It’s true here in the Quad Cities and across the nation – nursing homes are often understaffed, overfilled, and the workers often abuse and/or neglect their residents. One of my goals as a lawyer is to do my part to reduce nursing home abuse and neglect by holding the nursing homes responsible in court.
The State of Illinois is doing its part (or at least something). Governor Quinn appointed a task force to learn what causes substandard care to elderly nursing home residents. The full report is here – but some of my notes are below the fold:
- “Mental health experts unanimously advised the task force that nursing homes are inappropriate places to help recover from mental illness.”
- Notes that nursing homes are “fined minimal amounts compared to their annual revenues and only for the most egregious violations. Consequently, owners can budget fines as a cost of doing business… rather than bring their homes into compliance.” See – there are no teeth to some of these regulations. The solution is to use the tort system to hit them hard when their callousness injures or kills their residents. Eventually nursing homes will get the idea and work to prevent problems rather than be negligent and write it off as a business expense.
- The task force recommends that the Department of Professional Regulation do a better job of disciplining nursing home administrators. Once again, if this is done correctly, maybe there won’t be as many problems.
- Whistleblowing protection! About time! Nurses and staff need to be able to report potential violations and problems without the risk of losing their jobs.
- Increased staffing ratios – absolutely! When nurses and CNAs are forced to care for more patients than they can safely handle, problems arise. If they have less work to do, they can do their work better. Usually this is a case of a nursing home putting profits over patients.
- Staffing tends to be worse in poorer areas and in nursing homes primarily serving African Americans.
I’m glad things are moving in the right direction, but recommendations are not enough – there needs to be bite, not just bark. Here’s to progress.
(Howard Zimmerle is an attorney representing people and their families in cases against nursing homes in Moline, Rock Island and Davenport).