DeWitte champions bipartisan legislation to protect nursing home residents from social isolation

State Senator Don DeWitte has signed on as the leading Chief Co-Sponsor of bipartisan legislation that addresses social isolation experienced by seniors in nursing homes over the last year.

Senate Bill 2137 would require all long-term care facilities in Illinois to adopt and implement written policies and procedures to help prevent social isolation of nursing home residents, including making technology available for online visits with loved ones. The legislation sets forth specific requirements for addressing social isolation prevention, and mandates that inspections of facilities include a determination of whether facilities are in compliance with social isolation prevention protocols. Adherence to the social isolation prevention policies would be a condition of licensure.

“Having first-hand knowledge of the challenges associated with long-term nursing home care, this legislation is timely given the significant challenges these facilities and their patients have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. DeWitte. “I am especially appreciative that Senator Collins has identified a funding source for this initiative. I look forward to championing this bill with her.”

Specifically, SB 2137 would require protocols be put in place that encourage and enable nursing home residents to engage in in-person contact via visitation schedules, and other social contact through use of technology, including access to technology that is cleaned regularly.

According to DeWitte, a recent survey of 365 nursing home residents in 26 states by the non-profit Altarum Institute produced startling results. Seventy-six percent of the respondents reported feeling lonelier under COVID-19 restrictions, and 64 percent said they didn’t even leave their rooms to socialize with other nursing home residents while restrictions were heightened.

“In the effort to protect the physical health of nursing home residents, seniors’ social-emotional health was not addressed,” DeWitte said. “Subsequently, there was an alarming effect on the psychological well-being of seniors who were prohibited from having contact with family and loved ones for close to a year. Moving forward, we must ensure a balance between physical and emotional health, and I believe SB 2137 represents a giant step in the right direction.”

The legislation is currently pending before the Senate Health Committee, where a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13.

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