Nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic has been easy for long-term care and senior living providers. And we are now going on seven months of what we can only call managed chaos – among other things like fear, frustration, uncertainty and devastation.
But in the midst of the crisis one thing has become evident: this profession has a backbone and thanks to hardworking staff, incredible leadership and various associations and advocates, I believe we are going to come out of this stronger than ever.
While there has been a lot of discussion about how the government has been slow to respond and offered fewer resources than necessary, I wanted to use my monthly column to highlight some of the incredible ways providers have seen support.
For instance, when the pandemic hit, we learned the extreme vulnerability of those we serve. Providers were faced with the tough task of having to isolate residents – leading to loneliness, sadness and in many cases, confusion. Argentum quickly launched the Sharing for Seniors Facebook Group to collect messages of encouragement and other positive content for communities to share with their residents. Just scroll through the page and you’ll find video messages, inspirational quotes and communities sharing the innovative ways they are keeping residents in good spirits for others to repurpose.
In the same vein, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) launched the Stories of Care special edition series of Provider Daily to keep subscribers abreast of positive news in the long-term care profession.
Several industry celebrations like Careers in Aging Week, National Nursing Assistants Week and National Assisted Living Week used the time to spread awareness about the challenges communities are facing during this time and most importantly, the incredible work of their employees.
As more and more workers were displaced from their jobs, we saw associations swiftly compile resources to help senior care organizations tap into this newly created labor pool. Argentum launched their Recruitment Toolkit and since then has expanded that effort into a full-blown COVID-19 Toolkit, which contains the latest CDC and FDA guidelines, PPE updates and other infection control best practices. They diligently update the page and it functions as a trusted resource for senior living providers navigating the pandemic.
Similarly, AHCA/NCAL instituted a free temporary nurse aide course to help providers meet the amplified staffing challenges created by the crisis. The eight-hour course was designed to get people in the door and on the floor faster, especially those displaced and in need of temporary work.
AHCA/NCAL also maintains a comprehensive resource page to keep skilled nursing providers in the know on the latest industry updates and best practices. And they regularly develop content, send email updates and host webinars to help providers process and adhere to all of the CMS rules and regulations related to COVID-19.
Several associations are mobilizing others to join in our fight to protect our seniors from the deadly virus. Argentum organized an advocacy campaign to help senior living providers, who previously had not received monetary assistance like their skilled nursing counterparts, secure a portion of the $175 billion funding available in the CARES Act. Their Standing With Seniors initiative educates the public on the critical needs of the industry during this time and provides numerous resources for those looking to get involved.
Then there’s AHCA/NCAL’s Save our Seniors initiative – which presses policymakers for adequate testing, PPE, increased staff support, more funding and vaccine priority for residents and staff when one becomes available.
LeadingAge’s Act For Older Adults campaign also lays out several ways for constituents to contact their local lawmakers and demand more support for senior care communities. LeadingAge also encourages people to amplify their message with free social media graphics and a printable #Act4OlderAdults adults mask to be worn in a selfie.
I clearly cannot talk about advocating on our behalf without calling out Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO of LeadingAge and Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA, by name. Both have been extremely outspoken about the critical needs of senior care communities during this pandemic and have tirelessly pleaded for better funding, PPE and testing for residents and staff. Their efforts and the efforts of all of those working on our behalf are more appreciated than we can say.
CMS has also done their due diligence to provide relief to skilled nursing providers. They adjusted Payroll-Based Journal reporting deadlines to allow providers to focus on virus mitigation and developed an extensive resource page for providers and recently launched their own COVID-19 training program.
AHCA/NCAL quite nicely sums up the way in which these various organizations and groups have come together in a common effort: “We must foster a more collaborative approach to addressing this once-in-a-century, global crisis. Nursing homes cannot beat this pandemic alone, and providers need the support of public health officials to prioritize our residents and help facilities acquire the necessary resources.”
I am so impressed with senior care’s vigilance and commitment each day and it makes me extremely proud to be a part of this profession. I thank you for all that you have done, are doing and will continue to do in this fight.