Updated: Jul 17, 2021
One of the tools we have at hand as consumers is the ability to file a complaint about the care received at both assisted living and nursing facilities. Although severely flawed, there is a process in place. The Illinois Department of Health is extremely short-staffed, as several articles and news stories have stated, and, as I have discussed in previous blogs, this is just one part of the story. Due to the short-staffing issues, most complaints are not looked at quickly enough and often take several months to even get a first glance. Finding someone to go out and investigate also takes far too much time.
When someone files a complaint with the state it is usually due to a variety of safety issues, neglect, or other poor care a loved one has received at a senior living facility. How can the issue get investigated 3-4 months after it has happened when the facility certainly does not want anyone to know about the poor care that may have been given? There is way too much time to make adjustments, forget incidents, and for employees to leave the company. If complaints can't be investigated in a much tighter time frame, more seniors are going to suffer from serious mental and physical neglect. A complaint I made in December 2020 was just investigated for the first time around June 2. This is well after the Illinois required 7 days. The complaint provided a thorough time line of serious neglect with over 50 falls. Photos as well as the availability (if needed) of emails, video and more were indicated. After speaking with someone from the department via phone I was told there were probably some violations but most would be too hard to prove and that usually this is what happens. "There is really nothing that can be done unless a person dies or is severely injured". So even though a women fell over 50 times and nothing was done to change the risk and the facility admitted a resident with far too many daily living needs (which is in violation of an Illinois statute) there is really nothing they can do. The letter from the IDPH specifically says “the allegations for the above referenced complaint could not be substantiated, in that evidence of non-compliance with the applicable regulations was not identified at the time of the investigation" The IDPH is basically saying that when they went to investigate there was no evidence of non-compliance. How in the world would they be able to determine that? Did they just ask people if the allegations were accurate? I spoke to the someone who was not very helpful and basically said there was no evidence and nothing was found. I asked her to explain how the process was done and she indicated they followed the Illinois laws for investigation. I explained I had all of the email documentation and all her medical records. She asked me why I didn't send them with the complaint. I explained how many there were and it did not ask for those items to be sent with the complaint. I also explained that I told the case manager on the phone I had emails and documentation for everything that occurred while we were there. The division chief told me that there were no notes about that and it would be a he said she said situation. I explained I have them and can have them all sent to the state if they would like. She told me the case was closed and that they do not allow appeals. I explained that I know she should not have been admitted there if they could not care for her daily needs and they took her anyway and told me they could. She said and I quote," why did you let that happen?" She told me it was my fault that a facility admitted my mom showing they could care for her when they obviously could not and should not have according to one of the Illinois statutes.
The flaws in the system need to be corrected and there needs to be more accountability at the state level. If filing a complaint results in someone being told that they are at fault and should not have allowed their parent to be in the facility in the first place then something is wrong with the system that is supposed to protect them. If you have had issues with the IDPH regarding a senior facility complaint please contact me at email@example.com.