REP. RICHARD NEAL TO MASSACHUSETTS SENIOR CARE ASSOCIATION MEMBERS: WE NEED TO DO MORE TO SUPPORT HEROIC NURSING HOME WORKERS
ANNUAL MEETING SPEAKERS FOCUS ON MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL ON STAFF AND RECOVERY STRATEGIES
Boston--At today's annual meeting of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association (MSCA) and its members, The Honorable Richard Neal, U.S. Congressman for the state's 1st District, spoke about the incredible efforts of nursing home staff during the pandemic, and the need for ongoing support to protect residents and staff.
Citing the heroic dedication of nursing home workers, Congressman Neal said he plans to work with his colleagues on Capitol Hill and the Biden administration to provide more financial support for the long term care sector so that facilities can secure the necessary PPE, and staffing levels, and give their frontline staff higher wages. Most of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act back in April has already been distributed to health care providers.
"I want to thank all of you for your hard work. You really are the frontline advocates in this pandemic, which has also shown how important the work that you do is as we attempt ever so importantly to protect our most vulnerable population," Neal said. "We understand that more will be needed. Higher wages, access to childcare, paid sick leave and certainly universal healthcare coverage. In the short term, we need to make sure nursing homes have the necessary PPE and testing. When we get a vaccine, it’s clear that we have to prioritize nursing home staff and residents. Your good work and advocacy are recognized and I want you to know I remain clear in my priorities."
Speakers at the annual meeting also focused on the emotional and physical toll the pandemic has taken on long term care staff.
Dr. Susan Wehry, MD, Chief of Geriatrics, University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, spoke about the different stages of a disaster, and understanding how the brain works and the accompanying emotions during those stages. Dr. Wehry offered up self-care strategies for members and their staff to mitigate the stressors, and said it's important to foster a sense of team.
"There's been a collective trauma of coming together and falling apart. It's affected us biologically, psychologically, and socially. We have proven that we are remarkably resilient," said Dr. Wehry. "What's different this time is that we know so much more about this virus than we did in the beginning and we have to remember that, because some of us are overwhelmed by the second surge. We do know how to mitigate the risk and contain the virus. We're built for this."
"Crush events are big devastating events that we have all experienced in life and have a profound personal and professional impact," said psychologist, Dr. Kimberly Miller adding that it's important for those experiencing stressful situations to make time for themselves and change their mindset into a more positive outlook. "It's about believing in yourself and about changing your mindset. That will let you change your energy reserve."
Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), spoke about efforts to support long term care facilities at the national level and voiced optimism about the future and vaccine availability.
"We are extremely proud of our nursing homes and their tireless frontline staff who have worked so very hard to lower the infection rates within their facilities. Their dedication and determination is admirable and we are forever grateful to them," said Tara Gregorio, President of MSCA. "With the flu season upon us, and increasing number of COVID positive cases in the greater community, it will take an even more concerted effort to protect those who are most vulnerable. With the support of state funding, facilities are doing widespread surveillance testing of all staff and residents on a routine basis, but our staff and their families live and work in the communities that surround us. It is therefore critical that those communities take all precautions to mitigate the threat and spread of the virus."