Report says COVID-19 brought light to issues in nursing homes

Updated: Sep. 11, 2020 at 6:14 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on nursing homes as many became hot spots for the virus. A new report, with more than 50 experts, states the virus brought attention to health and safety issues within facilities that existed far before the 2020 outbreak.

“She was like my second mom, she was full of life, she was fun, she was wonderful and seeing pictures from last year to this year, I couldn’t believe the difference,” said Sharon Featherston, who had an aunt at a nursing home in Tucson.

Featherston said her aunt’s health was declining and their family pulled her from the nursing home.

“She ended up being a failure to thrive and she just wasn’t getting properly cared for,” she said. “Her hygiene was really bad.”

She was holding her aunt’s hand when she passed away last month. Another Tucson woman who asked to remain anonymous also took her mother from a facility due to concerns over care.

“We were completely in shock, she had lost at least 40 pounds by that time,” the woman said. “She was slumped over in her wheelchair and a shell of the person she was before.”

She lost her mother this summer.

“These facilities are very understaffed,” she said. “The families, the loved ones need to be in there ensuring that the level of care these individuals need is being carried out.”

The new report highlights under-staffing as a major issue in nursing homes.

“The majority of nursing homes didn’t have adequate staffing before the pandemic,” said Tara Sklar, a University of Arizona professor of health law and researcher involved in the report. “When people start getting sick, they feel incredibly obligated to keep going because there’s no safety net, there’s no back-up.”

She recommends giving caregivers paid sick leave, more sufficient wages, or even hazard pay. Despite getting government funding, many facilities fall below standards.

“Estimated that half of nursing homes don’t meet the requirements to deliver basic standard of care and yet they still continue to receive that revenue,” Sklar said.

More than 68,000 people connected to nursing homes have died from COVID-19 in the past six months, according to the report.

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