Illinois legislators are currently debating legislation that could significantly improve how nursing homes are run and regulated. Age Options, the area agency on aging of suburban Cook County, supports holistic, far-reaching legislation that will substantially contribute to the quality of care for all nursing home residents in the state.

Nursing home safety is in the spotlight because of incidents at a few facilities that house dangerous or violent residents. There have been cases in which these individuals, who may be younger or mentally ill, have harmed older residents. But isolating this small group of people in individual wings or facilities is not the total answer. Illinois must enact nursing home legislation that improves the safety and quality of care of all residents.

In order to do this we need to:

Increase staffing in nursing homes

Provide sufficient funding for regulatory agencies and resident advocates by supporting the Department of Public Health and the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which visit nursing homes as “eyes from outside”

Require accountability and responsibility on the part of nursing home owners and administrators to ensure quality care that results in quality facilities

Age Options has participated in the development of Senate Bill 685, which we believe captures these points. This legislation will improve the quality of care for all nursing home residents by requiring appropriate accountability and responsibility in all facilities, including meaningful financial sanctions for violations of the law, when warranted.

In addition to addressing the quality of care in nursing homes, we also recognize that many residents would not be there if there were plentiful and accessible services to help them remain in a home setting. Without sufficient state funding for community-based services such as those provided by the Illinois Department on Aging, too often individuals remain in facilities that do not have appropriate services and care for them. Often, community-based services cost the state less than nursing home services. As Illinois legislators continue to debate advancing the care in nursing homes, we encourage them to also recognize and fund the need for quality community-based services.

Jonathan Lavin
President and CEO, Age Options

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