Nursing home residents and their families have suffered immeasurable loss in the past two years. Loss of dignity. Loss of autonomy. Loss of time. And loss of lives – approximately 200,000 COVID-related deaths, according to estimates, and countless more dying prematurely from other causes.
But let’s not talk about loss. Instead, let’s talk about a win — a small, yet important one that offers a glimmer of hope. A win that shows what’s possible when passionate advocates come together, armed with education and strategic savvy, and supported by a small but mighty nonprofit: the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC).
This story, as with so many others during the pandemic, is set largely in a virtual space: LTCCC’s NursingHome411 Zoom Room. Each Wednesday, this free meeting space is occupied by the family council of the New York State Veterans Home (Montrose) — spouses, children, and loved ones of residents. Their meetings are part-informational, part-strategic, and part-therapeutic. (LTCCC attends with permission).
The most popular topic has been, you guessed it, visitation. For most of the pandemic, residents have been isolated and blocked off from their families and loved ones. The consequences are devastating. Though headlines have focused on COVID-19 deaths, the virus is a fraction of the pain and suffering. Residents are in an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. They are dying of broken hearts.
Montrose is a microcosm of nursing homes nationwide. The state-run veterans home is understaffed and underenforced. Its residents, too often, are misunderstood. They need to be heard.
Father’s Day was supposed to be an opportunity for the residents to have a voice and to be with their families and loved ones. To feel freedom.
Weeks before Father’s Day, Montrose council members were told that visitation would be off-limits. But instead of backing down and waiting for the next holiday, they banded together to defend their loved ones’ rights to visitation.
For more than a year, the Montrose council has been learning about the labyrinthine long-term care system. Using LTCCC’s free NursingHome411 Learning Center, they’ve read up on resident rights and resident-centered advocacy. Armed with advocacy tools, the family council took action by calling, writing letters, and emailing complaints about visitation rights to anyone who would listen. Eventually someone did. Following an NBC I-Team Investigation, the nursing home changed course and opened the doors to family members on Father’s Day. Persistence paid off.
Let’s get residents more wins! Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution via Paypal or Network for Good or by sending a check to the Long Term Care Community Coalition at 209 West 29th Street, Suite 6252, New York, NY 10001. Your support makes our advocacy possible.
This was one small win for residents in an endless war over nursing home resident rights. But it’s not the only one. In November, residents and families nationwide scored a major victory when the federal government opened visitation for all residents at all times. Passionate and informed advocates from across the country made that win possible.
Thanks to your support, LTCCC has been able to empower advocates across the country to fight for the rights of residents. We educate consumers by providing a variety of free resources, including:
- Monthly webinars educating our audience on important topics such as antipsychotics, neglect, vaccination, and nursing home discharges.
- User-friendly data on staffing, star ratings, and other important nursing home information.
- NursingHome411 state pages offering data and resources for consumers across the country.
- Reports on the expectation and reality of nursing home oversight and enforcement.
- An oral history of the COVID-19 pandemic in nursing homes.
LTCCC’s mission will remain singularly focused on advocating for residents in long-term care settings in 2022 and beyond. With your support, we will continue working to give residents a voice – and more wins, too.
Thank you for your consideration.
Richard J. Mollot