Coalition of Disability and Senior Advocacy Organizations Forms in Response to Nursing Home Deaths
Everyone deserves to live a full life with dignity. However, Covid-19 has robbed many of that right — over 5,400 people died in Massachusetts nursing homes in just four months and increasing daily. These deaths comprise more than 14% of all nursing home residents in the state and more than 65% of all Covid-19 deaths in the Commonwealth. Dignity Alliance Massachusetts formed to address the structural systems that created this COVID perfect storm. We are dedicated to implementing and expanding access to essential care improvements and living alternatives that will make the Commonwealth a model of care and living choices.
This is the time for comprehensive change to the nursing home model as the predominant institution for long-term care of seniors and people with disabilities. Not only is a fundamental restructuring of facility operations necessary, but as a coalition of advocates with first-hand experience, we are here to say it can be done. New public policies are urgently required to promote community-based services while improving the conditions inside existing facilities. These places remain far too vulnerable at a time when the threat of a Covid-19 resurgence remains high.
In response, Dignity Alliance Massachusetts has organized as a broad-based group representing a wide range of stakeholders, including nursing home resident advocates, disability rights organizations, legal service entities, mental health organizations, health policy experts, faith-based groups, and labor organizations, and centering the voices of older adults and individuals with disabilities. Our aim is to advance policies that revolutionize long-term care, putting the dignity of individuals first, providing affordable options for community living, and ensuring living wages and benefits for those who work in facilities.
“A comprehensive effort is needed to promote the dignity of all people in the Commonwealth, especially older adults and those with disabilities. Dignity includes the highest possible quality of care and quality of life for all. The eagerness of so many groups to come together this quickly tells us that the time for change is now,” said Arlene Germain, a co-founder of Dignity Alliance and Policy Director of Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
Dignity Alliance Massachusetts will pursue changes through legislation, regulation, operating policies and practices, as well as advancing home and community-based long-term services and affordable, accessible housing options.
“Nursing home residents all have disabilities and straddle all ages,” said Bill Henning, Executive Director of the Boston Center for Independent Living, “Our goals are to ensure maximum health and dignity in fully integrated and coordinated settings, and to support workers who provide services and care.”
“The nature and function of nursing homes has remained essentially unchanged for the past half century,” said former Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Paul Lanzikos. “Virtually every segment of our society has advanced to try to serve the individualized needs of people with modernized concepts, policies, and practices. It is well past time for nursing homes to meet the needs and expectations of adults and persons with disabilities.”