Every year, more than 5 million older adults and individuals with disabilities receive care in a long term care facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living community. COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, poses serious risk to this population due to their weakened immune systems. While tens of thousands of residents from these facilities have recovered, it is currently estimated that approximately 40% of the deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. are individuals who were living in a long term care facility.
Nursing homes and assisted living communities are doing everything they can to stop the spread, but need to be made a priority for resources from the federal government. Challenges will remain until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, and our nation’s seniors deserve the utmost care and protection during this critical time.
As dedicated long term care staff are performing heroic work to combat COVID-19, they are overcoming historic and ongoing challenges. Long term care facilities were not made a priority at the beginning of the crisis; the focus was on hospitals. Nursing homes have been historically underfunded for the actual cost of care, leaving many on the brink of closure. Meanwhile, assisted living communities have received nominal government support during the pandemic, despite also primarily serving our nation’s vulnerable seniors. Due to strains on the worldwide supply chain and our nation’s testing capacity, many long term care facilities have struggled to acquire a regular supply of personal protective equipment and testing with reliable and rapid results.
While Congress and the current administration have taken steps to aid nursing homes and assisted living facilities during the pandemic, our nation’s focus cannot waver. These health care providers need additional support in order to effectively protect seniors, and those with underlying conditions, as well as staff who care for them, until the end of this pandemic.
- Adequate testing
- Personal protective equipment
- Increased staff support
- Increased funding
- Vaccine priority for our residents and staff, when made available
It’s time for policymakers to rally around long term care residents and staff the same way they have around hospital patients and workers. We must take all possible actions to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable are protected as we navigate this crisis — we need action now to prevent this from worsening or happening again.