FLORHAM PARK, NJ — As COVID-19 continues to threaten the health of millions in New Jersey and throughout the country, evidence also continues to demonstrate that nursing homes and assisted living communities are being ravaged by the pandemic.

The Alzheimer’s Association recently released guidance urging lawmakers to implement new policies to address the nursing homes and residential care facility crisis.

According to some estimates, more than 27,000 residents and workers from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the United States have died from COVID-19. Additionally, of the more than two-million Americans currently living in these communities, data shows that 48 percent of nursing home residents have dementia and 42 percent of residents in residential care facilities—including assisted living facilities—have Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Sign Up for West Orange Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Due to their age, increased likelihood of coexisting chronic conditions, and the community nature of these settings, residents with dementia are particularly susceptible to COVID-19.

In order to address the immediate and long-term issues impacting care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alzheimer’s Association is urging policymakers to:

  • Enhance testing in community settings
  • Implement necessary reporting
  • Develop protocols to respond to a rise in cases
  • Ensure all facilities have a regular supply of personal protective equipment (PPE)

“Nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association has released a list of policy recommendations that provide guidance to lawmakers so that they understand the importance of addressing the evolving issues that are currently impacting long-term care facilities,” said Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey. “Nursing homes and assisted-living communities are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, and our nation must step up and take the necessary steps to ensure these communities are properly staffed, trained and equipped to keep residents safe.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Outlined its Policy Recommendations as Follows:

  • Every nursing home and assisted living community must be equipped with the onsite capability to verify that all residents, staff and visitors are free of COVID-19 infection, whether or not they are symptomatic.
  • Reporting mechanisms must be improved. All cases of COVID-19 infections, remissions and deaths in care communities will be reported immediately and accurately. Additionally, following all appropriate privacy safeguards, this reported data should be freely and immediately accessible.
  • Care communities must also be ready for surges. Any reported cases should trigger careful, ongoing monitoring and, if conditions warrant, “strike teams” will be employed to the facility to provide needed support until the outbreak is appropriately contained and eliminated. 
  • Policymakers must ensure all nursing homes and assisted living communities have full access to all needed PPE, testing equipment, training and external support to keep them COVID-19 free. 

According to Ricci-Francione, the Alzheimer’s Association is actively engaging nursing homes and long-term care providers to address current challenges and will continue to work with national, state and local agencies to ensure that dementia patients have access to high-quality care.

"Taking precautions to mitigate staff and resident exposure to the coronavirus will help to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19, which was a key focus in the Alzheimer's Association developing the guidelines," said Ricci-Francione.

At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the Alzheimer’s Association released guidance to help ensure the delivery of high-quality care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in long-term care and community-based settings.

In collaboration with 36 long-term care facilities, community-based care providers and affiliated associations, the Alzheimer’s Association released THESE TIPS FOR CAREGIVERS in order to identify important care considerations. The tips also incorporate evidence-based strategies to assist staff in long-term and community-based care settings during emergency situations.

The organization is also working with providers to address care challenges beyond the current crisis and is committed to continuing its Dementia Care Provider Roundtable. The roundtable is composed of thought leaders from the dementia care provider industry—including assisted living, nursing home and home and community-based services—to “identify and advance critical issues to improve care.”

CLICK HERE to read more about how AAGNJ is supporting Alzheimer's and dementia patients and their families during the health crisis.

The Alzheimer’s Association also offers free, around-the-clock support for caregivers and families impacted by Alzheimer’s and all dementias. Call the 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900 at any time or visit alz.org/covid19help for additional guidance.