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Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:08 am

A push to enforce nursing home staffing laws


When Springfield resident Jerry Rabbe learned his mother had Alzheimer’s disease, he began to search for facilities to treat her condition.

Rabbe took his mother to the Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman. However, Rabbe’s mother, Mary, would reside in three other nursing homes in less than two years.

Mary resided in the Villas for about seven months before Rabbe was given a 30-day notice that she would be discharged.

“They really took care of my mom,” Rabbe said. “She was trying to climb the fence, so they said, ‘We can’t have this.’ They gave the notice, but we never made it that far.”

The Villas facility takes in Alzheimer’s patients under their skilled nursing care, a 24-hour unit.

Sharon Reynolds, administrator of the Villas’ skilled nursing care, said nearly half of their patients are long-term care.

“We can handle for the most part anything other than maybe a wandering patient…something that needs more intense care,” Reynolds said.

After the Villas, Mary lived in Mill Creek Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Springfield for six months.

“The people in this facility are really sick,” Rabbe said. “I didn’t feel my mother was sick enough to be there, but I had no option because she was trying to escape.”

Rabbe said he felt Mill Creek was understaffed.

“I wasn’t really paying attention to that until after...my mother had all these incidents in there,” he said.

Mary was taken to the emergency room on two consecutive days after losing her equilibrium at the facility. Rabbe was told they could no longer have Mary because she was a “risk of a fall hazard,” and the facility was not one-on-one.  

One-third of long-term care skilled facilities in the state are understaffed, preventing them from performing proper care, according to a press release.

As of January 2014, the Illinois Nursing Home Safety Act requires nursing homes to provide a minimum of 3.8 hours of direct care staffing for every skilled care resident. Penalties for noncompliance vary.

Out of 360 nursing homes that self-reported being understaffed, 18 were cited for violations by the Department of Public Health. Of those 18, only three of them received financial penalties, totaling $3,300.

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and Rep. Emanuel Welch, D-Hillside, introduced legislation that would enforce penalties for facilities that fail to comply with staff-patient ratios and improper patient discharge.

The new legislation proposes financial penalties twice the amount of the total calculated wages, benefits for the missing staff hours and a $250 fine per day for noncompliance with the law.

Tabetha Oster, who has been an LPN for 25 years, said it is not uncommon for CNAs to care for 15 or more residents, while LPNs sometimes care for 30 or more.

However, funding is an obstacle for some facilities.

Reynolds, administrator of the Villas, said the state is behind five months in payments to the facility.

David Mabry, administrator at Oak Terrace Health Care Center, said the facility has not received proper state funding, although the facility complies with state law.

“We’re in the waiting line just like everybody else,” he said.

The third facility where Mary resided was Lincoln Christian Village in Lincoln. The next night, she was taken to Lincoln Memorial Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

“They didn’t want to admit her because there was really nothing wrong with her, so they sent her back,” said Rabbe, Mary’s son.

Rabbe paid about $6,000 to admit Mary to Lincoln Christian Village, and about $2,000 in ambulance bills.  He said his mother was later admitted to St. John’s Hospital for 10 days.

Two days later, when Mary returned to Mill Creek, some staff took good care of her, Rabbe said.

“The ten percenters I call it. There is always those one or two people that know their stuff and are actually that loving, caring person you want taking care of your people,” he said.

In 2015, Mary passed away at Oak Terrace Health Care Center in Springfield, where she lived for about seven months.

Rabbe said overall, he feels the facilities tried their best to help Mary.

“People are trying the best they can but they need to try harder,” he said.  

Contact Debby Hernandez at editintern@illinoistimes.com.


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