People age 65 and older are at higher risk for COVID-19. So are people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and respiratory illness. Both groups are heavily represented among the nation's 1.3 million nursing home residents.
That concentration is a key reason why 1 in 5 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but it's not the only one.
What's at stake: How to protect residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities against sickness, neglect and isolation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to ensure that older Americans can have the choice to age in their homes.
The issue: Even though fewer than 1 percent of Americans live in nursing homes, these facilities represent more than 40 percent of the deaths from the coronavirus. During the pandemic most families have been unable to visit loved ones in nursing homes, and there's been a lack of virtual visitation. Testing in these facilities has been erratic; staffing, in too many cases, has been inadequate; and there hasn't been enough personal protective equipment for workers.
Even before the pandemic, according to a recent report, 8 out of 10 nursing homes were cited for poor infection-control practices in the past few years.
Many older Americans are unable to get ongoing care in their homes because Medicaid is required to pay only for institutional care for eligible lower-income older adults.
- President: The candidate who takes control of the White House will have the power to establish federal health and safety guidelines for long-term care facilities and services. He also will have the power to sign or veto any nursing-home-related legislation that Congress passes.
- Senators and members of the House of Representatives: They will decide whether to enact legislation to protect residents and improve oversight and conditions in U.S. long-term care facilities.
- Governors and state legislators: States inspect nursing homes on behalf of the CMS to see if they comply with federal standards for quality, health hygiene, record-keeping and overall residential care. States also have the power to regulate assisted living facilities.
What older Americans think
According to a June AARP public opinion poll, 78 percent of voters over 50 say that to win, candidates must address how they will protect nursing home residents from the coronavirus and future pandemics. In the same survey, 68 percent of respondents said they want AARP to demand more action from leaders to protect seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Where AARP Stands
AARP has asked Congress and state lawmakers to take these actions:
- Require adequate staffing, regular coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment for residents and staff in long-term care facilities
- Make virtual visitation an option for communication between families and residents, even after in-person visits resume.
- Reject proposals to grant blanket immunity related to COVID-19 for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- Make it easier for older Americans to age in their homes and communities and provide greater support to family caregivers