Every year, thousands of cases of nursing home abuse are reported across the country, including Illinois. Nursing home abuse often goes undetected and unreported. In spite of this evidence, a bill proposed by an Illinois lawmaker would make it more difficult for people to anonymously report suspected elder abuse.
Some of the most common nursing home abuses included dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bedsores, inadequate sanitation, and inadequate medical care. This can lead to serious harm for elderly residents, including death. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, “The elderly may be reluctant to report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they do not want to get the abuser in trouble.”
Nursing home staff who witness abuse may also be wary of reporting abuse for fear of retaliation. Anonymous abuse reporting allows residents, employees, and family members to report suspected abuse without fear that they or their loved one will suffer.
Representative Mike Unes, of East Peoria, has sponsored a bill supported by nursing home lobbying groups. House Bill 5601 would prohibit anonymous complaints of nursing home abuse. Individuals who wanted to report abuse would have to leave their contact information. Without providing their contact information, the complaints would not be accepted and the claims would not be investigated. They would also be warned that filing a false report could report in criminal sanctions.
Wendy Meltzer, with Illinois Citizens for Better Care, says the bill is supported by the nursing home industry to reduce nursing home abuse complaints, not to improve reporting. The bill doesn't take into account the vulnerability of nursing home staff, residents, and family members. “They want people not to file complaints,” said Meltzer.
Gerardo Cardenas, a spokesperson with AARP Illinois has spoken out against the bill, saying it puts residents at risk. "What difference does it make who made the complaint?,” said Cardenas. “They need to investigate the facts of the claim. If you make an anonymous complaint to the police they still have to investigate what's going on."
State data shows that in 2015, 1 out of every 5 reports of abuse were made anonymously. This amounts to over 1,100 nursing home abuse cases in 2015 alone. Anonymous complaints were found to be substantiated in roughly the same number as non-anonymous complaints.
The Illinois Department on Aging, Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, Alzheimer's Association, and other elder care advocacy groups all oppose the bill.
According to a government report, elder abuse is reported in 1 out of every 3 nursing homes. The Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee found that over 30% of nursing homes were cited for abuse over a 2-year period, totaling almost 9,000 incidents of abuse. This includes verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
Nursing home abuse is serious, and any suspected abuse should be investigated fully. If you suspect a family member in a nursing home is being subjected to abuse or has been injured due to nursing home negligence, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois nursing home negligence law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve and equal treatment under the law.