In fact, nursing home residents enjoy many specific rights under Illinois and federal law, and it is up to family members and attorneys to defend them.
Among the rights of nursing home residents is the right to live comfortably and free from restraint. Hard as it may be to believe, though, unreasonable and unlawful restraints are among the more common forms of nursing home abuse in Illinois.
Unreasonable restraint happens for a number of reasons — sometimes out of genuine confusion about medical necessity and, on other occasions, as an act cruelty or an abuse of power. Whatever the reason, unjustified restraint is a violation of the resident’s rights and may even constitute battery or false imprisonment under the law.
There are, however, some specific circumstances under which nursing homes are permitted to restrain their residents. These circumstances are extremely limited and the measure of restraint should be reasonable, careful, and minimal.
Before we begin distinguishing reasonable restraint from unreasonable restraint, it might be helpful to understand what we mean by “restraint” to begin with.
Restraints may be physical or chemical in nature. Threats, harassment, or intimidation may also constitute a restraint.
There are many kinds of unreasonable restraints. Common examples include:
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Residents of facilities that participate in the Medicare program enjoy the following federal rights:
Most of these rights also apply under state law, even for nursing homes that do not participate in the Medicare program.
Yes, you can, because human rights don’t need contractual support. If you were hit by a car, for example, you wouldn’t have to prove that you had a contract with the driver not to hit you in order to win a lawsuit against him or her – you could sue under general tort law principles, just as you can in cases of abuse and neglect in a nursing facility.
The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act defines the rights under state law that your loved one enjoys with or without a contractual arrangement with the nursing home. Federal regulations also apply if the institution participates in the Medicare program. Proving that the facility violated an applicable regulation will go a long way toward establishing their liability for compensatory damages. In cases of outrageous conduct, you might even be able to collect punitive damages against the nursing home. Of course, if there is a contract, a contract claim could be added to other claims arising from the abuse or neglect.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is the state agency responsible for enforcing the law in favor of the more than 100,000 nursing home residents residing in over 1,200 facilities in Illinois. The IDPH licenses these facilities, conducts inspections at least annually, and cooperates with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for eligibility to participate in federal payment reimbursement programs.
The IDPH maintains a Nursing Home Hotline (800-252-4343) for complaints. Upon receiving a complaint of abuse or neglect, the IDPH’s Bureau of Long Term Care may launch an investigation. Although it does not participate in lawsuits, it can sanction or even close down homes that violate the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act or federal regulations. The results of its investigation can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit against a home or an employee.
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