Chicago, IL—When the COVID-19 virus officially became a pandemic, nursing homes were left with many challenges. How would they protect their vulnerable residents from contracting this unknown and unpredictable virus? They started by implementing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and then began limiting who could enter these facilities.
Unfortunately, nursing home administrators didn’t quite know the price they would pay by doing so.
After nursing homes closed their doors to visitors, many of which were family members of the residents living inside, these facilities learned just how detrimental it was to close off their residents from their friends and family. According to research, isolation and loneliness, something many nursing home residents experienced at the beginning of the pandemic, increases a resident’s risk of developing dementia by 50%.1 It also increases their risk of stroke by 32%.
While nursing homes attempted to protect their residents from the COVID-19 virus, they were also harming them in the process. With SB 2137, however, nursing home residents will now have access to video chat so that if “in-person visits are prohibited or restricted due to federal or state rules or guidelines,” they have a way of staying in contact with their loved ones.
When was SB 2137 enacted?
SB 2137 was introduced at the beginning of 2021, and it was signed into law on August 27, 2021. It also went into effect that same day. Here’s what the new law brings with it:
- Allows for virtual visitation to be included in nursing homes’ visitation policies.
- Provides funding for technology and assistive equipment. AARP highlights that the funding may be provided through federal Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) funds or from other state or federal resources.
- Allows for individualized visitation schedules to be created for residents.
- A nursing home’s virtual visitation policy shall include a schedule for how the equipment will be cleaned and sanitized.
- Staff and volunteers shall be trained on how to help residents as they virtually connect with friends and loved ones.
- Nursing homes shall be penalized if they fail to comply with the guidelines outlined in SB 2137. Penalties will not be imposed, however, until 2023.
- The Illinois Department of Public Health will be “adopting social isolation prevention policies within 60 days after the effective date of [SB 2137].”
Important: If you have a loved one living in a Chicago nursing home, you should be aware that virtual visitation is not meant to replace in-person visitation. It is meant to act as an alternative for when in-person visits are either not possible or have been suspended.
Why it’s important to stay connected with loved ones who are living in nursing homes?
While lawmakers say SB 2137 will ensure that “moving forward, there will be more of a balance between physical and social-emotional health” among nursing home residents, families should continue to make every effort to visit their loved ones regularly.
When families take the time to visit their loved ones, it allows them to physically see the environment they are living in as well as assess their physical condition. Visiting nursing home residents often can also:
1. Help prevent abuse and neglect.
When nursing home staffers know that a resident’s family members are going to be visiting them often, they are less likely to abuse or neglect them as they know they are more likely to get caught. However, just because you visit doesn’t exactly mean your loved one is in the clear of being abused or neglected.
Therefore, when you visit, you should always key an eye out for any signs of abuse or neglect and question anything that seems out of the ordinary. For example, if your loved one’s behavior seems off or they appear to be unclean, it is important to find out why.
2. Visiting your loved one helps them stay socially active and gives them something to look forward to.
Nursing home residents generally enjoy seeing a familiar face and having someone they can trust to talk to. If a resident is struggling with making social connections within the home, they may rely on their visits with you to keep them socially active.
Visiting a loved one in a nursing homes also gives them the reassurance that they aren’t forgotten. Many worry that once they relocate to a nursing home, no one will make the effort to visit, and therefore, it is important to prove them wrong.
If You Suspect Your Loved One Isn’t Being Treated Fairly, Here’s What You Can Do
If you believe your loved one’s rights are being violated or they may be a victim of abuse or neglect, we ask that you contact Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. so that you can discuss your concerns with an experienced Chicago, IL nursing home abuse lawyer. Our attorneys will be happy to assess the situation and determine if you could benefit from legal help.
Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. does offer free consultations so we encourage you to take advantage of this by calling 1-312-384-1920.
You can contact Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. at:
221 North La Salle Drive, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601