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Legislation Aims to Reform Nursing Homes in Illinois

Thursday, March 11, 2010 General News J E 4
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AARP, Groups Urge General Assembly to Pass Measure, Protect Frail Nursing Home Residents

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., March 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In one newspaper story after another, a grave issue came under the spotlight: thousands of frail seniors live in inappropriate conditions at dozens of Illinois nursing homes - sharing living quarters with dangerous individuals, suffering abuse or neglect, and even receiving the wrong medications for their ailments.

In order to put a stop to abuses, and make sure older Illinoisans who live in institutional settings get the care and safety they need, a group of legislators and advocacy organizations convened by AARP came together today in Springfield to announce landmark legislation that will reform the way in which nursing homes operate in Illinois.

The legislation - Senate Bill 685 - is sponsored by Senators Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), and is supported by AARP Illinois, The Community Renewal Society, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Illinois Citizens for Better Care, the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, AFSCME, Illinois Association of Long Term Care Ombudsman, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Age Options, Next Steps, Supportive Housing Providers Association, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living and Health and Disability Advocates.

"National and state research show us consistently that older adults prefer to age independently in their own homes, but if they must consider institutional arrangements then the state needs to make sure they live in a safe environment," said Nancy Nelson, AARP Illinois Senior Manager for Advocacy. "AARP commends Senators Steans and Collins for introducing legislation that will ensure older Illinoisans get the care they need and deserve, in a safe atmosphere, and we urge the Legislature to pass this bill."

"We have the right group of people demanding quality care and patient choices for all of our senior and mentally ill residents as we craft nursing home reform in Springfield this session," Senator Steans said.

"Nursing home residents in Illinois have been victims of a systematic failure in which operators are allowed to pay minimal fines rather than provide minimal standards of care," Senator Collins said. "It's time to change how we address nursing home abuse, neglect and inequities in Illinois and rewrite the policies that allow patterns of inadequate care to continue."

"Lawmakers need to fix staffing and training deficiencies permitted under current law so that residents get the quality care they deserve," said Crystal Lopez, a CNA at Camelot Terrace in Streator.

Newspaper stories - starting with 2009 series from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reporter - shone a light on unacceptable conditions in which thousands of seniors live in nursing homes across the state.

The stories documented how residents have to live with dangerous individuals; have been physically, mentally, and even sexually abused by other residents; and are often given the wrong diagnosis or wrong medications - even dangerous anti-psychotic drugs - for their treatments.

In many of the nursing homes documented in the series of articles, the problems were further compounded by severe cuts in personnel, reducing the number of inspectors available to look after sanitary and care conditions; and reducing the number of ombudsmen available to advocate for residents.

SB 685 aims to address these problems, and reform the way in which nursing homes operate, by, among other things:

AARP has also set up a Nursing Homes Legislation Hotline, so citizens can contact their state legislators and urge them to support SB 685. The hotline is 1-888-616-3322.

-- Improving the quality of care for nursing home residents; -- Creating meaningful regulations for Illinois nursing homes, including disincentives and penalties for institutions providing inadequate care; -- Providing requirements and regulations that promote resident safety, and provide seniors with a protected environment; -- Improving the quality of care for nursing home residents through provisions like higher staff to patient ratios and enhanced training for the staff that provide direct care; -- Offering less restrictive alternatives to individuals who do not need nursing home care.

SOURCE AARP Illinois
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