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Founding Partner Adam M. Stern has again been recognized as an Illinois Super Lawyer for 2020. Partner Matthew W. McQuiston was recognized as an Illinois Rising Star for 2020. We are humbled and honored to receive this recognition from our peers for another year!

COVID-19 is challenging all of us and reshaping our lives, but the virus is a unique challenge to nursing home residents. How can you ensure your loved one stays healthy during a pandemic?   The first step is to research the nursing home. You probably did your research before your loved one moved in, but you may not have gotten specific information about the facility’s policies for preventing infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a factsheet that covers key questions to ask nursing home officials about their infection prevention policies, including:

  • How does the facility communicate with family when an outbreak occurs?

  • Are sick staff members allowed to go home without losing pay or time off? 

  • How are staff trained on hygiene?

  • Are there private rooms for residents who develop symptoms?

  • How is shared equipment cleaned?

You should also check staffing levels. In an understaffed facility, workers may rush and not practice good hand-washing. There are no minimum staffing levels for nurses aides, who provide the most day-to-day care, but the federal government recommends a daily minimum standard of 4.1 hours of total nursing time per patient.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC have issued guidance to nursing homes to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including restricting all visitors except in end-of-life situations. It is crucial to follow the rules of the facility. If the facility is not limiting or allowing visitors, do not try to break the rules. Try FaceTime, Skype, or similar alternatives to communicate with your loved one instead. You should check with the facility to make sure it is following the guidance from CMS and the CDC, which includes recommendations to do the following:

  • Restrict all visitors, with exceptions for compassionate care

  • Restrict all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel

  • Cancel all group activities and communal dining

  • Begin screening residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms

  • Put hand sanitizer in every room and common area

  • Make facemasks available to people who are coughing

  • Have hospital-grade disinfectants available

When communicating with the facility, please remember the employees are also under tremendous stress during this outbreak. It's more important than ever to remain civil to each other!

To read the detailed guidance from the CDC, click here.

If you're a senior citizen or retiree, you may be able to use online tax preparation software free of charge. Most low- and middle-income Americans qualify for the free help, but do not take advantage of it, and all seniors are eligible for free counseling assistance from the IRS. The tax preparation software industry has had a decades-long deal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make free versions of its software available to low- and middle-income individuals. However, a report by ProPublica in April 2019 revealed that the software companies were making it difficult for customers to find the free tax filing software, including going so far as to hide it from a Google search. According to the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service, around 70 percent of taxpayers qualified for free filing, but only 1.6 percent used the free software in 2018. The IRS has now amended its agreement with the software industry to bar tax preparation companies from hiding the free products.  The IRS Free File website links to the available free products. Each company sets its own eligibility standards based on income, age, and state residency. As long as your adjusted gross income last year was $69,000 or less, you will find at least one free product to use. There are also two products that are in Spanish. If you would rather not prepare your own tax return, seniors can use the IRS’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. The TCE program is available to taxpayers who are 60 years old or older and specializes in answering questions about pensions and retirement plans.

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