— By Kelly Soderlund In a boost for family caregivers who work outside the home, a new state law allows employees to use their existing sick leave benefits to care for their loved ones. The Eligible Leave for Employee Caregiving Time (ELECT) law went into effect in January and applies to both paid and unpaid personal sick leave. It allows workers to use a portion of their annually available personal sick leave for family caregiving responsibilities. That could help some of …

— State lawmakers recently passed the Employee Sick Leave Act, which allows family caregivers to use up to half of their sick leave benefits at work to take time off for a family member’s illness, injury or medical appointments. AARP Illinois was the leading advocate for the new law, which will take effect Jan. 1. More than 1.5 million Illinoisans are family caregivers, and many struggle to balance their paid work with the responsibilities of caring for a sick parent, spouse, …

— Both chambers of the General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow workers who are also family caregivers to use up to six months of accrued sick leave annually to care for their loved ones. AARP Illinois supports the bill and is urging Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) to sign it into law. About 1.6 million Illinoisans are family caregivers, and about 60 percent of caregivers nationwide also work outside the home. Among Illinois workers, 56 percent have some paid …

— By Lisa Bertagnoli Three times in her life, Chris Damon has served as a caregiver to loved ones. “I know what a challenge it is,” said Damon, 66, executive director of CareSmart Illinois, a Wadsworth-based nonprofit that provides support to older adults, adults with physical and cognitive challenges, and their caregivers. “With so many caregivers, their parents are discharged, and they don’t know what to do,” Damon said. “They’ve never been involved, and many hospitals haven’t wanted to involve family …

— By Jackie Spinner Illinois has two new laws that will help the most vulnerable older residents in the state: people at risk of wandering off and those living in nursing facilities. A law that went into effect in January allows surveillance cameras to be installed in the rooms of long-term care facilities’ residents, making Illinois only the fifth state in the country to offer seniors and disabled adults this added protection against neglect and abuse. “This was a groundbreaking law,” …

— In addition to a string of laws and amendments going into effect at the start of the New Year, the SNAP gross income limit in Illinois increased from 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty level. This means an estimated 40,000 low-income working families will be eligible for SNAP benefits. SNAP is a federal program that combats food insecurity and poverty, allowing participants to spend money on nutritionally valued food that they wouldn’t have the chance to purchase …

— An estimated 2 million people 65 and older will live in Chicago, Cook County and six surrounding counties by 2030. The Lifetime Livable Communities Collaborative, a group of Chicago-area nonprofit organizations convened by AARP Illinois, aims to steer public policy to address the needs of this growing segment of the population. AARP, the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Union League Club of Chicago are hosting a summit Oct. 5 to draw attention to the needs of older residents when planning …

— By Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur What if all homes could be suitable for anyone, regardless of a person’s age or physical ability? What if a person who wants to live independently, regardless of his or her age or physical ability, could do just that? The new AARP HomeFit Guide features lots of ways to make your home comfortable, safe and a great fit for people of all ages. Here are 10 simple solutions to get you started: 1. Clear exterior pathways of …

— Communities throughout Illinois and the United States aren’t prepared for an aging society, a challenge communities will face as the U.S. population ages, which is why AARP developed the Livability Index Tool to allow users the ability to determine the livability of their neighborhood and community. AARP defines livability within a community as a safe and secure location that has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and has supportive community features and services, which allows for residents to age in …

— By Nicole Duritz Forty two million Americans provide support to older parents, spouses and other loved ones. If you’re caring for a loved one, you may not think of yourself this way, but you are likely a family caregiver. Maybe you took on the role suddenly, or perhaps the responsibility evolved over time. While each family situation is unique, you can learn a lot from those who have been on this path before you. Here’s some advice from AARP and …