the one who filed the complaint unless:
- You give written permission.
- Your identity is essential to the investigation.
- A court case is filed by IDPH against the nursing home.
It’s important to know the facility cannot retaliate against your loved one which includes harassment, discharge or transferring the resident, simply because you filed a complaint. The IDPH is legally obligated to investigate your complaint. If you report abuse or neglect, IDPH must complete an investigation within seven days. All other investigations must be completed within 30 days.
- Keep an eye out
Although you reported abuse or neglect, it’s important to still keep an eye out for your loved one until the issue is resolved. Whenever your visit your loved one, make sure to take a look around and check for anything that may be out of order. It’s also important to make sure your loved one is happy and healthy. If you ever find yourself suspecting abuse occurring in your loved ones facility, report it immediately. Time is crucial, especially in a circumstance like this.
- Contact a lawyer
It’s important to contact an experienced and knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer to ensure your loved ones rights are fully protected. A lawyer can serve as a liaison between your family, the nursing home, and IDPH during the investigation, or can conduct an independent investigation.
A lawyer will help your assess your options for seeking relief through a lawsuit which can include compensation for any physical, emotional, or financial harm your loved one has endured.
To schedule a free, no obligation consultation, you can contact our office at (312) 384-1920 or (800) 693-1LAW (toll-free). Please visit our website for any additional information including verdicts and settlements.