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Illinois Lawmakers Introduce “COVID-19 Safety Net” Bill Until In-Person Visitation Resumes

There have been over 70,000 positive COVID-19 cases in Illinois nursing homes and over 10,300 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Sadly, nearly half of the state’s total death count has been nursing home residents. Many were never able to see their loved ones in person or say goodbye to them before they passed as almost all residents and their family members were prevented from visits for some time. Although the pause was likely necessary to prevent the further spread of the highly contagious virus, it also triggered concerns of abuse and neglect going unnoticed and a call from industry advocates to do more.

Most families have been forced to use or purchase personal devices for residents, but the failure to coordinate the calls showed how ill-equipped homes and staff are. Sadly, regular calls are not a reality for most Illinois long-term care residents. For some of the luckier residents, virtual visits were enough to keep their loved ones knowing they are being looked after, especially those with cognitive disabilities such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s disease.

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U.S. Nursing Homes Must Do More to Recruit, Train, and Retain CNAs

Understaffed nursing home teams have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, especially certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who consist as much as 40% of a nursing home’s workforce. These employees support the daily needs of residents and long-term care patients, such as dressing, bathing, food preparation and eating, rehabilitation, hygiene, keeping communication with family members, socialization, and ambulating.

When CNAs do not have support or are treated poorly, it ultimately puts nursing home residents in harm’s way. Among many other oversights, call lights will be missed, hygiene becomes unhealthy among residents, patient morale, safety, and mental health reach low levels, medication routines lapse or become too familiar, and rotating residents at risk for bed sores are quickly forgotten.

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Report Shows Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gravely Affected Resident Exposure to COVID-19 at LaSalle Nursing Home

The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its investigative report identifying the causes behind the massive COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the state-run veterans’ Home in LaSalle. The long-awaited public report confirms what many of us already know and outlines the unforgiving failures that resulted in the untimely death of 36 people from coronavirus. Notes published by the OIG show that the facility did not implement the proper infection control policies to prevent the spread of the disease among staff and residents and allowed a deadly outbreak to go on despite warnings. 

The report paints a gloomy picture that documents failures from many. It leads with, “Ultimately, our investigation determined that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (IDVA) lack of COVID-19 preparation contributed to the scope of the outbreak at the home. In addition, failures in communication at the home and within the IDVA leadership also contributed to a delayed response to the outbreak.”

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Preventable Fall Injury Highlighted in Survey at Illinois Veterans Home

In Quincy, the Illinois Veterans Home recently reported a resident fall incident on March 15, 2021, to the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH). According to a follow-up survey led by the state on March 27, 2021, a resident (R1) was injured from a fall after the facility failed to keep his environment safe and a walkway free of clutter. The resident told surveyors he had tripped on a cord and hit his head after falling to the floor. The man was transferred via ambulance to a local hospital to treat a forehead laceration that required seven sutures and a brain injury diagnostic scan. The man was admitted to the hospital overnight for observation.

IDPH’s fall incident investigation documented this pattern of events:

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Levin & Perconti Attorneys Represent Family of Korean War Veteran Who Died During Veterans Home COVID-19 Outbreak

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed against The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Levin & Perconti Law Firm is representing the estate of 90-year-old Korean War veteran Richard Cieski. In November 2020, Mr. Cieski was a resident who died after being exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run veterans’ facility, located at 1015 Oconor Avenue in LaSalle, Illinois.

Levin & Perconti partner Michael Bonamarte said that Mr. Ciskei’s death could have been avoided had LaSalle taken appropriate precautions. That includes preventing breaks in infection control practices, understaffing care worker shifts, relaxed masking orders and disregard for proper hand hygiene, and little or no social distancing in some facility areas.

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Justice in Aging: How The American Rescue Plan Helps Older Adults

More than 45% of Americans over 65 have trouble meeting their basic needs. As a new administration works to provide COVID-19 relief to older adults, many of who are reliant on Medicaid funding for their health care, including long-term care, a fifth COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan (H.R. 1319), was signed into law totaling $1.9 trillion on Mar. 11, 2021.

The law is expected to significantly improve health care access and increase economic security for older adults due to the pandemic. Medicaid is the funder for most long-term care in the United States, whether at home or in an institution. An analysis provided by Justice in Aging, an organization committed to fighting senior poverty through the law, outlines the significant provisions impacting older adults, including Illinois nursing home residents and long-term care patients.

vaccination for covid-19 in nursing homes

Older Adults in Illinois Long-Term Care Settings Should Be Vaccinated with Sense of Urgency

It’s been nearly three months since COVID-19 vaccines have been made available for Illinois nursing home residents and staff, making them a priority in the long line of vaccine recipients across the state. Officials from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) say approximately 414,900 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for Illinois long-term care facilities. A total of 361,971 vaccines have been administered to residents and staff as of Mar. 21, 2021.

Unfortunately, Chicago’s WGN9 reports that Illinois’ largest skilled nursing facility, City View Multicare Center, located at 5825 West Cermak Road in Cicero, has not made it a priority to have residents and staff vaccinated. Employees of the facility, and SEIU Healthcare, one of the fastest-growing union of nursing home workers in the Midwest, says management failed to enroll in the federal program designed to partner skilled nursing facilities like City View with major pharmacies to vaccinate residents and staff to reduce the number of coronavirus cases and outbreaks.

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University of Chicago Researchers Say Privately Invested Nursing Homes Have Increased Death Rates Among Residents

Researchers at the University of Chicago, Penn, and NYU have been busy studying Medicare data covering more than 18,000 nursing home facilities nationwide. Their review includes about 1,700 facilities that were bought through private equity from 2000 to 2017. Total private equity investment in U.S. nursing homes went from $5 billion in 2000 to more than $100 billion in 2018.

The findings, published in a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, showed that when private equity firms acquire nursing homes, about 1,000 more resident deaths occur every year, bringing the risk of patient mortality to 10% more than the overall average.

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Warnings Emerge After COVID-19 Outbreak Caused by New Variant of Virus is Detected in Kentucky Nursing Home

The public has been informed of several new variants of the coronavirus for some time, including some of the more known viruses circulating, such as the UK variant, the Brazil variant, or the South Africa variant. But on Mar. 16, 2021, a recent outbreak of COVID-19 involving 41 cases at a nursing home in Eastern Kentucky could be what health officials say was triggered by an entirely new strain. The outbreak involved 14 staff and 27 residents, with several testing positive for the new variant. Health officials in Kentucky say those nursing home residents and staff who have contracted the virus and have been fully vaccinated have not gotten seriously ill and have significantly reduced symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says viruses constantly change through mutation, and “new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear.” At other times, new variants emerge and persist and can be just as dangerous as the initial strain.

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Nursing Homes Do Not Have a Right to Resident Stimulus Funds

Unfortunately, financial abuse is a common problem in nursing homes across the country, including right here in Illinois. And after thousands of reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), we now know that some nursing home facilities and long-term care homes are attempting to take pandemic stimulus payments intended for residents. Residents who rely on Medicaid remain easy and effortless targets even though these facilities have no right to claim residents’ stimulus checks.

The FTC said in a January 4, 2021 statement:

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