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How does the Nursing Home Care Act work in Illinois?

Health care professionals have a duty to provide an acceptable standard level of care to their patients. Generally, this is understood to mean that health care workers should observe acceptable medical industry practices when treating patients. For example, medical malpractice may have occurred if a nursing home patient is discovered starving or dehydrated due to neglect. This is because providing adequate food and water for patients is considered acceptable medical practices within the nursing home industry.

Here in Illinois, the state legislature actually ratified legislation after becoming concerned about patients receiving inadequate care and being abused in nursing homes throughout the state. Among other things, the Illinois' Nursing Home Care Act sets forth a patient's "bill of rights". Today, nursing home patients in Illinois have a guaranteed right to be free of abuse and neglect by health care workers.

The NHCA gives nursing home residents a private cause of action to sue nursing homes for compensation of their injuries. They also can receive reimbursement for their attorney's fees related to suing nursing homes that violate the terms of the Act. In the more egregious cases of nursing home abuse or neglect, the court may also grant injunctive relief aimed at preventing specific actions or shuttering the entire operation.

Perhaps one of the most important components of the Act is that it also protects residents from retaliatory action if they file a complaint or pursue litigation against a nursing home. Residents cannot be evicted, have medical treatment or care withheld from them or denied outside contact with their representatives simply for lodging a complaint.

The act also specifically holds the owner and licensees of nursing homes liable in situations where their employees or agents have intentionally or negligently injured one of their residents.

If you suspect that a nursing home has engaged in abuse or neglect of your relative or loved one, there are several things you should know. An Illinois attorney with experience in medical malpractice law can assist you by evaluating the circumstances of your case. Depending on that assessment, your attorney may advise you to pursue legal action against the nursing home on behalf of your relative or loved one. If successful, they may be able to recover monetary damages in addition to the costs of any applicable attorney's fees.

Source: State of Illinois-Circuit Court Civil Jury Instructions, "Nursing Home Care Act," accessed April. 24, 2015

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