Should a Nursing Home Resident be moved when a Complaint is made or a Claim is initiated?

Let’s face it—from complaining about the food or staff in restaurants, to the persons that provide services in our homes—whenever you criticize something or someone, there is always a possible risk of some form of retaliation. In most circumstances, any retaliatory action taken is relatively minor (mishandled food, slow service, sloppy or unfinished repair-work etc.). For the residents of nursing homes, though, the consequences of making a complaint, whether formal or informal, can be significant. As nursing home abuse and negligence lawyers, we are commonly asked whether the resident should consider changing facilities if they have, or intend to, report a complaint, file a grievance and/or initiate a claim.

While we would like to provide a blanket response, the decision to transfer facilities is a personal one, and should be considered based upon the specific circumstances involved. More times than not, though, we do find that transferring the resident is typically best to ensure their safety once a matter reaches a level in which it is necessary file a formal complaint with the state, and especially when the resident has already been harmed and/or intends to pursue a claim to recover damages.

Generally speaking, transfer is not necessary with casual or informal complaints made to a facility administrator, supervisor or staff member that do NOT involve harm, injury, or the safety of a resident. However, keep in mind that what might appear to be a relatively minor issue, might actually be indicative of a much larger problem. Trust your instincts—if you have genuine concerns over a resident’s safety and well-being, you may want to consider whether it might be in their best interest to move to another facility. Keep in mind that a nursing home is legally obligated to honor a resident’s request to be discharged or transferred.

In some cases, the resident may not want to move, but a loved one may feel it is necessary to ensure their well-being. In situations like this, it is important to first consider whether your loved one has the mental capacity to make decisions on their own behalf. You should also consider whether a staff member or other facility employee might be intimidating, harassing, or even threatening the resident for the purpose of getting the aggrieved to withdraw allegations or retract statements previously made in a complaint, report, or claim. The law protects a resident’s right to express any grievances they might have without the fear of being retaliated against.

A nursing home may even attempt to discharge or transfer a resident against their wishes, and in violation of their rights under state and federal law. Pursuant to Illinois’ Nursing Home Care Act, there are only four circumstances in which a facility may involuntarily transfer or discharge a resident:

  • Medical reasons (home unable to provide medical care resident needs)
  • To ensure the resident’s physical safety
  • To ensure the physical safety of other residents, staff or visitors
  • Late payment or nonpayment (with certain exceptions AND facility must follow procedural requirements)

The facility must also provide the resident with written notice of an involuntarily transfer or discharge within 21 days prior to the proposed move. The notice must explain the specific reason(s) for the transfer or discharge, as well as advise the resident that they can contest to the move by filing a written appeal with the IDPH within 10 days from receiving a notice of transfer or discharge.

If you have questions or concerns over the involuntary or voluntary discharge and/or transfer of resident that lives a long-term care facility located in Illinois, we encourage you to contact the Chicago Nursing Home Abuse & Negligence Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., at 773-516-4100, to discuss your rights and options.