Establish “Essential Caregivers” to Address Chronic Lack of Staffing

Thank you to CT Examiner for showing no media fatigue for the ongoing tragedy that has befallen those who live in CT nursing homes and their families who have been separated for over 7 months.

Julia Werth’s article, “Added Nursing Staff Can Save Lives…” (Oct 7), clearly outlines the impact of insufficient staffing ratios in nursing homes. The Mathematica report underscores what so many have been crying out about for decades! 1.9 staff hours per day for each nursing home resident is sorely inadequate. Some may say it is dangerous.

State Ombudsman Mairead Painter aptly noted that a staffing bill has come up every session for the last 10 years. Yet in the last 2 special sessions not only was nursing home staffing not mentioned, Gov. Ned Lamont neglected to put any item regarding nursing homes on the either agenda and nursing home immunity is still in place.

And some are concerned that nursing homes have low occupancy rates? Matt Barrett, who represents for-profit healthcare facilities, has repeatedly voiced his concern about a precipitous drop in the occupancy rate in Connecticut’s nursing homes.

Now is the time to draw attention to the role that family has played in augmenting the care of loved ones in nursing homes. By holding on to the current austere nursing home visitation policy, the historically  inadequate staffing is exacerbated. How does 4-8 hours a day that many family members supported their loved one compare with 1.9 hours/day of nursing staff? By continuing to keep out the family that spent countless hours by the side of their loved ones occupancy rates will continue to fall. 

Mr. Barrett, you’re concerned about nursing home occupancy rates? You ask for “some sort of occupancy rate recovery timetable”? You ask to sort out and align fiscal policies and policy objectives? In the short term there may be a simple answer to address these concerns for “for profit” nursing homes. Convince Governor Lamont and Dr. Gifford to establish Essential Caregivers.

Safely open the doors to the family members who not only supported their loved ones in nursing homes, but functioned as volunteer staff. Volunteers who are ready and willing to adhere to all the safety and screening measures that staff adhere to. 

Return humanity to nursing homes, broaden the narrow focus on medical safety and begin to address the social-emotional and mental needs of nursing home residents who are suffering. ‘Safety” needs to be redefined. Read and adhere to the recommendations of the Mathematica report. Then watch what happens to occupancy rates! 

Elizabeth Stern
Stonington, CT

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