Read our official statement on the Essential Caregivers Act.
COVID-19 has caused unimaginable devastation across our nation’s nursing homes. In March 2020, long-term care facilities across the country went on lockdown, violating the resident’s rights to visitation and leaving residents to live in total isolation. For over a year, residents lived without essential friends and family that had previously participated in providing care and advocating for the needs of their loved ones. Residents suffered mentally, emotionally, and physically, and thousands died alone, never having the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. For this reason, VOYCE joins long-term care resident advocates across the country in support of H.R. 3733.
When long-term care facilities first went into lockdown, the intention was to protect residents and stop the spread of the virus. We now know that these harsh restricted visitation policies caused more harm and hurt than COVID ever could. Despite the lockdowns, facilities were ill-equipped to stop the virus, and nearly every facility across the country experienced a COVID outbreak. Decreased oversight, improper infection control, understaffing, a lack of PPE and testing supplies, and decades of neglecting advocates’ calls for policy reform resulted in the death of over 184,000 nursing home residents nationwide. Here in Missouri, we lost nearly 4,000 residents to COVID-19. It is estimated that for every two COVID-related deaths, another resident died from having lost their will to live, commonly referred to on a death certificate as ‘Failure to Thrive.’ For months now, long-term care resident advocates have sounded alarms on the dangers of restrictive visitation policies, and the Essential Caregivers Act would bring relief to these concerns.
H.R. 3733, also known as the Essential Caregivers Act, is a critical piece of legislation that would allow long-term care residents access to two designated caregivers during COVID-19 or any other public health emergency. But these designated individuals are not simply visitors; essential caregivers are the voice of vulnerable residents. They are responsible for providing direct care, assisting with Activities of Daily Living, and being a source of emotional support or companionship to the residents. Essential Caregivers will be required to follow all applicable health and safety protocols, and they will be granted facility access for twelve hours each day. The role of an Essential Caregiver is an important factor in resident health and wellbeing during a public health emergency, and we should be inviting them into facilities, not locking the doors barring access to their loved ones.
VOYCE calls upon our state’s Congress(wo)men to restore the rights of long-term care residents by supporting H.R. 3733, and more importantly, support the end to resident suffering and isolation. After a year of facility lockdowns, residents are still facing barriers to seeing their loved ones, and the fast-spreading Delta variant means that more nursing home lockdowns are looming. The Essential Caregivers Act must be urgently passed as it is a compassionate step our nation can take in addressing resident cries for help.
Sign the petition from The National Consumer Voice urging Congress to reunite nursing home residents with their loved ones.