collins 082721CHICAGO — To fight the isolation that has only become worse for so many seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new law signed today requires virtual visitation options at long-term care facilities, the result of legislation by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago).

“The past year of this pandemic has seen nursing home residents suffer beyond what we could have imagined. Many have lost their friends or caregivers, and have had to live in fear for their own health and safety. Nursing homes in communities of color have been especially hard hit," Collins said. “I thank Gov. Pritzker for signing this law and acknowledging that our duty to older adults is not just caring for their bodies, but their hearts.”

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be required to take steps to connect residents virtually with family members, loved ones, and religious or recreational activities when in-person visits are prohibited or restricted due to federal or state guidance.

The law, pushed for by the AARP, comes in the wake of 2020 research that shows alarming effects associated with isolation and loneliness. Isolated seniors’ risk of developing dementia increases 50%, their risk of stroke increases 32%, and they experience a nearly fourfold increased risk of death among heart failure patients.

Under the legislation, facilities will be required to implement policies to fight social isolation of residents, including:

  • Virtual visitation would be considered in addition to existing in-person visitation policies.
  • Technology and assistive equipment may be funded through federal Civil Monetary Penalty Funds and/or other state and federal resources.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and the development of a resident's individualized visitation schedule would be included in a facility’s virtual visitation policy.

Facilities will also be permitted to train volunteers and staff to assist residents in virtual visitation, and a resident’s right to use personal devices would not change. Penalties for nursing homes not in compliance would go into effect in 2023.

The legislation is Senate Bill 2137.