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Racial Inequity in Long Term Care

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately 5 million people each year, released the following statement in reaction to rising protests across the country following the death of George Floyd as well as evidence correlating COVID-19 cases in long term care to Black and Latino residents.

The following statement is attributable to Mark Parkinson, JD, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL; Debbie Meade, AHCA board chair; and Helen Crunk, NCAL board chair.

“This year has proven to be the most challenging year in the history of the long term care sector. Sadly, it’s also proving to be one of the most challenging for the country as a whole.

“The deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people, many in our long term care facilities, has been devastating. We know that it’s been even more painful to the families of those that COVID-19 has taken. Adding to the pain is the unfortunate reality that despite us screaming for help, as loudly as possible, our residents were ignored. Equally frustrating is that many of those who ignored our cries are now the first to lay blame at our feet.

“While this tragedy has been taking place, our country is once again being torn apart by racism and racial inequity. The death of George Floyd was no accident and it is not an isolated event. It is just the most recent occurrence in a legacy of racial inequality in this country that we can only end by acknowledging it.

“Concurrent with George Floyd’s tragic death is evidence of racial inequality in the very virus that we are fighting. The data are clear that a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths occur among minorities. Most disturbing is that this appears to be true both in the general population and in skilled nursing facilities as well.

“Where do we go from here? Do we just give in to the terrible events that have shaped the first half of this year? Of course not. First, we condemn the senseless killing of George Floyd along with those before him and acknowledge the pain it has brought us all. As a profession, we fully support the right of all people to peacefully protest. Second, we commit that long term care facilities will be an oasis of freedom where people of all races, religions, and beliefs are able to live and work safely, and without fear of prejudice. Third, we will work to fight against the factors that have created the profound health care disparities that exist in the United States.

“Finally, we pledge to our residents, their families, and our employees that we are not giving in to this fight against COVID-19. We are inspired by the hundreds of thousands of heroes who work in long term care facilities and have sacrificed so much during the pandemic. Together, we will fight all day, every day, for as long as it takes, to keep our residents and staff safe. The first half of 2020 has been extremely difficult for our country and created unthinkable challenges, but it will not defeat us and together, we will make positive differences.”

— Source: American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living