SPRINGFIELD, Ill.- If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you know how much of a challenge it's been over the past year to see them. Now, an Illinois senator is proposing legislation that could implement rules to prevent social isolation for nursing home residents.
Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said social isolation in nursing homes associates with a 50% increase in developing dementia. She said the isolation also led to a 29% increase in risk of heart disease.
Senate Bill 2137 would create new rules and provide technology to facilities so residents can spend time with family virtually or watch an online church service.
Lori Hendren, Associate State Director of AARP Illinois, said it's crucial to respect the quality of life for these residents, especially if the pandemic continues.
"I think we're on the cusp of something very remarkable for our state," said Hendren. "The New York Times kinda tokened it best, nursing home patients are dying of loneliness. Social isolation is a catalyst for so many more consequences to the health and well being."
While the legislation highlights an issue concerning many Illinoisans, officials from the Health Care Council of Illinois said they'll oppose the measure unless lawmakers add an amendment.
The council explained they wanted to make sure facilities don't have to hire new employees to help with the virtual visits. However, Collins noted the facilities could schedule local volunteers to help in the efforts.
This proposal passed unanimously and heads to the Senate Health Committee for debate.
Behavioral health concerns
Lawmakers also advanced a bill that could require the Illinois Department of Public Health to draft rules to instruct long-term care facilities on how to deal with patients struggling with behavioral issues.
Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) explained this could help residents who come directly from the public or out of prisons. According to his legislation, the rules would go into effect by January 1, 2022. Syverson said this could help IDPH deal with the growing number of long-term care residents struggling with behavioral health.
"The thrust of this is to help give more flexibility to dealing with a difficult population," said Syverson.
Syverson also noted this legislation originally passed back in 2011, yet the rules were never written. He emphasized that these rules could allow staff dealing with these residents to have a safer work environment.
Senate Bill 2270 passed on a 5-0 vote and will now move to the Senate Health Committee.