ALEXANDRIA, VA -With Virginia’s General Assembly set to begin a new session on Wednesday, AARP Virginia is urging lawmakers to protect vulnerable people and their families by addressing long-standing and well-known problems in the nursing home industry.
“Too many Virginians have had to suffer the consequences of long-term failures by nursing homes to address staffing and infection control challenges,” said AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau. “Advocates have been bringing the problems in these facilities to lawmakers’ attention for more than 20 years, and it’s high time they do something about it.”
AARP Virginia supports legislation that will require minimum staffing standards in nursing facilities, and guarantee quarterly training on issues like infection prevention protocols. Virginia currently does not require minimum staffing levels for nursing homes, and inadequate staffing is one of the primary indicators of poor-quality care. Nursing Home Abuse Advocates, a nonprofit organization that tracks unsafe nursing homes, currently has more than 115 Virginia nursing homes on its watchlist.
“Lawmakers in Richmond must act and pass common-sense measures that would help protect nursing home residents and their families,” Dau said.
AARP Virginia has convened a coalition of organizations who support nursing home reform and will encourage the public to call upon lawmakers to enact the legislation. Advocacy volunteer Deborah Taylor compiled a directory of all Virginia nursing homes and their quality ratings for each state Senate and House district. The directory will be distributed to legislators and advocates during the session to inform lawmakers and the public about the problems with nursing homes in each district.
AARP Virginia is also encouraging family members of nursing home residents as well as nursing home staff to tell the organization about problems in nursing homes so that they can bring them to the attention of lawmakers. The group is asking that they share their stories at action.aarp.org/VirginiaNHstories. Unless those sharing their stories prefer otherwise, these stories will not be shared with any identifiable information to protect the well-being of their loved ones.
AARP Virginia conducted a survey of Virginia voters that showed an overwhelming majority of voters support increasing wages and training for nursing home staff and requiring minimum staffing ratios and demonstrated that it is a bipartisan issue. The survey, conducted in August by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University, revealed that more than 7-in-10 (71%) of all voters support the establishment of minimum hourly staffing thresholds, with support consistent across genders, age groups and regions. This proposal is supported by almost 8-in-10 (78%) moderate voters and nearly two-thirds (62%) of conservative voters. The strongest proposal tested was to require nursing homes to provide infection control training to staff, with 85% of voters supporting it. Support was strong among Black voters (93%) and 76% of voters describing themselves as “very conservative.”
Information regarding the legislation will be posted at aarp.org/vanursinghomes to keep the public informed about the issue.
Also during the session, AARP Virginia will support legislation addressing the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs. AARP supports legislation imposing reporting requirements that will provide notification and justification for price increases over certain thresholds. AARP Virginia also urges the General Assembly to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with the authority to set upper payment limits on certain high-cost prescription drugs.
“The most common challenge we hear about from Virginians across the state is the skyrocketing cost of their prescription drugs,” said Dau. “We are working hard to put fairness and accountability into the system. Medicines only work if patients can afford them.”
With 1 million members in Virginia, AARP is the largest organization working on behalf of people age 50+ and their families in the Commonwealth. In recent years, AARP Virginia has successfully fought for Medicaid expansion, protections for older people against financial exploitation and empowering family caregivers.