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AARP Fights Effort to Roll Back New Federal Nursing Home Staffing Standards

Help, support and wheelchair with nurse and old man for disability, rehabilitation or healing. Retirement, physiotherapy and healthcare with patient and black woman nursing home for medical caregiver
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En español | AARP sent a letter to all members of Congress this week urging them to reject efforts by federal lawmakers to overturn new minimum nursing home staffing standards. The rollback effort comes in response to complaints from the nursing home industry about staff shortages.

“If a nursing home does not have enough staff to care for its residents, it should not be admitting new residents,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer, wrote in the May 7 letter. “AARP does not believe this to be a burdensome regulation; it is common sense.”

LeaMond noted that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services included “significant flexibility” for facilities in areas most impacted by staffing shortages, such as those in rural communities, including a longer timeline for meeting the requirements.

The standards, finalized by the White House in April, call for nursing homes funded through Medicare and Medicaid to provide every resident with at least 0.55 hours of care from a registered nurse and 2.45 hours of care from a nurse’s aide each day. A registered nurse must be on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide skilled care. Bills introduced in the House and Senate would block the standards from taking effect.

To meet the standards, a facility with 100 residents would need two or three registered nurses and at least 10 or 11 nurse aides, as well as two additional nurse staff, who could be registered nurses, licensed professional nurses or nurse aides, according to the White House.

AARP fought hard for the requirements, which would apply to most of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes, which are home to an estimated 1.2 million people. More than 185,000 nursing home residents died during the COVID-19 pandemic, casting a spotlight on long-standing concerns, including inadequate staffing.

Research shows that adequate staffing is linked to higher-quality care, LeaMond noted. AARP has heard from thousands of members whose loved ones suffered because of poor staffing in nursing homes, she said, relaying the story of a Virginia woman who described how her mother was forced to lie in urine-soaked clothing and sheets while waiting for staff to finish tending to other residents.

“We must ensure that facilities receiving taxpayer dollars provide the quality of care they are being paid to provide,” LeaMond wrote. “These basic staffing levels are long overdue. Nursing home residents and their families cannot wait any longer.”

Read our letters to House and Senate lawmakers and keep up with AARP’s nursing home coverage.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP's Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. She has also written for the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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