AARP Alabama, on behalf of its 420,000 members and older adults in the state, appreciates the leadership and significant amount of work the state has undertaken to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented public health and economic crisis.
While severe health impacts of COVID-19 can occur across ages, the data has shown that it disproportionally impacts older adults worldwide. Sadly, Alabama is no different. Over 81% of Alabamians who have died from the virus are over 65.
Even more heartbreaking is the effect of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable citizens – those living in long-term care facilities or adult residential care facilities.
Transparency of information on COVID-19 cases is critical to fighting the disease. AARP urges the state to publicly release the names of long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff on a daily basis on the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website’s coronavirus dashboard.
Alabama is one of just 18 states that is refusing to publicly release infection data in real-time. During the current public health crisis, this information is essential to protect residents and for families to make safe and informed choices about where their loved ones will receive care. There are over 22,000 nursing home residents in the state. Alabamians deserve accurate and consistent data.
In addition to providing transparency of facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19, much more is needed to protect residents and staff from this disease and keep families informed and engaged. AARP supports the immediate implementation of a comprehensive, coordinated and actionable plan to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other adult residential care facilities.
The plan should include the following:
- Universal testing of all residents and staff at Alabama’s nursing homes, regardless of whether or not they are symptomatic. The only way to truly protect the health and safety of residents and staff is for facilities to have ready access to testing.
- Immediately assess all licensed facilities to evaluate their needs and ability to provide necessary care to residents, ensure adequate staffing, and train staff on testing, infection control procedures and isolation protocols. Consider making use of ‘strike teams’ that include local health workers and National Guard members to carry out this mission, and expand the presence of the Department of Public Health.
- Require adult residential facilities to offer and facilitate regular virtual visitation between residents and family members in order to combat social isolation that may occur in the absence of in-person visits. Virtual visitation provides family members the ability to communicate by video and audio, which can increase the emotional well-being of the resident and provide comfort to family caregivers that their loved ones are receiving the care that they need.
Long-term care facilities are ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus. Families are looking for swift action to protect the health and safety of their loved ones living in adult residential facilities.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers people to choose how they live as they age.