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Monika Wnuk, Associate State Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 1, 2021
Nursing Homes Now Required to Offer Virtual Visitation Option for Residents
AARP Illinois commends Illinois lawmakers for passage of SB 2137
Springfield – Residents in nursing homes across the state who have not been able to connect with their loved ones or join religious events during the COVID-19 pandemic must now be given a virtual visitation option after new legislation passed Saturday.
SB 2137, sponsored by Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16) and Rep. Anna Moeller (D-43) passed both chambers unanimously, and will now head to the Governor to be signed into law.
“Our state’s most vulnerable residents in nursing homes have suffered the worst during this pandemic, with over 77,000 COVID-19 positive cases and more than 10,300 deaths,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. “On behalf of our 1.7 million members, we commend Illinois lawmakers – especially the leadership of Sen. Collins and Rep. Moeller – for insisting on this simple, humane source of comfort for nursing home residents at a time when they feel most alone.”
SB 2137 will connect nursing home residents virtually with family members, loved ones, and to religious or recreational activities when in-person visits are prohibited or restricted due to federal or state rule or guidance.
“I am elated at the passing of SB 2137 because it is a necessary step to protect nursing home residents from social isolation and to reunite them with their loved ones,” Collins said. “I commend my colleagues in both chambers for recognizing the importance of such a measure, and I promise to continue to advocate for resources and assistance on the behalf of older adults in Illinois.”
“We are so glad that nursing home residents now have the ability to connect with their loved ones during these continued challenging times through virtual visitations,” Moeller said. “SB 2137 will give long-term care facilities the resources they need to make time for virtual visitations and allocate resources to making virtual visitations a reality for their residents.”
The proposed bill comes in the wake of 2020 research that shows that the harsh consequences of isolation and loneliness on a resident’s quality of life are alarming: 50 % increased risk of developing dementia, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a nearly fourfold increased risk of death among heart failure patients.
Under SB 2137:
- Virtual visitation will be considered in addition to existing in-person visitation policies.
- Technology and assistive equipment may be funded through federal Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) Funds and/or other state and federal resources.
- Cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and the development of a resident's individualized visitation schedule will be included in a facility’s virtual visitation policy.
- Facilities will be permitted to train volunteers and staff to assist residents in virtual visitation.
- A resident’s right or use of personal devices will not change.
- Penalties for nursing homes not in compliance will go into effect in 2023; one year after the stated distribution of CMP funds in Illinois.
- IL Department of Public Health will adopt social isolation prevention policies within 60 days after effective date of the Act; rules will take into account a facility’s barriers to connectivity and Internet bandwidth limitations.