Eldercare has too often been left out of our national health care discussion. Now, as COVID-19 tears through long-term care facilities, the need for high-quality care has never been more clear.
The disproportionate impact on seniors in long-term care facilities is stark, accounting for 8% of all COVID-19 cases but 40% of deaths. The number of cases in nursing homes has remained high in good part because, even after six months, many facilities still lack the supplies, staff and testing needed to control the virus’s spread. The situation puts senior citizens at risk ― and their caregivers, too.
These caregivers work long hours for low pay; many work more than one job to make ends meet, increasing transmission between facilities, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The biggest problems at nursing homes right now reflect three clearly identifiable deficiencies: not enough testing, not enough protective gear and not enough workers.
Fixing these would not put a stop to nursing home COVID-19 deaths. But it would almost certainly reduce them and, along the way, improve the quality and safety of eldercare and the lives of the people who provide it.
Join HuffPost Senior Reporter Jonathan Cohn and National Domestic Workers Alliance Executive Director Ai-jen Poo for a discussion on the systemic issues plaguing current care options, and what a better system might look like for seniors and care providers. The virtual event will take place at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 24. Sign up for the virtual event here.
Cohn is the author of ”Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis ― and the People Who Pay the Price” and the forthcoming ”The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage.” His coverage of health care policy is a go-to for wonks and anyone who wants to better understand how our system works and what could be done to improve it.
Poo is the co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a nonprofit with 70 local affiliates and more than 200,000 members. Fortune’s 50 World’s Greatest Leaders and Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World have both recognized her work, and she was presented with a 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Award.