Schakowsky, Task Force On Aging & Families Exposes Nursing Home Crisis, Demands Protections For Seniors And Caretakers Amid Covid-19

June 24, 2020
Press Release

The three co-chairs of the House Democrats' Task Force on Aging and Families

WASHINGTON – This week, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families, led by Co-Chairs Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Vice Chairs Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), joined by House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA), held a virtual roundtable where they exposed the depth of the crisis ravaging nursing homes across America and outlined crucial safety measures that must be taken to protect our seniors and their caretakers. The Task Force was joined by multiple experts, family members and workers with firsthand experience in nursing homes, including Dr. Michael Wasserman, the president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, Dr. Patricia Gennari, whose mother recently passed away in a nursing home, Toby S. Edelman, a senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy and Chris Brown, a SEIU Health Care Worker. 

REP. SCHAKOWSKY: […] We have lost over 50,000 long-term care residents and staff to the coronavirus. That number represents indescribable pain for the families and the friends who have lost their loved ones and immense failure of leadership from the Trump administration. House Democrats are committed to taking action to stop this unnecessary loss of life, and we have an esteemed group of stakeholders joining us today to help us understand what that should look like.  

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VICE CHAIR CLARK: I am so grateful that the Task Force and the Democratic Caucus have been working on the issues that we will be talking about today: access to health care, making sure that nursing homes and long-term living facilities are of quality and are safe, food and financial security, protecting pensions from scams, all the issues that we have seen arise for families and older Americans during this pandemic. They are issues that have been the focus of this task force.  

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REP. MATSUI: Nursing homes and long-term living facilities across the country continue to be ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unacceptable for our elder care to disproportionately endure the brunt of the virus. As we move forward and reopen our communities, we cannot lose sight of the failed leadership and the shortcomings in the business of nursing care that continues to exacerbate these outbreaks. That’s why the Task Force on Aging & Families and House Democrats are turning up the pressure on the Trump administration to improve oversight and prioritize the distribution of vital supplies to nursing facilities.  

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REP. LAMB: […] Better pay and working conditions among the staff of these facilities can go a long way, not just for making life better for the staff members, but making life better for the residents and actually prolonging their lives. […] You can actually quantify the number of additional years when you raise people’s pay and working conditions. I think it is those deeper, structural, underlying conditions around these nursing homes that this task force is well-suited to address. 

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REP. DINGELL: I spend a lot of time with seniors, and this weekend I met with a group of seniors who reinforced for me what I have been hearing, and what really worries me during this pandemic, is that they think that we have made a decision that they are disposable. That, if they get COVID, we don’t care whether they live or die. They are feeling isolated, that there is no one who cares about them and that they don’t have any advocates. That’s why what we are doing today is so important. […] The Heroes Act has strong provisions in it to increase the testing capabilities, put in nursing home oversight, as well as funding for community-based care and address the PPE issue. The Senate needs to do something.  

REP. DEUTCH: My message today, and the reason I am so grateful for this opportunity, is that we can’t protect our nursing homes unless we get the fundamentals right. We can’t give up preventing outbreaks because it’s mostly younger people getting sick or expect that older Floridians in nursing homes will be okay because they are locked away. That is not acceptable. That is not what aging in America should look like.

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Video of the full roundtable and Q&A can be viewed here.