Among the most vulnerable of Illinois citizens are our elderly. Sadly, these vulnerable individuals are often disadvantaged, neglected, exploited and abused. The nursing home injury lawyers of Passen & Powell are always saddened to hear of elder abuse, but find these stories particularly shocking when it is a nursing home or care facility – the very institutions to whom we entrusted our treasured elders – who perpetuate or permit the abuse.
Fortunately, there are legal remedies available when elders do not receive the level of care to which they are entitled. One of the principal laws protecting Illinois’ elders is the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, and expansive piece of legislation touching on virtually every aspect of the rights of facility residents. The Act sets the standard by which these facilities must abide, and provides a number of legal tools for enforcing residents’ rights, if necessary.
The NHCA applies to all long-term care facilities in the state of Illinois. Long-term care facilities include any place, large or small, that provides personal, sheltered, or nursing care for at least three people who are not related to the owner (by blood or marriage). There are a number of exceptions – most notably, hospitals and facilities operated by the government are not covered by the Act. Additionally, non-care senior living centers, such as community living facilities, are not under the purview of the Act.
For those facilities covered by the Act, there is a comprehensive set of rules that must be followed. Many of these rules are no more than common sense – yet our Chicago injury attorneys are continually surprised by the frequency with which they are violated. The Act covers everything from the privacy of medical care to the privacy of bedrooms, from residents access to their own belongings and clothing to their right to keep the facility from having access to residents’ personal funds and finances.
The Act establishes residents’ rights from the very fundamental – the right to practice their chosen religion and be free from the imposition of other forms of worship – to the detailed, such as the standards for accessing the mail. And it covers everything from the physical, such as the right to be free from restraints, to the psychological, such as the right to be free from medicines administered for the sole purpose of subduing the resident, to the procedural, such as the requirement that the facility form a residents’ council to advise on residents’ affairs.
Our attorneys will address these requirements in detail in a series of upcoming articles. But for now, long-term care facility residents, and their families, should take heart. If there is a situation at their facility which they believe is improper, chances are that the NHCA addresses it.
And with the rules set out by the Act comes, equally importantly, the means to redress any violations. The Act has three principal means for correcting problems in these facilities – through the ombudsman process, through a complaint to the Illinois Department of Public Health, and through a private civil lawsuit. Each of these options provides slightly different relief, with advantages and disadvantages, but all three give residents and their loved ones the means to correct violations of the Act.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured or died at a long-term care facility due to substandard treatment, we encourage you to consult with an experienced elder care attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can help you to determine if the Act, or other applicable law, addresses the situation that you or your loved ones are facing. And an experienced attorney can help you determine what action to take, and guide you through the process of seeking relief – and putting in place the care to which all our elders are entitled.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.