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Even as the Omicron variant fades, advocates for assisted living and memory care residents and caregivers push the White House to focus budget priorities on communities still under threat.

(Alexandria, Va.) – Two million residents and caregivers in assisted living and memory care communities across the nation remain at heightened risk of contracting Omicron and its new subvariants and require federal assistance to sustain the fight, starting with the Biden Administration’s budget priorities to be released on March 28.

This is the message contained in a new letter sent to President Biden on March 24 by James Balda, president and chief executive officer for Argentum, the leading advocacy group for professionally managed senior living communities.

In the letter, Balda said despite the nation’s natural impulse to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic, those living and working in senior living communities where the average age of residents is 85-years-old, cannot rest easy. In fact, with the rise in Omicron subvariants just starting to accelerate in the United States, and the ongoing financial stress from paying the extraordinary care costs of fighting the pandemic for two-plus years, now is the most crucial time for the White House to step up and help.

“We urge the Administration to redouble its efforts on helping this most vulnerable population and their frontline caregivers,” Balda said in laying out three specific steps that would both protect seniors and give their caregivers a fighting chance to survive the economic impact of COVID.

The three steps Argentum urges the Administration to act on, are:

  1. Allocating targeted financial relief for providers to overcome their expenses and losses.
  2. Renewing a public-private partnership on vaccine and booster administration.
  3. Creating workforce training programs to help with the workforce shortage crisis.

“Roughly one in four older Americans who depend on help with their daily needs—from eating and bathing, to walking and taking medications—reside in America’s senior living communities. Their valiant caregivers have gone above and beyond to keep them safe, incurring more than $30 billion in expenses and losses,” Balda said.

“Yet, while other providers have received relief offsetting nearly all of their losses, senior living providers have been overlooked time and again and have received relief offsetting less than 5% of their losses. This is despite six relief packages and more than $6 trillion in federal spending that was authorized to help meet the challenges on the frontlines of the crisis. As a result, every day more providers are faced with the agonizing decision to shutter their doors and displace frail seniors from their homes and caregivers.”

He said the lack of support is unacceptable and that it is well past time for action. “The pandemic, much less the crisis stage, is far from over for the nearly two million seniors across assisted living, memory/Alzheimer’s care, independent living, and continuing care communities,” Balda said.

In fact, the Omicron variant exacerbated many of the challenges that caregivers were already experiencing, from their already compounding uncompensated losses to the inexplicable decision not to resume on-site vaccine/booster clinic support, and the depleted supply of tests needed to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure adequate levels of staffing to the broader workforce shortage crisis, the letter said.

Beyond the financial losses, Balda told Biden that providers have faced enormous financial and logistical challenges with testing and vaccines. “While vaccines provide exceptional protection, they are not infallible, and as such regular testing is a necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus. More than two-thirds of breakthrough hospitalizations have occurred in those who are age 65 and older, and even more troubling is that 87% of all breakthrough deaths occurred among individuals over age 65.”

He said booster doses can help to counteract waning immunity in the vaccines, but additional support is needed to ensure this largely non-ambulatory population is able to receive the shots.

“A program earlier in your administration helped achieve resident vaccination rates of over 95% and staff vaccination rates of over 85%. Yet, despite these incredible successes, this program was not renewed for the administration of boosters,” Balda said.

In addition, the letter urged Biden to act on the workforce crisis that was bad before the pandemic but is not untenable. “During the first 20 months of the pandemic, the senior living industry lost more than 100,000 workers, resulting in 96% of communities facing staff shortages. There are simply not nearly enough caregivers available to meet our seniors’ needs, and this deficit will only grow larger, especially if providers are unable to weather the current public health crisis,” he said.

Read the full letter here.

 

About Argentum
Argentum is the leading national association exclusively dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the older adults and families they serve. Since 1990, Argentum has advocated for choice, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all older adults.

Argentum member companies operate senior living communities offering assisted living, independent living, continuing care, and memory care services. Along with its state partners, Argentum’s membership represents approximately 75 percent of the senior living industry—an industry with a national economic impact of nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars and responsible for providing over 1.6 million jobs. These numbers will continue to grow as the U.S. population ages.

Argentum’s programs and initiatives are driven by its membership. For more information about joining Argentum, please visit argentum.org/membership. Learn more at argentum.org.

Contact:
Patrick Connole
Manager, Media and Public Affairs
ARGENTUM | Expanding Senior Living
1650 King Street, 6th Floor
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-599-7412 | pconnole@argentum.org

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