BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (May 7, 2020)— Over 50% of LeadingAge members responding to a recent online poll indicated that they expect their current supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to last two weeks or less. Of the organizations with a current COVID-19 diagnosis, over 90% report being concerned about PPE

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to step in regarding PPE shortages but nursing homes and senior care facilities would only receive two additional weeks’ worth of supplies.

Senior care providers have been crying out for help, Sloan said. LeadingAge represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services organizations. Shortages of PPE and the lack of rapid COVID-19 testing have hit the senior care community hard, she added. 

“We are alarmed to see that states are reopening without protecting older adults—even as the virus rages on. We cannot continue down this path or we will threaten an entire generation,” Sloan said.

“This is the fight of our lives,” said Carol Silver Elliott, president and CEO of Jewish Home Family. “We are fighting to keep elders and staff safe, fighting to help ill elders heal, fighting to get the supplies we need, and fighting against a misleading and inaccurate portrayal of nursing homes and senior services. We are on the front line. We are in the trenches and we need the support that we so desperately deserve.”

Elliot said the company has had such a difficult time obtaining PPE that they have a “parking lot guy” and have had to wire money to bank accounts. “Thankfully the supplies have appeared and been of good quality. I worry about our colleagues and those in rural areas who don’t have these connections.”

“PPE stands between us and infection,” Elliot said. “Without rapid testing, we will be talking about PPE for the foreseeable future. Our PPE use is 200% what it is in one month in an entire year.”

Citing concerns about states reopening without first protecting older Americans, Danny Stricker, president of Ascension Living, said, "We urge that as states lift their stay-at-home orders, they implement plans, testing and funding, which specifically address the need to ensure that those 65 and older in all residential and care settings—the most vulnerable—continue to stay safe and well."

“Our seniors have protected this country by serving in our military and building our communities through hard work and public service. Today it is our turn to take care of them. We have a responsibility as a society to provide them with the necessary protections and support during this pandemic... We need more from all levels to ensure that there is testing and PPE for all of our seniors across the country to keep them healthy and safe,” said Walter Ramos, president and CEO of Rogerson Communities.

“We have a staff that has chosen to work with this population,” Ramos added. “We can’t compete with the hospitals salary-wise. But we need help from public policy makers to keep our staff safe from infection.”

LeadingAge released five essential actions for policy makers in a letter to Congress to address the PPE shortage and the need for rapid COVID-19 testing.

  1. Assurance that states will not reopen without first ensuring older Americans are safe and protected.
  2. Immediate access to ample PPE for all care providers who serve older Americans, not just nursing homes. Policymakers must act now to get these providers on the same priority tier as hospitals.
  3. On-demand access to rapid-results testing for older adults and their care providers. Aging services providers must also be on the same priority tier as hospitals. Results are needed in minutes, not days or weeks.
  4. Recognition for the heroic frontline workers serving older Americans in nursing homes, assisted living, affordable housing, and home and community based settings, including hospice—just as we’ve recognized hospital workers and others who have kept America running.
  5. Funding and support for aging services providers across the continuum of care. In its next relief package, Congress must allocate $100 billion to cover COVID-19 needs, and provide critical support for aging services: hazard pay for frontline workers, federal housing assistance, support to deliver telehealth, access to loans, Medicaid increases, and administrative relief.