Alzheimer's, Older person, caregiver

Assisted living communities should have a dedicated funding source for COVID-19 testing, tracing and personal protective equipment, the Alzheimer’s Association said in testimony submitted to the Senate Finance Committee.

The association said it also backed such a dedicated source of funding for nursing homes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, continues to create challenges for people living with dementia, especially those in long-term care settings. The testimony was submitted for the March 17 Finance Committee hearing on “A National Tragedy: COVID-19 in the Nation’s Nursing Homes.”

New long-term care policy recommendations

Almost 42% of residents in residential care facilities have Alzheimer’s or another dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. To support these individuals, the Alzheimer’s Association released a set of long-term care policy recommendations for federal and state lawmakers. 

“Improving the State and Federal Response to COVID-19 in Long-Term Care Settings” offers recommendations in four areas — rapid point-of-care testing, reporting, surge activation and support.

The association said it supports dedicated funding for testing and contact tracing in assisted living communities and nursing homes. Also, access to testing supplies should be prioritized, and testing should be required of all residents and staff members, as should purchasing and providing training on performing rapid point-of-care tests, the association said.

The association said that it is particularly important that all COVID-19 cases in such settings be reported and data available to ensure targeted support during the pandemic, as well as to prepare for potential future pandemics. This preparation should includes the creation of a publicly accessible and searchable web platform and requirement that all communities report positive cases to public health authorities, the testimony said.

Surge activation should occur for any “hot spots,” including the provision of strike teams to support efforts during outbreaks, the groups said. In addition, the association called for establishing protocols in assisted living communities and nursing homes once a resident or staff member tests positive for the virus, including implementing a care coordination protocol if a resident must be moved to another care setting.

Support should come in the form of full access to necessary PPE, testing equipment, training and external support to keep assisted living communities and nursing homes COVID-free, the groups said. Further, state departments of health should establish a Statewide Long-Term Care Emergency Response Task Force to coordinate with key stakeholders and identify pressing issues and implement solutions, according to the testimony.

Finally, the association urged the continued prioritization of access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly residents and staff in long-term care settings.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6.2 million Americans aged 65 or more years are living with Alzheimer’s dementia. Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover $239 billion (67%) of the total healthcare and long-term care payments for those individuals. The association said that total healthcare, long-term care and hospice care payments for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050. 

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