Congress must help nursing homes

Now it is time for Congress to act.

Congress must also ensure all facilities have a sufficient supply of PPE, like masks, gowns, gloves, and face shields, to protect workers and residents. Facilities must follow protocols for infection control. A recent Government Accountability Office report found more than 80 percent of nursing homes were cited for infection prevention failures — before the pandemic. More than 70,000 residents died because of poor infection controls, inadequate training, and unsafe staffing.

Gaylene Miller is the state director of AARP W.Va. She serves more than 300,000 members 50 and older. She wrote an article for The West Virginian Times that explains why Congress must help nursing homes. “Less than one percent of the nation’s population lives in nursing homes. But, residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities account for 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths nationally.”

To keep residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities safe and their families connected, Congress must ensure that all facilities: regularly test residents and staff; have and correctly use personal protective equipment; publicly report COVID-19 cases and deaths daily; and facilitate virtual visits between residents and their families.”

Understanding and containing the spread of COVID-19 requires ongoing, regular testing of all long-term care residents and workers. With rigorous testing, nursing homes can identify cases and prevent the spread of the virus.”

If facilities ignored basic procedures like handwashing before an outbreak, they stood no chance of keeping residents safe from the coronavirus.”

Include Families

“We also need to keep families connected during this challenging time. Congress must require nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to make available and facilitate virtual visits between residents and their families — even as some facilities begin to allow limited in-person visits. Loved ones serve as additional eyes and ears in facilities and are often the first to spot changes in a resident’s physical or mental health. Virtual visits can help fill these gaps and reduce the isolation residents face while visitors are banned or not allowed to visit regularly.”

Our mothers, fathers, grandparents, and spouses—who worked hard and built this country — are dying in record numbers. They are dying scared, alone and away from their loved ones, often before their time. States cannot fight this battle alone. Congress must act to support nursing home residents, staff and families to stem the loss of life.

Nursing homes need help but not a bailout or immunity from abuse and neglect. The money must be used to increase staffing, provide hazard pay, and provide PPE to direct care workers.