Nursing Homes in Illinois: The Next Steps

Hello, readers. This is Gerardo with AARP Illinois’ Communications team.

It was less than two years ago that advocates, legislators and state government got together to craft legislation that has significantly improved care and safety conditions for thousands of nursing home residents in Illinois. AARP was at the center of the reform along with SEIU, Illinois Citizens for Better Care, The Jane Addams Senior Caucus, and the Community Renewal Society.  State Senators Heather Steans and Jacqueline Collins, and State Reps. Barbara Flynn-Currie and Sara Feigenholtz championed the legislation in the General Assembly, and Gov. Quinn signed it into law on July 29, 2010.

The law was necessary to correct intolerable conditions for nursing home residents that had been reported by several media outlets, especially the Chicago Reporter and the Chicago Tribune and highlighted by national reports. The new law enhanced staffing ratios so that residents received adequate staff time, established penalties for underperforming institutions, and improved screening processes.

The law was a significant first step to correct serious issues and protect residents from unsafe conditions and substandard care.

But it was exactly that – a first step. Further steps are needed so that residents can age with dignity and safety while receiving the quality of care they need.

That’s why AARP is working again with its advocacy partners and the General Assembly to craft a second round of reforms aimed at strengthening the law.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-14) will be the chief sponsor of a  bill requiring that all resident deaths be immediately reported to the state even if the death does not happen inside a facility; cases of abuse and neglect would also be immediately reported to the state and the resident’s next of kin; all facilities must maintain insurance against risks from neglect of a resident; facilities must cooperate with the State Police to train staff on abuse prevention; and facilities must comply with enhanced training requirements for staff, including an increase in minimum age and education requirements for nurses.

Additionally, the bill would require that the same nurses are assigned to the same residents to the extent possible, except in those cases where nurses request reassignment.

Keep checking back as we will be providing updates on this critical piece of legislation.

Quick tip: If you have concerns about a certain nursing home facility, click on this link to access contact information for Illinois’ Long Term Care Ombudsman.