Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were and continue to be among the hardest hit by COVID-19. This is born out by the daunting fact that 30% of COVID-19 deaths involve these residents despite being a small percentage of the U.S. population. Vaccines have made these places safer, but there is still concern about the health and safety of residents and staff.
Responding to this need, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Bob Casey (D-Penn) drafted a bill to overhaul long-term for the elderly. The goals would be to increase nurse staffing, improve infection control and bolster oversight. President Biden is also seeking $400 billion to support the expansion of home and community-based care, which act as an alternative to nursing homes.
Senate bill details
The bill has many provisions, but the most notable are:
- Raise the salaries and benefits of facility staff by using Medicaid matching funds.
- Require nursing homes to hire infection control and prevention specialists.
- Require facilities to have a registered nurse available 24 hours a day.
- Increase the number and thoroughness of state inspections.
- Focus on helping low-performing facilities to improve quality.
The bill would also encourage downsizing the facilities to see if it offers better care and a safer work environment. It also encourages accessible outdoor space and methods to include families in decisions about elderly loved ones.
“Families must have faith that loved ones receiving long-term care or care after a hospital stay will be safe and receive good-quality care,” Wyden said in a statement. “The pandemic, myriad reports of abuse, and critical failures during natural disasters have shattered that foundation of trust and safety.”
Too soon to tell
The final results for both initiatives may look different, but it appears that there is a call for real change to keep our elderly safer and happier. Look for more discussion on this topic soon.