Time is running out to improve nursing care for Illinois seniors

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The central Illinois man with a developmental disability who died of social isolation because his family could not visit him in person or virtually because of overly restrictive nursing home rules during the pandemic.

The old man in a Chicago northwest suburban nursing home who fell out of bed and fell to the floor, lay there for hours just because there weren’t enough staff to notice that he needed help.

The Chicago nursing home worker worked hard for years, earning little more than minimum wage with up to 30 residents tending to at the same time.

It is the heartbreaking stories of neglect, abuse and preventable infection death in Illinois nursing homes that we are fighting to end. Time is running out for this legislative session to act.

Our Illinois House Mental Health Social Services and Addictions Committees have conducted a series of hearings on the quality of long-term care in Illinois, and as evidenced by these stories and more, we have so much work to do.

Underfunding has long been blamed as the root cause of problems by the nursing home industry, but there are no more excuses. More than 10,400 residents of long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, 78,000 nursing home residents have been confirmed positive and these numbers are increasing. The state of Illinois and the federal government have responded by sending an additional $ 240 million to nursing homes to process the workforce, and one-time funding for the pandemic response has totaled at least $ 880 million for nursing homes. Illinois Nursing Homes in 2020. These totals do not include federal P3 funds. .

Yet industry failures are piling up: lack of transparency and accountability in how public funds are spent, lack of staff improvement, lack of dangerous overcrowding reduction. We need more regulation of the use of psychotropic drugs at these facilities, as a 2018 study by human rights groups found Illinois has the second-worst record in the country. in the administration of these potent drugs without psychiatric diagnosis. Unfortunately, patients are kept sedated to be more “manageable”.

Nursing home workers are overworked, exhausted and stressed. In 2019, Illinois ranked last in the nursing home workforce. These homes often rely on placing three or four people in each room, even though the federal Medicare program began reducing room occupancy more than five years ago.

Our State Department of Health Care and Family Services found that before the pandemic, 10,000 Medicaid patients lived in nursing homes with three or more other people in the room. It’s easy to see how the dangerous COVID-19 virus spread so quickly when vulnerable people – especially black and Hispanic residents – were crammed into understaffed facilities.

Yet in many of those same nursing homes with high Medicaid populations squeezed together, their owners are taking advantage. New analyzes have found that 44% of COVID-related deaths for nursing home residents on Medicaid at the height of the pandemic were in overcrowded facilities, and nearly 90% of nursing homes across the country. Illinois have had cases of bedsores leading to septic infections. The nursing home industry – including for-profit providers who have been accused of Medicare fraud and bribery, labor violations, or widespread patient care failures – have received hundreds million dollars in “unconditional” COVID-19 relief intended for the pandemic response costs and shortfalls.

Now is the time for reform. We need to know that they improve staff, provide quality care, prevent infections, and allow appropriate visits in accordance with federal and state guidelines – all while being

responsible for every dollar spent. We urge our colleagues and Governor Pritzker to demand better care and more transparency. No older person should suffer from inaction.

• State Representative Anna Moeller is a Democrat from Elgin. State Representative Deb Conroy is a Democrat from Villa Park. Other contributors to this essay were State Democratic Reps Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Lakesia Collins of Chicago, Denyse Wang Stoneback of Skokie, and Angelica Guerrero Cuellar of Chicago.


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