LeadingAge is urging the federal government to ensure that all aging services providers — not just nursing homes, and not just for-profit providers — receive “meaningful” amounts of personal protective equipment, “effective and efficient” testing, and a “comprehensive approach to supporting older adults and the workers who care for them” as providers fight to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Our society has let down older Americans, and people are dying because of government inaction,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement shared with McKnight’s Senior Living. “All Americans should be angry that our leaders have ignored and abandoned so many of our most vulnerable citizens facing the COVID threat. …If we do not change course, we risk losing an entire generation of older Americans.”
LeadingAge focuses on advocating for nonprofit aging services organizations.
Sloan’s remarks come one day after she sent similarly worded letters to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the White House Coronavirus Task Force; Department of Homeland Security Acting Sec. Chad Wolf; and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor, all of whom have roles in the federal government’s COVID-19 response, including the distribution of PPE.
“Our members are deeply concerned when they see media reports that HHS, including CMS, and FEMA, are consulting only with for-profit provider associations — leaving millions of people whose health is cared for by thousands of nonprofit providers unrepresented in critical conversations,” she wrote in her letter to Pence, dated April 29. “I do not believe the federal government is intentionally overlooking nonprofit aging services providers and the more than two million older adults LeadingAge members serve across the country. However, that is exactly how it appears to these hard working, mission driven providers, who are facing some of the deadliest outbreaks of coronavirus across the country.”
The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living has been very public in its call for PPE, testing and funding to be provided to assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities in addition to settings such as hospitals, with President and CEO Mark Parkinson being featured on national networks such as CNN and Fox News. For-profit providers make up approximately 75% of AHCA / NCAL’s membership.
For-profit-focused Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association also have strongly advocated for senior living providers — just last week, for instance, issuing a statement that the Trump administration’s plan to exclude independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities from the upcoming distribution of PPE to nursing homes could have “grave consequences” for the 2 million residents and 1 million staff members who live or work in such communities.
PPE distribution should include the entire continuum of aging services, Sloan stressed in her letters to Wolf and Gaynor, noting that LeadingAge represents not only nursing homes, which are slated to receive PPE, but also assisted living, affordable senior housing, CCRCs (also known as life plan communities), home- and community-based services providers, and home health and hospice agencies.
Before cities and towns across the country lift stay-at-home orders and other safety measures, older Americans, regardless of where they live, will need protection, testing and medical supplies, Sloan told the vice president. “Otherwise, our communities will be ground zero for a new wave of preventable deaths and illnesses — which will further tax our beleaguered hospitals and health care providers,” she wrote.
The CEO asked to meet with all three.
This is not the first time LeadingAge publicly has asked the federal government to remember older adults who live in settings other than nursing homes in the battle against the coronavirus. In early March, Sloan urged policymakers “to address the needs of older adults living in other congregate and community-based settings” in addition to the needs of nursing home residents when making plans to fight COVID-19.
“We need to do all we can to protect older adults and those who support them in all places where they live and gather,” she said at the time.