En español | There's near unanimous agreement among older Americans that Congress should require nursing homes to publicly disclose their coronavirus cases and require facilities to provide video visits for residents and their families, according to the results of a new AARP poll.
The 50-plus population also wants lawmakers to make sure health care workers get the personal protective equipment they need and pass legislation that would provide help to family caregivers, including income tax credits, the survey results show.
"It is clear that people very strongly believe that health care workers need personal protective equipment, so we need Congress to really listen to their constituents and to make this a bigger priority,” said Bill Sweeney, AARP's senior vice president for government affairs. The poll found that virtually 100 percent of the older adults responding want Congress to act on the protective equipment and that the support was bipartisan, with 99 percent of Democrats and Republicans and 98 percent of independents voicing such support.
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The poll of 2,796 Americans ages 50 and older was conducted for AARP on April 20 and 21 by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization.
"The lack of partisanship on these things strikes to the core of how this is perhaps the singular issue of our times, of a generation, that cuts across the various divides that we typically see when we talk about health care in our country,” said J. Michael Dennis, executive director of AmeriSpeaks, a department of NORC.
AARP state leaders from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are meeting virtually with Capitol Hill offices over the coming week to call on Congress to act on the legislative priorities related to the pandemic that older Americans overwhelmingly support.
Nursing home transparency
Requiring nursing homes, assisted living and other residential care facilities to provide video visits for residents and their families is especially important at this time because the pandemic has forced facilities to suspend the ability of loved ones to visit family members. According to the survey, 70 percent of respondents strongly support and 26 percent somewhat back such a regulation.
"Virtual visitation is long overdue,” Sweeney said. “This is not just about isolation. It's not just about visiting people. Family members being able to check in virtually is an important way to make sure that family members are safe."
At least 11,000 residents of long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, and the virus is disproportionately affecting Americans over age 65.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently ordered nursing homes to notify residents and family members within 12 hours of a COVID-19 case being confirmed at their facility. It also will require them to notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and then for CMS to make that information public. But so far, no timetable for the public release of that information has been announced.
"This transparency is so important for families making life and death decisions about what to do with their loved ones,” Sweeney said. Patients and their families often have 24 hours or less to decide which facility a loved one will be transferred to following a hospital stay. “Family members have a need to know, have a right to know if the place they are choosing has a lot of cases of COVID-19."
The survey also found overwhelming support for Congress to enact legislation to help family caregivers during this difficult time. Ninety-two percent support a measure to provide a federal income tax credit to family caregivers who incur expenses for the support of a loved one. The results also found that 78 percent of all respondents believe people who are working and providing unpaid care for a family member should be eligible for government subsidies to replace the caregiver's pay while they are tending to a loved one.
"This pandemic is putting tremendous pressure on older adult and their families,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP's executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “AARP is committed to fighting for politics that will protect their health and financial security."