AARP Eye Center
Alison Lolley implored members of Congress on Thursday to reform the nursing home industry so that others can avoid the way her mother, who died in April from COVID-19, spent her last days.
"The fact is, my family was robbed,” said Lolley, whose mother, Cheryl, died in a nursing home in Monroe, Louisiana. “Mama was trapped in a petri dish, and we were shut out. Mama died alone, and our family will forever be scarred by this tragedy.”
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Lolley was one of several people who've been touched by the pandemic or who've researched the way nursing homes have dealt with the illness who spoke to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis during a virtual briefing on Thursday. For Lolley, remembering the lack of communication about how the illness was hitting her mother's nursing home and the quick deterioration of her condition brought her to tears.
"She complained of lack of care, attention and manhandling from people in her room who she did not recognize,” Lolley said. Sometimes, she added, her mother went entire days with no food. Many of these issues began, Lolley said, after a nursing home employee tested positive for coronavirus.
The pandemic has ravaged nursing homes across the country, killing more than 44,000 long-term care residents and staff, representing over a third of the nation's known coronavirus deaths. But one researcher who spoke to the House subcommittee disputed reports that the coronavirus has been more prevalent in low-quality nursing homes than those with high ratings from the federal government.
"Cases are concentrated where COVID is present in the community,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at the Harvard Medical School. While visitors have been kept out of facilities in an effort to stem the spread, he said, “staff unknowingly bring the virus from the community into the facility. Until we get rapid and accurate testing for all staff and residents, we won't be able to contain COVID. We need a surveillance program that regularly tests staff and residents in order to identify new cases as they emerge."