TYLER, Texas — Nursing homes have been the scene of many of the coronavirus outbreaks in our community.
Data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that approximately 39% of COVID-19 in Texas have been linked to long-term-care facilities.
“Within the long-term care communities, with communal settings there is a lot of interaction, obviously, because these are residents that require 24-hour, 7-day-a-week care,” Kevin Warren explained.
Warren is the President and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association, the largest association for nursing homes in the state. Warren says long-term-care facilities are trying hard to isolate residents who are sick to minimize the spread of the virus.
“All of that, though, requires and places increased demand on PPE, and the frequency with which you have to change it out, the utilization of it,” Warren stated.
Warren says he is pleased that state leaders are making it more of a priority to supply long-term-care facilities with personal protective equipment.
“Candidly, it’s been a struggle,” Warren said. “That’s why we’ve been asking and speaking to state agencies and elected officials about this for a couple months now.”
Making sure employees can keep themselves and their residents safe is the big challenge nursing homes face. Unfortunately, there is not a simple solution beyond defeating COVID-19.
Warren said the financial toll of the virus and a persistent staffing shortage have him believing the industry will need federal stimulus money.
“This was an underfunded profession beforehand,” Warren claimed, “and the increased need for PPE, for testing, for staffing just further puts additional costs on these providers, and so we’ve gotta make sure that these, that they have all the necessary resources.”
The other thing he believes would help is more interaction from all of us. In-person visits have to wait, and Warren said there have been no discussions about criteria for easing the restrictions.
However, he thinks cards and videos for the residents and their care-givers could create a few smiles during a very stressful time.
“None of them signed up to be a hero,” Warren said. “None of them applied, thinking that, at some point my responsibility is to put my own health and safety at risk to care for others. But that’s what they’re doing each and every day. And they’re doing it with grace, they’re doing it with everything they know to do, because caring for these men and women that they have responsibility for matters to them that much.
“So, the more support that we can see from the communities, even if it’s just to say, ‘hey, thinking about you’ We have an adopt-a-nursing home initiative that we started back in March that we’re seeing really good success with in terms of having people to outreach and to send letters of encouragement and letters of support to providers.
“Because, they are, these providers within these buildings, they’re being stretched. But their residents and others’ loved ones, they matter so much to them that they’re doing everything they know to do so that we can get through this and so that we can look back at this and figure out, ‘what do we need to do differently moving forward?’”
The Texas Health Care Association created an Adopt a Nursing Home campaign to make it easy to send them messages. You can send an email or request an address of a nearby facility to send a letter.