It’s shocking to learn Illinois is first in the nation for nursing home abuse according to the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a report issued in August 2017. See, “Report: Illinois has most cases of nursing home abuse incidents,” published by WQAD News 8 on August 28, 2017.
For the full report, read the findings forwarded to Seema Verma as HHS’s Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services from Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson, “Early Alert: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Has Inadequate Procedures To Ensure That Incidents of Potential Abuse or Neglect at Skilled Nursing Facilities Are Identified and Reported in Accordance With Applicable Requirements (A-01-17-00504)”
What’s more, Indiana was not that far behind as the Hoosier State ranks number 11 on the list.
Today, residents of nursing homes and elder care facilities in Illinois (#1) and Indiana (#11) are at a much higher risk for serious injuries or death resulting from abuse and neglect than residents of similar facilities in other states.
Report Involves Serious Injuries
The Inspector General’s report considers only “critical incidents” involving patients or residents who suffered serious injuries or illness requiring treatment at an emergency room. They were harmed as a result of medical care or in a health care setting at these residential facilities. Report, page 4.
In other words, the findings are based upon serious instances of abuse or neglect of a senior citizen residing or being treated in a nursing home, group home, or elder care facility.
What about the police?
The findings found “a significant percentage of these incidents may not have been reported to law enforcement.” The Inspector General has “significant concerns” that criminal incidents of abuse or neglect are not being reported to the authorities. Report, page 5.
Public Alert Issued on August 28, 2017: “Citizens Be Vigilant”
The Inspector General also released a “Public Alert for Patient Abuse in Skilled Nursing Facilities Nationwide.” From Inspector General Levinson’s message:
“These types of abuses and neglect cannot be tolerated. HHS OIG will continue reporting on the quality of care in skilled nursing facilities and other medical facilities that provide care to Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“We are also urging Citizens to be vigilant; visit your loved ones often who are in these facilities, ask them if they are being treated properly, and report potential cases of abuse or neglect to your local police and your state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.”
November 2017 Freeze on Federal Enforcement of Nursing Home Regulations
Despite these findings, and the common knowledge among industry leaders and elder advocates of the dangers facing the vulnerable residents of our nation’s nursing care facilities, the federal government – and particularly the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services – is issuing new directives for oversight. (See, e.g., CMMS’s October 2017 summary and November 2017 summary).
The CMS directives will lessen not only the number of federal fines for violations by these care facilities, but it will weaken the monetary penalties, too. So, the nursing home industry not only goes into the new year with less worry about being caught, but also about having to pay less in fines should a federal review find wrongdoing.
For details on these changes implemented by the White House, read “Trump Administration Eases Nursing Home Fines in Victory for Industry,” written by Jordan Rau and published by The New York Times on December 24, 2017.
What Does This Mean for Residents of Illinois and Indiana Nursing Homes and Skilled Care Facilities?
For the elderly who reside in a nursing home or care facility in Indiana and Illinois, not only are they at great risk of harm involving serious injury (including rape and assault injuries) or death but they’re more vulnerable than ever. The nursing home administration and staff is all too aware that the new White House stance supports the nursing home industry. There will be fewer inspections for violations, and weaker penalties for those who are caught doing bad things specifically involving abuse or neglect of residents.
This means we can expect nursing home residents to be victims of abuse and neglect now more than ever. Elderly residents are in great danger of things like bedsores from neglect, rape and sexual assault, and avoidable accidents like slip and falls. This is particularly true for those who reside in care facilities here in Indiana and Illinois.
It’s not as if the old fines and protocols were working to help keep our vulnerable elderly safe. They were at a high risk before the lessening of penalties and oversight. Now, things are dire.
What Can Be Done To Help Here?
Once again, it will likely be the personal injury claims that are filed against these nursing home companies and corporations that will work to stop these injustices. While plaintiffs and their counsel will be called greedy and self-serving, the truth is that these huge corporations are notorious for putting profits over people, and for them, significant awards in negligence and wrongful death cases may be the only language that they will understand. Why? Government fines aren’t significant enough to impact their bottom line.
Tragically, of course, these claims will be based upon the horrors experienced by these older folks and their loved ones. These residents are at their most defenseless as they depend upon caretakers for help and support in their daily lives. And it is this very defenselessness that makes them prey to predators and exposed to the dangers of neglect. It is an infuriating reality that many elders face today in Indiana and Illinois.
In our next post, we’ll discuss today’s nursing homes and care facilities in more detail, as well as signs and warnings of bad things happening and what can be done about them. Let’s be careful out there!