Talking Points: Responding to Negative Views on Aging Services in Pandemic

When it comes to the media, you can’t avoid the tough questions. But you can—and should—provide grounding and context that frames the realities of your organization and our field. The talking points below can help.

LeadingAge members are likely receiving a surge of media interest as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many reporter queries stem from a negative event (COVID-19 diagnosis, outbreak, or death), the upside of this unquestionably challenging time is a sustained opportunity to engage with reporters and develop relationships that may be useful even after coronavirus passes.

For most media outlets, aging services is not a primary beat, and it is rare to find reporters with a solid understanding of our field. So when a media call comes in, your role is to be not only a source, but also an educator. Take a few minutes to ask some questions before you work on your response: engage in a broader conversation so you can better understand the reporter's perspective. Then strategize a response that offers the right context.

You can’t avoid the tough questions. But you can—and should—provide grounding and context that frames the realities of your organization and our field. Here’s how LeadingAge is Driving the Coronavirus Conversation and how we’re Responding to Negative Views on Aging Services During the PandemicThe talking points below can help you n your efforts. We encourage you to pull elements from them as you develop your responses.

MESSAGE POINTS

We’re on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 is a previously unidentified virus, which means care providers of all types—including those working at organizations like ours where older adults receive care—are learning about it in real time. And, because public health officials have identified older people as high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, we are on the front line. Everyday we do our part to aggressively prevent and mitigate the spread as we deliver compassionate care under challenging circumstances.

The pandemic highlights that organizations like ours are a vital component of our public health system. Nursing homes, home health, visiting nurses, and other providers of aging services have long played a valuable role in how Americans receive the care they need. For example, organizations like mine collaborate with many other care providers like <insert touchpoints with the larger health care system ie: transitions from hospital, in-home care, interaction with doctors, end-of-life care, etc.>. As the virus spreads, our role in the public health system is magnified—and should be prioritized.

Aging services providers like my organization have distinct and urgent needs in this pandemic. Without PPE and testing, we cannot safely orchestrate patient transitions, take care of new or current residents, or protect staff. While we understand these needs are vital in an inpatient setting, there is a major push now to move patients out of hospitals to nursing homes or to home and community-based settings. The lack of resources for aging services is an additional challenge in a health crisis unlike any we’ve seen before.

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbates the well-documented, longstanding workforce shortage in aging services. This healthcare crisis increases our workforce needs. For instance, we need more staff to care for sicker residents, to adhere to regulatory requirements that ban communal meals and mandate enhanced infection control procedures, and to cover open shifts for sick staff or those who can’t report to work. These strains compound an already challenging workforce environment.

Our business is complex. We don’t have a simple operating structure like, for example, a corner store or neighborhood restaurant. We have multiple sources of revenue, from reimbursements and government funding to private pay, and are working under a range of guidelines and regulations. Rising costs of caring for a full load of patients with a changing case-mix, buying extra PPE and other supplies, losing staff and paying overtime—coupled with decreased revenues—are already causing shortfalls for organizations in aging services.

We are a mission-driven organization with deep roots in our community. The services we provide are fundamental to the lives of the people we serve, their families, and our community. We are driven by a higher moral purpose to serve this population in accordance with our mission. We care deeply about the role we play to provide much-needed care, services and supports in people’s lives. <Insert info on your community roots, board of directors, or foundation, as relevant.>

 

Be sure to visit LeadingAge's main coronavirus resources page for more information, tools and resources to help all aging services providers plan for and respond to COVID-19.