Brad Anderson says surveys consistently show older Iowans would prefer to stay at home rather than enter a nursing home, yet Anderson says Iowa has among the highest rates of people with low-care needs in nursing homes.
“There are a lot of people in nursing homes right now that could get that care or better at home, which is where they want to be,” Anderson says. “COVID-19 is a wake-up call to this industry and the time has come to start having those conversations at the federal level and at the state level.”
A spokesman for the industry says federal standards forbid people from being admitted to nursing homes unless they have a need for skilled care. AARP urges policymakers to consider shifting spending to in-home and community-based services. Anderson also says it’s time to ensure the 55,000 Iowans who care for elderly Iowans are properly compensated for their work.
“The median age for a direct care worker right now is $13.80,” Anderson says. “$13.80 is not enough money for the type of work these folks are doing.”
The state website indicates there are COVID-19 outbreaks in 39 Iowa nursing homes. Anderson says the employees and the 23,000 Iowans who live in nursing homes need to be tested regularly for COVID-19, to guard against outbreaks.
“It is incredibly sad what is happening in nursing homes today and we have to do better,” Anderson says. “The virus in nursing homes is just like a prairie fire that is blazing across a dry prairie and we need to do everything we can to stop that fire.”
Anderson made his comments recently during an appearance on Iowa PBS. State officials have reported 309 residents have died of COVID-19. That accounts for nearly half of the virus-related deaths in Iowa this year.