Long before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, residents of nursing homes in Illinois were already vulnerable, in pain and alone.
Illinois Nursing Homes Ranked 50e in the country for hours of direct nursing care per resident per day and were the second worst in the country for long-term residents receiving inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs, according to a 2018 AARP report.
More than eight in ten voters in Illinois in 2019 said action should be taken to improve the quality of care in nursing homes in Illinois, according to an AARP poll.
Then COVID-19 arrived, dramatically exacerbating the already tragic circumstances for residents of Illinois nursing homes.
Last week, the number of deaths and infections from COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities reached an all-time high, according to figures released by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Alarmingly, over 85% of nursing homes reported having staff. who tested positive for the virus. As those numbers increase, the numbers at these facilities remain woefully low, with more than 30% of nursing homes reporting a shortage of nurses and orderlies, 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 the staffing guidelines, increase transparency of nursing home violations and strengthen safeguards for the use of harmful products. antipsychotic drugs.
With COVID-19 ravaging nursing homes, Illinois lawmakers must finish the job now.
On December 15, lawmakers on the Joint Administrative Rules Committee will be asked to approve rules created by the Illinois Department of Public Health as part of the Nursing Home Care Quality Initiative.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that JCAR lawmakers endorse these rules to ensure nursing home residents the safety and accountability they deserve:
- Require health care officials to obtain written, voluntary, and informed consent from a nursing home resident or surrogate decision-maker before administering a psychotropic drug
- Educate nursing home staff on policies related to resident informed consent policies and procedures
- Provide sufficiently strong remedies for informed consent violations
- Require the Illinois Department of Public Health to verify and enforce compliance with minimum personnel requirements
- Make information on staffing levels and institution-specific infractions available to the public
- Provide sufficiently strong remedies for minimum staffing violations
The decision to adopt these rules on December 15e will have life or death consequences for residents of nursing homes. The lives and well-being of our state’s most vulnerable people are in the hands of our lawmakers, who must act now to begin to control these miserable conditions that have persisted for far too long.
Bob Gallo is the state director of AARP Illinois, which serves over 1.7 million members and all adults over the age of 50 in Illinois.
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