Texas Caregivers Deserve Our Support in Protecting Our Aging Population
Friday, April 3, 2020
Posted by: George Linial
As COVID-19 continues to spread across Texas, our aging population is being asked to isolate themselves from their family, friends, community, and religious services to protect them from contracting the virus. Whether it is a neighbor, an aging couple from your place of worship, or an organization that cares for the elderly in your community, older Texans are at greater risk. Disconnected from their usual support systems, social distancing is difficult for seniors, as well as the family and friends who care for them.
Families, friends, and aging Texans are relying on mission-driven aging services organizations to provide the highest quality care and support during this difficult time. LeadingAge Texas, an association of not-for-profit aging services providers and senior living communities, is dedicated to the health and safety of the people they serve as they focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19.
In the fight against the virus, frontline staff are stepping up to provide emotional and social support while protecting our most vulnerable in nursing homes and other senior living settings. We will succeed in this effort to defeat the virus, but we face significant challenges ahead.
In Texas, over 11,500 direct-care staff are working in long-term care facilities. The majority of these direct-care staff are Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs). Along with licensed nurses, they are responsible for providing 24/7 care to older Texans with complicated medical needs.
I recently spoke to an RN from The Wesleyan organization in Georgetown. As a veteran of nursing, Kelly Goetz understands the vital role nurses play from both a medical and emotional standpoint. “This is my family,” said Kelly. “When I take care of someone, I am taking care of a person that I know and care about. The same is true of the staff working at The Wesleyan. Some employees have been working here for over 40 years. The residents, staff and families here are part of our community and it is my duty to provide the best care possible.”
For long-term care providers, the challenges of this pandemic are unprecedented. The preparation and response I’ve seen over the last few weeks demonstrates many are up to the task, but they need support; support from the community, state and local health agencies, local and national businesses, and our elected officials. To protect the older Texans we serve and the people who care for them we must prioritize access to the basics when combatting COVID-19 - personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid testing for residents and staff, and transparent reporting of confirmed cases across healthcare settings so we can best respond. These tools are necessary to save lives.
Lutheran Sunset Ministries has been serving the people of Clifton for 66 years. Rodney Rueter is CEO of Lutheran Sunset and gave me this insight: “Our direct-care staff are the backbone of our community. We are doing everything we can to protect our residents, but in order to do that we need the right equipment to protect our staff.” Rodney is one of many who understands the critical role nursing homes will play during this crisis. “Without adequate support for caregivers, we are risking the lives of seniors and healthcare workers. Residents and families have placed their trust in us and we cannot let them down.” These sentiments are shared in communities across Texas.
As aging services providers go to battle with COVID-19, it is essential to support those protecting such a high-risk population. We are all in this fight together, but we must acknowledge what it takes to be successful, and the sacrifices caregivers are making every day to serve older adults. These frontline staff are the unsung heroes and they deserve our full support as they continue fighting to protect our loved ones.
George Linial, CAE, CASP
President & CEO, LeadingAge Texas