Aging Services Leader Lays Out Need for Long-term Change in Nursing Homes in Addition to Immediate Coronavirus Relief

PRESS RELEASE | February 10, 2021 | by Lisa Sanders

“We can't just put a Band-Aid on systemic problems that the pandemic has made worse”

Contact: Lisa Sanders    202-508-9407

February 10, 2021 Washington DC – Even as it steps up calls for an immediate relief package from Congress, LeadingAge, the national organization representing more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services organizations, today kicked off an action plan to ensure our nation’s older adults and their families are never again thrust into perilous circumstances like those they confront today.

America’s aging services system has been neglected by our society for generations. LeadingAge released a suite of background materials to educate the public on how the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis -- especially in nursing homes -- and has highlighted the long-term systemic problems in how nursing homes are staffed and funded.

“Our aging services infrastructure is headed towards collapse. We can’t simply fall back on our pre-COVID approach, which is based on how America envisioned aging half a century ago,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “As we look to the future, nursing home providers must have the resources and policy support they need to provide top-quality person-centered care, delivered by qualified staff, and in a physical setting that reinforces the dignity and well-being of residents. Everyone must do their part.”

The materials released today help explain the crisis and how it has affected nursing homes. They include an overview explainer, a pandemic timeline, a snapshot of nursing home funding, and a summary of the policy changes needed to beat COVID and save older Americans’ lives.

“Everyone Must Do Their Part”: Bringing Real Relief to Nursing Homes

To help ensure that future, LeadingAge calls on all stakeholders to do their part to ensure the highest quality of care in all nursing homes:

  • Congress must adopt legislation that provides urgent relief in the form of more vaccines, regular and rapid testing, access to affordable and abundant PPE, additional staffing support and robust funding necessary to provide 24/7 health care to the most vulnerable Americans.
  • The new Administration must work with governors to limit community spread of the virus – the critical factor in nursing home infection, and also deliver desperately needed COVID supplies and resources for providers. Federal regulators must also use the lessons learned from the crisis to build an evidence-based and collaborative process for regulatory enforcement moving forward.
  • States and communities must continue prioritizing older adults for vaccines, and cut community spread through proper practices for masks and social distancing.
  • Nursing homes and other providers must continue to share information and best practices, better understand current pandemic challenges, and continue to strengthen their practices for providing quality care in the face of an ongoing emergency.

“We can't just put a Band-Aid on the systemic problems that the pandemic has made worse,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “Together, nursing homes, government leaders and other stakeholders must reimagine the future for how to pay for, staff, regulate and provide critical care for older Americans and their families. That’s why LeadingAge will work to drive meaningful progress to improve how we deliver a range of aging services to future generations.”

Pressing Issues and New Information Resources

At the same time, Sloan cautioned, policymakers must not overlook the day-to-day challenges confronting aging services providers. We need immediate action.

Millions of older Americans and their care providers have been left largely on their own in the struggle to fight the greatest public health challenge in a century. A LeadingAge 2020-21 timeline analysis shows how COVID-19 raged among older Americans and workers in nursing homes, as the federal government responded to pleas for more assistance with limited and patchwork support.

Direct care workers have tirelessly toiled throughout the pandemic to deliver quality care, protect lives, and support the wellbeing of older Americans, but staff stress, costs and shortages have multiplied. Providers continue to face exponential expenses from testing, PPE, staffing, and costs, while revenues have fallen substantially. The complex and broken system of funding nursing homes is taking a perilous hit.

Without real relief, COVID costs will force many closures. LeadingAge and its network of nonprofit and mission-driven aging services providers are urging Congress to adopt legislation that provides the robust funding necessary to save and protect lives as the pandemic rages on.