As the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, blame was thrown quickly at the facilities and their operators. But where does the responsibility actually lie for the failure to protect tens of thousands of frail seniors? This 20-minute documentary explores the causes behind the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care facilities across the United States.
The COVID-19 crisis has devastated many long-term care (LTC) facilities across the country, regardless of quality and safety records. We have seen good management take appropriately aggressive measures and apply best clinical practices, but even the best facilities’ clinical capacity has weakened by forces beyond their control: inadequate resources, a feeble response from our health systems and public health authorities, and years of underfunding. These alarm bells for a catastrophe like this have been ignored for years.
Prior to the pandemic, the majority of LTC providers, especially nonprofit providers, faced a daily challenge to secure the staff and resources necessary to deliver the quality care that is often part of their mission. Skilled nursing homes in PA alone faced deficits totaling over $600 million annually. Funding has been cut and cut until even some of the best providers have been pushed to the precipice of closure. Our society has continued to neglect appropriate funding for frail seniors, and now all our LTC facilities are at risk. We as a nation are responsible for the failure to prepare LTC facilities for the onslaught of COVID-19. Even worse, we did not respond swiftly when it was clear that all LTC facilities faced incredible risk.
It is time to look at long-term solutions to what COVID-19 has exposed: our society has turned its back on our frailest citizens and refused to acknowledge that our LTC facilities overall are weakened by neglect. The whole industry is in trouble. An insidious ageism appears to plague our policymaking, allowing continued disregard of this vulnerable population.
We’re intently focused on this issue and invite you to join us as an ally, to create a better system for our frail seniors. Increased funding, new models of care, and timely reform are long overdue for our system. – Jewish Healthcare Foundation