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Is Nursing Home Reform on the Horizon?

Posted On October 22, 2021

Illinois lawmakers are advocating for nursing home reforms that protect residents, increase wages for staff, and allow residents to see loved ones.

Nursing Home Reforms

Illinois nursing homes have a long track record with inadequate care and safety. Facilities in Illinois currently rank 13th in the nation for safety violations and penalties related to substandard care, poorly trained caretakers, inadequate staff, unsanitary conditions, and cases of abuse and neglect. In June 2020, Illinois facilities accounted for 53% of nursing home deaths related to COVID-19. By October 2020, 5,000 Illinois nursing home residents were dead.

In the last decade, Chicago nursing home lawyers have witnessed a high rate of lawsuits against Illinois facilities for violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Established in 1979, this act outlines mandatory requirements for all state nursing homes. It protects the rights of nursing home residents, especially those who are vulnerable to physical or emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

Over the past 18 months, Illinois lawmakers have worked to implement nursing home reforms that address current problems. Several reforms are at the top of the list:

Improving Resident Care

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act mandates proper medical care for all residents. It also states that nursing home residents have the right to choose their own personal physician, and the right to accept or refuse medical treatments, including surgical and experimental procedures, physical or chemical restraints, and prescription medications. However, nursing home lawyers commonly see injuries caused by improper medical procedures, physical restraints, and high doses of prescription drugs.

Increasing Staff Wages

The majority of nursing home caregivers responsible for resident care are paid at minimum wage and living at a poverty level, yet they are expected to work long hours and take care of dozens of ill residents during each shift. The Health Care Council of Illinois argues that higher staff wages would result in more qualified and better-trained workers. Higher wages would also help to eliminate under-staffing, a serious problem in many facilities.

Allowing In-Person Visits

State representatives like Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) are pushing for in-person visits with family members and loved ones. Due to the pandemic, most nursing homes only allow phone or virtual visits through Zoom or Skype. There are concerns by medical professionals that elderly residents with serious health conditions experience faster health declines when they can’t touch or talk to their loved ones in person.

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