When Congress considers the next legislative package to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, it should adopt and fund AARP's five-point plan to save lives and improve conditions in the nation's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the organization says in a Thursday letter to all U.S. senators.
"What is happening in America's long-term care facilities is a national disgrace and an ongoing tragedy that must be addressed now,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, says in the letter. Enacting AARP's proposals “is literally a matter of life and death."
LeaMond's letter enumerates the AARP recommendations and outlines the organization's support for a number of bills authored by both Democrats and Republicans that would address some of its concerns.
"We are strongly urging Congress and the Administration to provide dedicated funding and strong policy to protect the residents of long-term care facilities, paired with transparency and accountability to ensure that funds are being used to save lives,” LeaMond says.
The COVID pandemic has disproportionately affected nursing home residents and staff, who account for 40 percent of coronavirus deaths in the United States. More than 56,000 residents and employees of America's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19. “This high death toll is both tragic and unprecedented,” LeaMond says in the letter, noting that nursing home residents comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.
AARP's five-point plan
For months, AARP has been urging Congress to act on five key recommendations:
• Require testing of nursing home staff and residents and provide them with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
• Provide transparency when it comes to information about COVID-19 cases, the transfer and discharge of residents, and how federal relief funds are used, to make sure the money pays for testing, PPE, staffing, virtual visitation and other items that directly relate to patient care and well-being.
• Require facilities to provide and facilitate virtual visitation for residents and their loved ones.
• Ensure adequate staffing levels in facilities and allow long-term care ombudsmen access so they can advocate for residents.