Editor’s note: LeadingAge Florida is a nonprofit association that assists and represents elder-care facilities and retirement communities. This is written by the organization’s president.
We have long known that older adults are among the highest-risk populations for infection and, sadly, death as a result of the coronavirus.
That is one of many reasons that, nearly three months ago, LeadingAge Florida-member nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, continuing-care retirement communities, and affordable-housing communities implemented a broad range of efforts to prevent the coronavirus from infiltrating their buildings.
The breadth of seniors served in those settings — from active older adults in independent living, to the frailest elders in nursing homes — has meant LeadingAge Florida members have been working hard to protect their communities while simultaneously deploying creative methods and technology to avoid the detrimental effects of social isolation.
They have been checking temperatures of staff and residents daily, monitoring even the slightest changes in residents’ health conditions, restricting visitors, canceling events and activities, and communicating with residents and their families daily about these and other steps, well in advance of any directive to do so.
They have closely followed all CDC guidelines and state orders regarding screening, restricting visitors, shutting down common areas and group activities, and urging independent living residents to stay in their homes, among other things.
At the same time, they’re using technology to keep residents connected to their loved ones, and handling grocery shopping and other essential errands for their residents.
The incredible work our members are doing is a testament to the quality of their leadership and the commitment of their truly heroic staff. They are doing everything they can in the context of this pandemic to ensure the physical, mental and spiritual health of their residents.
In light of this dedication, it is disappointing to see news reports that blame America’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for coronavirus deaths. That blame is misplaced and unfair.
Let’s start with the facts. There are many reasons why COVID-19 spreads so quickly within long-term care facilities. By design, these care settings are home to a high concentration of older adults with serious underlying health conditions who live in a communal setting and require hands-on assistance with basic activities of daily living like dressing and bathing.
This combination of factors makes the virus extremely challenging to mitigate, even for providers that have honed their infection-control and prevention protocols during scores of influenza seasons.
Providers also face additional challenges that are out of their control, including the need for personal protective equipment, access to testing and adequate funding to cover the cost of care.
This trifecta of need has put long-term care providers at a distinct disadvantage during this health emergency. They simply haven’t been given all the essential tools needed to fight COVID-19.
Now is not a time for finger-pointing and misplaced blame. Now is the time to support long-term care providers, give them the resources they sorely lack, and recognize their important role in the health care system.
— Bahmer is president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida. West Volusia members include, for example, Alliance Community for Retirement Living, John Knox Village of Central Florida, College Arms Towers, The Cloisters of DeLand and Hugh Ash Manor.