Lower health, care for Latinos

The news: The Illinois General Assembly approved nursing home reforms increasing the amount of time nursing home staff must care for residents from 2.5 to 3.8 hours a day.

Behind the news: Nursing homes across Illinois are increasing their standards this summer to combat gross understaffing at facilities where a majority of the residents are Latino. “When you don’t have enough people to do the work, it’s physically exhausting and much more dangerous for both the residents and employees,” said Wendy Meltzer, executive director of the Chicago-based advocacy group Illinois Citizens for Better Care.

Advocates like Meltzer pushed for reform in the Illinois Legislature this spring because people living at majority-Latino facilities are not receiving the same level of care as those living in majority-white facilities. According to an analysis by The Chicago Reporter, Latinos check into Illinois nursing homes 5 percent sicker than people who are white, but received 45 percent less time from medical staff. Residents in majority-Latino facilities, on average, received about 70 minutes less care per day than residents at majoritywhite facilities.

Despite entering the nursing homes with higher levels of medical needs, people living in majority- Latino facilities received less skilled care than residents at majority-white homes. Skilled-nursing care provides round-the-clock nursing services, while intermediate care provides residents with basic assistance, such as help with eating or dressing. According to the Reporter’s analysis, only 36 percent of residents at majority-Latino facilities received skilled care compared with 57 percent of people at majority-white nursing homes.

Meltzer is optimistic about the legislation. “The changes are going to have a really big impact on residents’ lives. We very well may have done a very good thing here,” she said.

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