UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Calls for Immediate COVID-19 Testing for All Nursing Home Staff and Residents
Urgent Action Required to Ensure Safety and Health of Older Adults, Including those with Alzheimer’s
Washington, D.C. (May 4, 2020) – UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) today called on the federal government to require immediate COVID-19 testing of all residents and staff of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living communities to control the spread of the coronavirus among highly vulnerable residents, including people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
More than 1.3 million Americans currently reside in long-term care settings, and residents with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers face unique challenges as they face the current public health emergency. In six states reporting COVID19 data, more than 50 percent of all COVID-19 deaths can be attributed to long-term care facilities.
In addition, people with Alzheimer’s disease, even in its earliest stages, often rely on a loved one to be their advocate and to notice changes in health and behavior. A UsA2 survey released last week found, 91 percent of caregivers cannot visit loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia living in a long-term care facility due to restrictions on visitors, so these patients must rely on federal leaders to keep them safe.
In a letter to Alex M. Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, UsA2 said that urgent and additional steps are needed to protect those living in the facilities because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new list of indications for COVID testing will not protect people who lack the cognitive capacity to report many of these symptoms. The Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes announced last Thursday is a good step, the UsA2 letter said, but the commission is not expected to convene for several weeks, which is not quickly enough to take the immediate actions need to save lives.
UsA2 urged the federal government to address varying testing policies and practices among facilities and across states by establishing uniform national testing guidelines for testing of all staff and residents of these facilities and making the testing possible.
“The safety and health of older adults in such communities, including people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, requires urgent action,” wrote Russ Paulsen, chief operating officer at UsA2. “Testing some patients and staff is not sufficient.”
UsA2 called for the action by the federal government in four ways to address this serious national issue in long-term care facilities:
- Testing requirements for COVID-19 that include new residents before entry and periodic retesting of long-term residents and staff.
- Action by the federal government to make more tests and related supplies available, expand capacity of testing labs, and ensure that adequate funding is available to pay for the cost of testing. These steps are needed to address inadequate testing capacity in many states.
- Expedited development of tests that are appropriate for individuals with cognitive and sensory issues.
- Guidance by the federal government specific to individuals with dementia in long-term care settings.
“On behalf of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the millions of families affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, I urge you to take action necessary to ensure the safety of everyone in long-term care environments during these difficult times,” Paulsen wrote.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) is a disruptive advocacy and research-focused organization that is pushing for expanding treatments and accelerating towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. UsA2’s transformative programming is laser-focused on proactive brain health across the lifespan and understanding what matters most across the lived experiences of those affected by Alzheimer’s in the service of preventing, treating and curing this disease. We are working to ensure that all communities have their voices heard and get a chance to be brain healthy from the earliest years while building resistance against possible cognitive decline.