By AARP Montana State President, Alex Ward
The national coronavirus death toll in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities is shocking and the stories are gut wrenching.
More than 56,000 nursing home residents in the U.S. have died – some alone and afraid without a family member by their side. That’s 44% of all national COVID-19 related deaths, yet nursing home residents only make up 1% of the U.S. population.
Here in Montana, there have been 20 deaths or 50% of total COVID-19 related deaths from an assisted living facility and most recently, from a memory care unit.
As compared to other states, many of Montana’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been proactive and have limited exposures, so far. However, they must remain vigilant to prevent more infections and outbreaks.
The first major outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported on February 29 in Washington State -- in a nursing home. It was clear from the start that long-term care facilities would be a hotbed for the virus.
To keep residents of nursing homes safe, Congress must ensure that all facilities:
Additionally, here in Montana, state officials and state legislators must assure that:
All facilities must strengthen their infection control procedures. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found nationally that more than 80 percent of nursing homes were cited for infection prevention failures – and that was before the pandemic. If facilities ignore basic procedures like handwashing and always using PPE, they won’t be able to keep residents safe.
Finally, Congress and state officials must stop all efforts to provide nursing homes with immunity related to COVID-19. Long-term care providers must remain responsible for negligent actions that fail to protect the health—and lives—of their residents.
Our parents, grandparents, and spouses are dying in record numbers – often scared and alone. Congress and state officials must act now to protect nursing home residents – and to stem the needless loss of life.
Alex Ward is the State President of AARP Montana, which serves more than 146,000 members in Montana. AARP Montana has information & resources for those with loved ones in nursing homes at www.aarp.org/coronavirusmontana and also at the links below.
MORE INFORMATION & RESOURCES FOR THOSE WITH LOVED ONES IN NURSING HOMES:
This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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