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What duty of care do Illinois nursing homes owe their patients?

Posted On April 18, 2015

Anyone who has placed a loved one in an Illinois nursing home or continuing care facility can attest that it is a tremendously difficult decision to make. What makes it easier for many people is relying on the notion that nursing homes are safe, loving residences with high standards of care and proper safety measures in place. Many continuing care facilities are indeed harmless, comfortable places. However, several notable events in recent years have a Chicago nursing home abuse attorney fielding questions as to what duty of care Illinois nursing homes owe their residents.

Judgment error or criminal negligence?

Intense media coverage of an unthinkable tragedy at St. Rita’s Nursing Home in Louisiana led many to call into question what is expected from today’s continuing care centers. According to NBC News, the owners of the establishment failed to heed mandatory evacuation orders given during Hurricane Katrina, instead choosing to wait out the storm. When flood waters engulfed the home, 35 residents drowned, raising questions as to whether the deaths occurred because of a lapse in judgment or a breach of the standard of care.

The standard of care

According to the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, state nursing homes are legally responsible for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their residents. This is referred to as a standard of care and includes the following requirements:

  • Following patients’ medical orders as to diet, prescription administration and therapy
  • Providing emergency medical care immediately
  • Preventing unnecessary injuries by installing safety rails, removing loose rugs or carpets, and putting in ramps
  • Providing regular meals that provide nutrition to patients
  • Making sure patients’ personal hygiene is regularly attended to
  • Using restraints only when a doctor orders them and there is sufficient supporting documentation showing why they are needed

A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney knows that facilities are also required to develop evacuation orders and related safety plans to be implemented in the event of inclement weather, national defense emergencies or other resident health hazards.

A duty to protect patients

While situations like the St. Rita’s incident are rare, questions about exactly what does and does not constitute a breach in the standard of care are not. Today’s continuing care facilities have a unique set of variables that make these decisions especially difficult. A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney knows that because many nursing home patients are in diminished physical or mental health, the duty of care varies from one to the next. It is for this reason that nursing home duty of care issues will likely remain controversial for the foreseeable future.

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