Brad Anderson says Iowans living in nursing homes are in “grave danger” with more than 540 dead from the virus statewide this year, and he says many measures to protect those residents are still not in place. “We have Iowans dying in nursing homes at an unacceptable rate, that needs to be addressed,” Anderson says. “Secondly, we’ve got residents and families that are suffering greatly from social isolation. You can’t deal with that second crisis until you deal with the first crisis.”
The organization is calling on the governor to enact new rules like requiring regular testing for COVID-19 and providing easier access to personal protective gear. Also: “We need to ensure adequate staffing levels,” Anderson says. “Nursing homes weren’t really adequately staffed prior to the pandemic and the situation has only gotten worse.”
In addition, AARP wants regulations that would require virtual visitation in long-term care facilities, to put a bandaid on the challenges of social isolation. “What that means is training residents and family members on how to use things like FaceTime and iPads and Skype to allow them to connect virtually until we can get back to safe, regular, in-person visitation,” Anderson says, “which is what everyone wants but we’re still very far from achieving that.”
The nonprofit, nonpartisan AARP is also calling for the creation of a state task force to address the crisis in nursing homes. Anderson notes, there’s all kinds of discussion about Iowa schools during the pandemic, and rightly so. “How do we deal with virtual learning and how do we get to a path for in-person learning? These conversations are happening at all levels related to schools,” Anderson says, “yet we have had 50% of the deaths related to COVID in Iowa nursing homes and there seems to be next-to-no public conversation about this crisis.”
Anderson says the enacting of common-sense policies will save lives.