COVID-19 is making the already tragic circumstances for Illinois’ nursing home residents devastatingly worse.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Illinois nursing home residents were already vulnerable, suffering and alone.
Illinois nursing homes ranked 50th in the nation for direct care nursing hours per resident per day and were the second worst in the nation for long-stay residents receiving inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication, according to a 2018 AARP report.
More than eight in 10 voters in Illinois back in 2019 said that action should be taken to increase the quality of care in Illinois nursing homes, according to an AARP survey.
Then COVID-19 arrived, making the already tragic circumstances for Illinois’ nursing home residents devastatingly worse.
Last week, both the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections among residents at long-term care facilities hit a record high, according to numbers released by the Illinois Department of Public Health.Alarmingly, more than 85 percent of nursing homes reported having staff who tested positive for the virus. As these numbers surge, staffing levels at these facilities remain appallingly low, with more than 30 percent of nursing homes reporting a shortage of nurses and aides, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
Last year, Illinois state lawmakers took a crucial step in protecting these vulnerable residents by approving the Nursing Home Quality of Care Initiative, legislation that will make nursing homes safer, enforce staffing guidelines, heighten transparency of nursing home violations and enhance safeguards for use of harmful antipsychotic drugs.
With COVID-19 ravaging nursing homes, Illinois lawmakers must finish the job now.
On Dec. 15, lawmakers in the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will be asked to approve the rules created by the Illinois Department of Public Health as part of the Nursing Home Quality of Care Initiative.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that JCAR legislators approve these rules to ensure nursing home residents the safety and accountability they deserve:
- Require health care officials to obtain written, voluntary, informed consent from a nursing home resident or a surrogate decision maker before administering a psychotropic drug
- Educate nursing home staff on the policies related to residents’ informed consent policies and procedures
- Provide appropriately strong remedies for informed consent violations
- Require the Illinois Department of Public Health to verify and enforce compliance with minimum staffing requirements
- Make information about facility-specific staffing levels and violations available to the public
- Provide appropriately strong remedies for minimum staffing violations
The decision to pass these rules on December 15th will have life-or-death consequences for nursing home residents. The lives and well-being of our state’s most vulnerable people are in the hands of our state legislators,who must act now to start controlling these wretched conditions which have persisted for far too long.
Bob Gallo is the state director of AARP Illinois, which serves more than 1.7 million members and all adults older than 50 across Illinois.
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December 11, 2020 at 01:56PM