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Unlicensed Care Homes Hiding in Plain Sight in the US

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Unlicensed Care Homes Hiding in Plain Sight in the US

A year-long study conducted by the non-profit research firm, RTI International, found that unlicensed care homes in the US are typical. And even more common is the level of outrageous abuse and exploitation of their residents.

These homes were found to commit crimes against the elderly, the disabled, and those who are mentally ill. The study was released for the Office of Disability, Aging, and Long-Term Care Policy and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The report was initiated after reports from the media, first responders, residents, and loved ones were filed regarding the care in these unlicensed homes throughout the country.

What Is an Unlicensed Care Home and Are They in Chicago?

Unlicensed care homes are allowed in the United States. They are long-term residential care facilities that have no state license. Not all states require licensing. Instead, they only require licensing based on specific situations.

In Illinois, a care home does not have to have a license until they have three beds. Therefore, a house with fewer beds than this could run a care facility without state licensing.

While there are legitimate, unlicensed care facilities that offer excellent care to residents, most of these tend to operate illegally, which makes it hard for officials to investigate or even track the risks associated with these facilities.

Ombudsman Receives Increased Number of Complaints

The Ombudsman program has seen increased numbers for complaints when it comes to unlicensed personal care homes. According to these complaints, residents experienced horrible living conditions: some being locked into basements, some being forced to live in unsanitary conditions, and some did not even have access to toilets, food, or water.

The Risks of Unlicensed Care Homes in the State

Unlicensed care homes do not have the same inspections and regulations as licensed care facilities. Therefore, patients in these homes are at risk for abuse and neglect, including:

  • Poor Living Conditions – Most of the unlicensed care homes found in the country create poor, unsafe, living conditions for residents. The houses are unsanitary, residents have dirty beds and bathrooms, and some do not have access to running water or even toilets.
  • Inadequate Food and Water – You rely on a nursing home to ensure your loved ones get proper nutrition and stay hydrated – especially when they cannot monitor this themselves. Unlicensed facilities were found to have patients suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. Some were purposely deprived of those necessities.
  • Poor Supervision – Even if the facility offers a sanitary living environment, food, and water, they may not provide the care assistance their residents need, including assistance with mobility, transportation, or help with medications.

Bottom line, when a facility is unlicensed, they are unregulated and many are unknown to the state. Therefore, these facilities are not held accountable for the care they provide, and it is easier for the mistreatment of residents to go unnoticed.

What Does Illinois Require for a Personal Care Home

Illinois has over 1,200 long-term care homes in the state serving more than 100,000 residents. These companies offer services for younger individuals with disabilities as well as the elderly. They are all regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

While homes with fewer than three beds do not require licensing, most nursing homes in the state fall into the required license bed count. The health department’s Bureau of Long-Term Care oversees these services and ensures that all nursing homes in the state comply with the Nursing Home Care Act. They also conduct certificate surveys to ensure companies receiving state or federal money for residents abide by all regulations.

You can review a list of all nursing homes registered in the state by visiting the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website search engine.

How to Find a Qualified, Licensed Nursing Home for Your Loved One

Finding a nursing home for a loved one should not be a fearful task. You should not have to worry about the care team mistreating your loved one or that they do not receive proper care. Be proactive when selecting a nursing home, and never rely on a visit by itself. Instead, you need to focus on the picture as a whole, including reviews, state registries, and more.

Consider the Level of Care Your Loved One Needs

You need to determine what is important to you and your loved one. Do you want a facility that offers social activities along with medical care? Does your loved one need special care, like Alzheimer’s or dementia care? How close in location do you want their residence so that you and other family members can visit frequently?

Write down a list of what you need from the care facility, what your loved one needs, and do not budge from that list while looking. There are more than enough homes out there, and you will find several that suit your loved one’s individual needs without having to compromise.

Know the Care Options

Long-term based care comes in numerous forms, and the type of care your loved one needs depends on their overall health and care requirements. The options you have available to you here in Illinois include:

  • Boarding and Care Homes: Care homes are residential care facilities, small care centers, and residential dwellings turned into long-term care. They have fewer than 20 beds, and the rooms are private or shared. Note, these are part of the group that tends to be unlicensed. Therefore, if the facility has three or more beds, the state requires licensing. Ask to see their license.
  • Assisted Living: Assisted living is for those who need help with their daily care, but not as in-depth as your typical nursing home. Assisted living facilities have more residents than care homes but have various levels of care, including graduating programs so residents can remain in one facility as their needs increase.
  • Nursing Homes: Nursing homes have health and personal care services in one. They often include 24-hour supervision, rehabilitation, and assistance with everything from diet to hydration to hygiene.
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Continuing care communities combine assisted living with independent care and are designed for those who have independence but still need assistance. They may offer everything from assisted living to care homes to skilled nursing care so that a person can live in the one community throughout retirement.

Talk to Others Who Have Done the Search Before

You should ask friends, family, and even co-workers if they have done a similar search and where they ended up going. Personal references are the most reliable, and you can ask about their intimate experiences with that particular nursing home, suggestions they have for searching, and more.

Do not forget about your loved one’s physician. They often have references for nursing homes in the area that they have worked with or have patients currently in.

Call and Ask Questions

After you have a list of nursing homes that meet your basic criteria, call around and start asking them questions. Ask about how many residents they have currently, what it costs to live there, what insurances they accept, their policies, and anything else you can think of that will help you find the right nursing home.

Furthermore, ask about any waiting lists they might have.

Make Plans to Visit

Make plans to physically visit several nursing homes. Bring along a checklist for what to look at while you are there. Some items to include on your checklist are:

  • Medicare and Medicaid Certification
  • Handicap access
  • Staff members present at the time
  • Interactions between staff and residents
  • How the residents look
  • The smell of the facility – you should not encounter any off-putting smells

Even if you visit the nursing home one day and like it, plan on going back at a completely different time. The more often you visit, the easier it will be to soak up the atmosphere and ensure that the experience is consistent.

Talk with the Staff

While you are visiting, talk to the staff and find out their experience, recommendations, and ask questions you might have about their care or services.

Ask about how long the director has held his or her position, who heads up nursing care, the party that makes the diets and prepares the food, and if they have a social service worker on staff. Ask about physicians that visit or are available 24 hours per day at the facility.

Also, ask about visiting policies, how often and when family members can come, and any social activities they might offer.

Review the Contracts Carefully

When you pick a nursing home, you will sign a contract with that facility. Read the agreement carefully, ask questions about anything you do not understand, or consider hiring an attorney to review the contract for you.

The contract should be in your best interest – not the facilities. Also, review the payment policy and what services your loved one receives in turn for payment.

Ask for Certifications

Any nursing home that accepts funds from the government is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pass an inspection and carry a certification. If the facility does not pass the review, they have no certification. Ask for their current inspection report and certification before you hire that nursing home.

What If You Suspect Abuse?

Whether you use an unlicensed or licensed facility, if you suspect that your loved one’s care is substandard, negligent, or abusive, you must report it right away. Not only should you contact local law enforcement, but you should also submit a complaint to the local Ombudsman program as well.

Then, contact an attorney.

An attorney can help investigate the suspected neglect or abuse and hold that facility accountable for their actions.

If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of abuse, contact the attorneys at Malman Law today by calling 888-625-6265 or requesting more information online.

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