Preventing Visitors or Communication
An important part of the phrase “nursing home” is the “home” component. When a senior or a person with disabilities goes to live in a facility, it becomes their home with all of the meaning attached to that word. That’s why Illinois law says that nursing home residents have a right to have someone knock before entering their rooms, and to have their own clothes and belongings, and to share their room with their spouse — because it is their home and they’re allowed to make it feel like one as much as they are able.
Another important piece of the idea that the facility is a resident’s home is the ability to see or have communication with family, friends, or other people when the resident desires. The ability to see or communicate with loved ones and to socialize with friends can be important to a nursing home resident’s well being. Additionally, the law recognizes that a nursing home resident needs to be allowed access to his or her lawyer, social worker, or other advocate to make sure that his or her affairs are properly managed and to protect his or her rights.
Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, 210 ILCS 45, nursing home residents have the right to:
- Have visitors when desired regardless of posted visiting hours
- Choose their visitors
- Have private visits
- Make and receive telephone calls in private
- Make and receive uncensored written emails or letters
- Privately see or contact their attorney, social worker, or ombudsman during business hours
If the resident is unable to make decisions about visits and/or communication for himself or herself, then a guardian can make that decision on his or her behalf.
In general, visits or communication can only be prohibited or intercepted when the resident’s physician believes that the visits or communications may be harmful to the resident’s physical or mental health. The physician must document that belief in writing. A visitation also may be denied when it would threaten the facility’s safety or be harmful to another resident.
When Visitation or Communication is Denied
Sometimes nursing home staff may refuse to allow a resident to have visitors or to receive communications as a means of punishment, intimidation, or control. Sometimes a facility may be understaffed and have inadequate personnel to screen visitors to ensure the safety of other residents. However, these aren’t valid reasons to deny a resident these basic rights.
When a nursing home denies a resident his or her right to visitation or communication without a medical or safety reason, that may be considered a form of abuse or neglect. The denial can be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health, or the resident or his or her authorized representative can sue the owner or licensee of the facility for any actual damages suffered.
Effects of Being Denied Visits or Communications
Human beings are social creatures. We need the love and companionship of others for the sake of good emotional and mental health. When an elderly or disabled nursing home resident is denied visits or communication with family or friends, he or she may suffer from depression or anxiety, which in turn can affect his or her physical health. Physical effects of depression can include:
- Aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
Loss of appetite can result in malnutrition, while long-term lack of sleep can result in a number of health problems. Research has shown that depression can impair a person’s immune system, making the person more vulnerable to infections — and seniors already tend to experience a greater risk of infections and contagious diseases such as flu or pneumonia. Additional research shows a link between depression and heart disease.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one who resides in a nursing home has been denied visitation or communication and has suffered emotional, mental, or physical effects, you may have a claim for compensation under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. When a nursing home resident’s rights are violated, the law makes the facility’s owner or licensee liable for civil damages, including compensation of medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, loss of normal life, and attorney fees.
If you think you may have a claim, an experienced Chicago elder care lawyer can help you determine your options for pursuing compensation. A lawyer also may be able to help you with other legal proceedings to get your loved one moved to a different nursing home or to ensure that visitation and communications resume. Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today for a free consultation with a Chicago elder care lawyer at (312) 236-2900.