President Donald Trump praised his administration’s efforts in protecting older adults from Covid-19 — but LeadingAge, an association of non-profit senior service providers, believes far more must be done.
Trump announced the federal government’s newest move to aid older adults living in nursing homes during a White House event titled “Protecting America’s Seniors” Thursday. Included in those plans are the formation of a special nursing home task force, and an initiative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver two “care packages” consisting of one week’s worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 15,400 nursing homes across the country.
“We are deploying every tool, resource and power at our disposal to protect our seniors and Americans of every age and background,” Trump said during the event.
Responding to Trump’s remarks, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan’s message was clear: talk less and do more. Specifically, Sloan said that little was being done to protect older adults who live in settings other than nursing homes.
“For the millions of other older Americans being cared for outside of nursing homes—in assisted living, HUD-assisted housing for low-income older adults, life plan communities, hospices, and in our homes and communities—the government offered practically nothing today,” said Sloan.
Sloan took issue with the fact that, as state economies reopen, little is being done to prioritize older adults, “who must now compete with nail salons and gyms for life-protecting supplies on the open market.” And, older adults are not given the same priority as hospital patients when it comes to Covid-19 testing, a fact that is worrisome given the disease’s history of spreading asymptomatically, Sloan said.
With regard to PPE — which has been in short supply since the outset of the pandemic — Sloan believes that the government’s plan to send two one-week shipments of gowns, masks, and gloves is “wholly insufficient.” Some nursing homes stand to receive just eight masks per staff member under the plan. And, the equipment is only set to go to nursing homes, leaving out many other places where older adults reside, including senior living communities, she added.
“Pretending a symbolic one-week supply of PPE for select nursing homes is a meaningful solution is an insult to millions of vulnerable Americans, their families, and their caregivers,” Sloan wrote. “Life-saving equipment that was promised weeks ago has been further delayed, leaving caregivers to keep fighting and scrounging for every mask and gown they can muster.”
James Balda, President and CEO of senior living trade association Argentum, said that, while the organization is grateful for new attention on the issue, there is still much more that needs to be done for senior living communities.
“Like nursing homes, senior living communities have critical needs right now, including expanded testing, PPE and financial relief,” Balda said in a statement. “We are urging the administration not to overlook senior living communities, which are a critical part of the health care continuum and are acting right now as a critical backstop to hospitals.”
American Health Care Association (AHCA) president and CEO Mark Parkinson praised the administration’s moves as an “important step forward to ensure long term care facilities receive the vital support needed during this unprecedented public health crisis.”
Parkinson also acknowledged that the industry faces an “uphill battle” in mitigating the effects of Covid-19.
“What we need now is for everyone to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way we have around hospitals,” Parkinson said. “And that means continuing our focus on testing, PPE, staffing and funding just as health care providers have received.”