Fairfield County, CT - “I am thrilled to see that Governor Lamont is taking a deeper look into what is happening with CT’s nursing homes and seeing where we can improve this situation, especially should we ever face a similar health issue again,” said Senator Hwang in reaction to the June 8 announcement that Lamont is ordering an independent, third-party review to be conducted of the preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic inside of Connecticut’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Last week, State Senator Tony Hwang (R-28) moderated a "CT Covid-19 Informational Update on Nursing Homes" to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on nursing, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities housing vulnerable Connecticut residents.
“Through discussions since the start of this pandemic, I have learned that nursing homes have long needed attention and support to make improvements to their infrastructures and health service systems, unfortunately the unusual circumstances presented by Covid-19 exacerbated and brought these issues front and center with devastating impact on residents, their families and frontline staff,” said Senator Hwang.
The discussion highlights the current major challenges, lessons learned and future plans for improvement including:
- Infection and death rates and managing the disease
- In-Person Visitations Clarification
- PPE availability
- Testing availability (now required)
- Impact of Social Isolation
- Aging in Place
Senator Hwang was joined by experts in the field of senior services and advocacy including:
State Senator Kevin Kelly, Aging & Insurance Committee
Also, an attorney specializing in elder law, Sen. Kelly shared staggering statistics on how the COVID-19 deaths inside CT nursing homes actually makes up 70% of all deaths in CT and 15% of the total deaths caused by the virus nationwide. He called for transparency to enable legislators and the public need to know what nursing homes are doing moving forward
Nora Duncan, CT AARP
Serving as Connecticut’s State Director, she is very concerned about the damaging impact of isolation on this population. Not just emotionally, and psychologically, but when it comes to the physical care that these residents depend on that is “above and beyond what the nursing home is able to provide.” The AARP advocated for virtual visitation starting in March as the state closed down, and that ability was not granted until May.
Marie Allen, Southwest Connecticut Agency on Aging (SWCAA)
Explained that she understood how changes needed to be made to elderly care and visitation capabilities given the virus, but encourages nursing homes and assisted living facilities to communicate not only the changes, but WHY they needed to be made and what is being done to address the situation.
Penny Young, Aging Advocate
Noted that the CT Commission on Women, Children and Seniors has been incredibly helpful to seniors. She is concerned that seniors are cut off during this quarantine since they may even lack cell phone or internet service.
Additionally, Deidre Gifford, Interim Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health, provided a statement since she could not be on the call, which Sen. Hwang shared. The statement clarified the guidance from DPH on allowing outdoor visits and the increase of testing on staff and residents.
The clarification on the ability of family members to visit with their nursing home bound relatives was welcome news to all the experts on the call.
“The word needs to get out to people that they can see their older family members using proper social distancing and by wearing a mask,” stressed Senator Hwang.
Both Marie Allen and Senator Kelly explained that the best (and possibly only) way to get a clear indication on how your family member’s health in the nursing home is to be there in person. Marie Allen shared that “using all five senses,” seeing and smelling food your relative is eating, the cleanliness of their living space/common areas, hearing what is going on around them on a typical day, etc. will give you a much better understanding of their constant environment.
Two important issues that have been problems for both staff and residents are availability of testing and PPE. Senator Hwang shared that on June 1, the Governor issued Executive Order 7UU which requires staff at private and municipal nursing homes, residential communities and assisted living agencies to be tested weekly for the duration of the public health and civil preparedness emergency. These requirements have to be met starting as early as June 14 (but private managed residential communities and assisted living services agencies have until June 28.)
Per the Governor’s office (see footnote at end) as of May 28, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 that reside in nursing homes or assisted living facilities make up 22.33% of the overall infected number in CT. While the lab confirmed deaths of COVID-19 related nursing home and assisted living residents makes up 54.91% of the total, the possible COVID-19 related deaths of elderly nursing home and assisted living residents is 70.44%.
Senator Hwang shared, “I am grateful for Interim-Commissioner Gifford's emphasis on how reviewing data and statistical trends of infection inside and outside of these long term care facilities will set a strong foundation on the plan to mitigate and reduce infection rates going forward.”
Being a notably at-risk population, these vulnerable residents have been incredibly isolated from family, friends and public in general. In his statements, the Governor shared that he did not believe that visitations could begin until September. Thankfully DPH clarified their recommendations surrounding visits and hopefully, that will be better communicated to individual nursing homes.
Nora Duncan summarized what needs to happen from here. “Looking ahead and moving quickly… looking ahead at what we need to do while reflecting upon our mistakes is very important.”
CT AARP - https://states.aarp.org/connecticut/
SWCAA - https://www.swcaa.org/
LEGAL NOTICE: This meeting was recorded and is subject to state freedom of information (FOI) guidelines. Certain communications or records received by or sent from this electronic mail account may be subject to public disclosure pursuant to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-200 et seq.
- INFO FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE