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COVID-19: Texas Senior Advocates Focus on Long-term Care Facilities

Texas has promised to test more than 230,000 residents and staff at the state's 1,224 licensed nursing homes by the end of May. (sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
Texas has promised to test more than 230,000 residents and staff at the state's 1,224 licensed nursing homes by the end of May. (sabinevanerp/Pixabay)
May 27, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas -- It's estimated that about half of the people who have died from COVID-19 have been nursing home residents, and senior advocates want Texas to tackle the crisis at every level of government.

AARP Texas state director Tina Tran said local and state officials, along with Texas legislators, need to prioritize the health and safety of seniors at long-term care facilities. That means providing timely information to help families make decisions.

"We want facilities to assure that they're providing testing, and they have adequate personal protective equipment," she said. "We would like to require daily reporting of facilities to help manage public health response and keep families up to date."

Tran said funding is critical to guarantee there's sufficient recruiting, training and retention at care facilities to provide the residents with adequate care. She adds it's important that families are consistently connected to their loved ones through video chats or phone calls.

Communicating has been critical for Randy Jones, whose 85-year-old mother is recovering after contracting COVID-19 at a nursing home outside of Houston. He said he believes his mother's care facility is one of the best, but needs to prioritize connecting with family, because many seniors are not tech-savvy.

"Part of their contingency plan needs to be, 'Who can these people communicate with? How can we facilitate that? Can we take iPads into their rooms, once a day for five minutes, so they can talk to their family, tell them how they're feeling?' Those contingency plans need to provide for that," he said.

Until the crisis, Diane Pope took her 95-year-old father on long drives near his San Antonio nursing home. Now, she relies on social media to connect with him.

"I can see how they interact with him and they're all wearing masks. And when there's a problem with the internet - which there often is, unfortunately - he gets very upset," she said. "But he's learned that he can call somebody, and if it doesn't pop back up in a little while, they'll call me again."

Until recently, there was no federal mandate for nursing homes to report coronavirus outbreaks or deaths. AARP wants a requirement that all long-term care facilities compile data on cases and deaths related to COVID-19.

Disclosure: AARP Texas contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - TX