If you believe that a nursing home has violated your rights or violated the terms of your contract, you may take the following actions. You do not have to do them in order and you may take more than one action for the same issue:
- File a grievance
- File a complaint with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
- File a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health
- File a private lawsuit
A resident may file a grievance or complaint to the nursing home administrator, the nursing home’s residents' advisory council, or the Long-term Care Advisory Board. The facility may not retaliate for your filing complaints. The resident’s advisory council may also present complaints on behalf of a resident to the Illinois department of Public Health or to any other person it thinks is appropriate.
2. Long-term care ombudsman
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is operated by the Illinois Department on Aging. Ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents. They provide information to residents regarding, rights, options, supports and available services. Ombudsmen also have a duty to investigate and resolve complaints in order to improve their client’s quality of life and quality of care.
Ombudsmen work with nursing homes to resolve the residents’ problems. They also provide residents with alternatives if the matter is not resolved. Regardless of who made the complaint, the ombudsman is required to follow the resident’s wishes. You can find the contact information for the ombudsman who works in your county by:
- Visiting the Illinois Department on Aging's website
- Calling the Illinois Department on Aging, Senior Helpline at (800) 252-8966
- Writing to the Illinois Department on Aging at 421 E. Capital Ave., Springfield, IL 62701
3. Illinois Department of Public Health
Anyone may file a complaint with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) if they believe that a nursing home is abusing, neglecting or exploiting a resident or is otherwise violating the Nursing Home Care Act.
Complaints may be sent to IDPH by phone, mail or fax. If you are calling in the report have all the following facts available:
- Who is the resident? Who are the employees involved?
- What happened to the resident?
- When did this incident occur?
- Where is the facility located (name and city)? Where in the facility did the incident occur (room number, unit, or department)?
- How was the patient harmed? How could the patient have been potentially harmed?
Mail or fax the complaint to:
Illinois Dept. of Public Health
Attn: Central Complaint Registry
535 W. Jefferson St.
Springfield, IL 62761
Fax: (217) 524-8885
To file a complaint by phone contact the IDPH Central Complaint Registry at (800) 252-4343 or TTY for the hearing impaired at (800) 547-0466, Monday-Friday 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
Illinois Department of Public Health investigation
Upon receiving your complaint, IDPH will conduct an investigation. IDPH must investigate abuse and neglect complaints alleging that a resident's life or safety is in imminent danger within 24 hours after receipt. All other abuse and neglect investigations must be completed within 7 days. Investigations concerning non-abuse and neglect allegations are to be completed within 30 days. If the investigation determines that the facility is in violation of the Nursing Home Care Act, IDPH will send a notice of the violation to the facility.
IDPH will not require you to give your name when you file a complaint. But if you do not give your name, IDPH will be unable to notify you of the outcome of their investigation. IDPH will not reveal your identity without your permission. If IDPH determines that disclosure of your identity is essential to the investigation or a judicial proceeding, you will be given the opportunity to withdraw the complaint.
The facility cannot retaliate against you because you make a complaint or provide information in connection with an IDPH investigation.
Upon completing the investigation, IDPH will notify you and the facility of the results of their investigation. If IDPH decides that the facility has violated the Nursing Home Care Act, it can impose fines and other penalties on the facility or in extreme cases, revoke the facility's license.
You may appeal the determination
If IDPH determines that the facility did not violate the Nursing Home Act, you are entitled to file an appeal. You must make the appeal in writing and file it with IDPH within 30 days of the notice of the investigation findings.
IDPH will hold a hearing to determine whether the investigation was adequate and whether it resulted in a correct determination. You are entitled to appear and testify at the hearing and have an attorney represent you. The hearing officer can require other people to appear and testify or provide evidence. Following the hearing, the Director of IDPH will mail a send you a written decision.
If the IDPH hearing officer rules against you, you are entitled to file a complaint in the circuit court of the county in which you reside. You must file the complaint within 15 days of the IDPH written decision. A judge will decide whether the hearing officer properly considered the facts and applied the law. The judge can uphold or reverse IDPH’s decision or send the case back to IDPH to provide more information or take a particular action.
4. Filing a private lawsuit
You are entitled to file a lawsuit against a nursing home if its agents or employees violate your rights or if they injure you, either negligently or intentionally. You may also bring an action if they violate the terms of your contract.
If you file a lawsuit and the judge or jury decides that the facility violated your rights, the judge can require the nursing home to pay you compensation for three times your losses or $500 whichever is greater, and pay your court costs and attorney's fees. The judge also can enter an injunction, which is a court order requiring the nursing home to stop doing something such as violating your rights.
The amount of damages recoverable are exempt from consideration when the state determines your eligibility for medical assistance (Medicaid) and they are not to be used toward the payment of medical care or services received under Medicaid.
The facility cannot transfer, discharge, evict, harass, or retaliate against you for filing a lawsuit or for providing testimony in connection with a lawsuit filed by someone else.
More legal resources
There are local legal assistance providers who provide free legal services to Illinoisans 60 years of age or older. They advocate for and represent older clients in civil cases. Some of the types of cases they may assist with include nursing home residents’ rights and conflicts with benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social security and pensions. To find the legal assistance program for your county:
- Call the Illinois Department on Aging, Senior Helpline at (800) 252-8966
- Or look on the Illinois Department on Aging website.
Nursing home residents who are not over the age of 60 and reside in a nursing home because of a disability may request assistance from:
Equip for Equality, Inc.
20 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60602
(800) 537-2632 (Voice)
(800) 610-2779 (TTY)