Contact: Lisa Sanders
lsanders@leadingage.org 202-508-9407

April 30, 2020, Washington DC -- Statement from Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services, in response to today’s “Protecting America’s Seniors” White House event:  

In today’s remarks on ‘Protecting America’s Seniors,’ the President claimed that ‘We’re taking very special care of our nursing homes and our seniors.’ This is false. The time for talk, symbolism, and proclamations has passed. It's time for action from the White House and Congress.

For weeks and weeks, vulnerable older adults have been living in fear as infections and death tolls climbed, not knowing whether the equipment, testing, and support they need to protect their lives would arrive in time. 

Today’s announcements fell far short of what's needed to protect the most vulnerable Americans from the coronavirus.

  • For the millions of other older Americans being cared for outside of nursing homes—in assisted living, HUD-assisted housing for low-income older adults, life plan communities, hospices, and in our homes and communities—the government offered practically nothing today. Nothing. 

  • Older adults in federally-assisted housing have not been mentioned. We continue to await guidance and assistance to ensure that the 1.6 million older adults living in HUD-assisted housing older adults have the support they need to stay healthy and safe.

  • As economies open up, there has been no prioritization announced for older adults—who must now compete with nail salons and gyms for life-protecting supplies on the open market.

  • There is still no sign that testing for older adults will be given the same priority as hospitals so that asymptomatic people aren’t infecting one another and spreading the virus where it is most deadly.

  • FEMA’s two, one-week supplies of PPE distribution are wholly insufficient. Further, they will go only to nursing homes, leaving out millions of vulnerable older adults who are cared for elsewhere.

The only way to avert this slow-motion catastrophe is to provide meaningful amounts of PPE, as well as effective and efficient testing and a comprehensive approach to supporting older adults and the workers who care for them.

COMMISSION ANNOUNCEMENT

  • We are always ready to work with CMS and others to examine what we can do better. From the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, we have been regularly talking with top CMS officials. But we need to DO what we can better. We need PPE and testing now.

  • We need more than a post-war-type commission to examine a tragic battle—because the nation’s nursing home and aging services providers are still on the front line fighting—and it feels like we are fighting alone.

FEMA’S TWO TIME, ONE-WEEK SUPPLY DISTRIBUTION IN THE COMING MONTHS

  • Pretending a symbolic one-week supply of PPE for select nursing homes is a meaningful solution is an insult to millions of vulnerable Americans, their families, and their caregivers.

  • Life-saving equipment that was promised weeks ago has been further delayed, leaving caregivers to keep fighting and scrounging for every mask and gown they can muster. Some have resorted to wearing trash bags to protect themselves and those they care for.

  • The suggested amounts appear symbolic: the COVID-19 crisis requires 20 times more PPE than usual, but FEMA has told states that nursing homes in selected communities will receive fewer than 8 masks per staff member.

VETERANS HOMES CONTAINING VIRUS

  • I could not be more pleased that the vulnerable veterans in VA homes are faring well—because the right supplies and testing were available to help protect them from the coronavirus.

  • But it’s astonishing and insulting to hear that millions of older Americans at other nursing homes will have to make do with token supplies, a few iPads, and a proclamation—and a new commission.

  • And for the millions of other older Americans being cared for outside nursing homes—in assisted living, HUD-assisted communities for adults living on low- incomes, life plan communities, hospices, and in our homes and communities—the government offered nothing today. Nothing. 

RESOURCES 

  • There is no comprehensive support for aging services providers across the continuum of care. There is no action or movement on a $100 billion emergency relief fund for aging services providers, or the Heroes Fund legislation providing resources for workers on the front line.

About LeadingAge:

We represent more than 5,000 aging-focused organizations that touch millions of lives every day. Alongside our members and 38 state partners, we address critical issues by blending applied research, advocacy, education, and community-building. We bring together the most inventive minds in our field to support older adults as they age wherever they call home. We make America a better place to grow old. For more information: www.leadingage.org