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Illinois Lawmakers Pass Crucial Legislation Protecting Nursing Home Residents from Neglect

Nursing Home
Shot of a senior man visiting his wife in hospital
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Illinois nursing home residents subjected to neglect, infection, unauthorized administration of psychotropic drugs and other horrifying consequences due to inadequate nursing home staffing will now be protected through safeguards outlined by state law, thanks to crucial new legislation.

“No one should suffer unnecessarily in a place where they are supposed to be cared for. Illinois legislators upheld their commitment to serving their constituents by passing safeguards to insist that our vulnerable friends and family members in nursing homes are treated with dignity,” said State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, (D-Chicago), sponsor of the Nursing Home Residents’ Quality of Care Initiative Act.

The legislation, which comes after months of courageous leadership from Sen. Collins and House bill sponsor Rep. Anna Moeller -- as well as the passionate lobbying efforts by a team of AARP Illinois volunteers and coalition partner SEIU -- will improve the quality of nursing home care by:

  • Requiring health care officials to obtain written, voluntary, informed consent from a nursing home resident or a surrogate decision maker before administering a psychotropic drug
  • Educating nursing home staff on the policies related to residents’ informed consent policies and procedures
  • Providing appropriately strong remedies for informed consent violations
  • Requiring the Illinois Department of Public Health to verify and enforce compliance with minimum staffing requirements
  • Making information about facility-specific staffing levels and violations available to the public; and
  • Providing appropriately strong remedies for minimum staffing violations

“All along, we have argued that protecting our most vulnerable residents from neglect in nursing homes should not be something legislators hesitate to do,” Moeller said. “It’s heartening to see that my colleagues in the House and Senate wholeheartedly agreed and showed all of our constituents that we are looking out for them, even when they are too weak or sick to advocate for themselves.”

AARP Illinois, a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing 1.7 million older adults in Illinois, celebrated the passage of the Illinois Nursing Home Quality of Care Initiative as an important measure that will change heartbreaking circumstances for many people 50+ and their families.

For months, a team of nearly a dozen AARP Illinois volunteers worked tirelessly to review records showing nursing home violations documented by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The volunteers – many of whom have personal experiences seeing a friend or loved one neglected while in a nursing home – sorted the violations by legislative district and, sometimes, hand-delivered them to politicians in hopes of urging them to take action.

“We commend Sen. Collins, Rep. Moeller and AARP Illinois volunteers for protecting those unable to stand up for themselves,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director.

“We will keep standing up for those 50+ and their families to make sure they able to age comfortably and safely, whether it’s in their own homes or in a place where they trust others for care.”

The Nursing Home Quality of Care Initiative, formerly SB 1510, was housed in the Budget Implementation bill passed by Illinois lawmakers over the weekend.

Collins, Moeller and AARP worked together to introduce legislation after a Chicago Tribune/Kaiser Health News investigation documented tragic circumstances experienced by nursing home residents as a result of staffing shortages.

In 2015, 39% of nursing homes in Illinois received a low quality rating from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. Over eight in ten (84%) voters in Illinois say that action should be taken in 2019 to increase the quality of care in Illinois nursing homes, according to an AARP survey.

Illinois nursing homes rank 50th in the nation for direct care nursing hours per resident per day and are 2nd worst in the nation for long-stay residents receiving inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication, according to an AARP report.

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities.

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