COMMENTARY: Heroes in Senior Care Deserve Recognition

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We want to recognize and thank the staff members of the approximately 570 Assisted Living (AL) communities with the capacity to serve more than 36,000 residents throughout Virginia.

AL communities are long-term care settings designed to provide social, emotional, and sometimes medical care to residents that are accustomed to having greater independence than what they are currently experiencing. With social distancing restrictions in place, residents are not able to interact with other residents and their loved ones as they previously did. AL staff members are adjusting their schedules and activities to try to fulfill their “normal” responsibilities during a very “abnormal” situation along with trying to meet the significantly increased social and emotional needs of residents.

On a “normal” day, AL staff members are considered heroes including direct caregivers, housekeepers, maintenance staff, dietary staff, and administrative staff. They work around the clock to provide high quality care, supports, and services to seniors, whom they have come to know and love as family in communities. But the last six weeks has given new meaning to the word hero. AL team members are bravely leading with their hearts as their compassion, training, and dedication guide them through this pandemic.

We want to applaud Governor Northam’s efforts to provide access to PPE and testing to front-line workers. This is particularly important in AL where testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and staff is critical to the health and safety of each of them. Priority access to testing will support efforts and facilitate the transition to direct contact, family interaction, and social activities.

We welcome any supports provided by the Governor and State agencies for long-term care communities, including AL communities. We request any support of PPE, staffing, and other resources that are shared with nursing homes to also be shared with assisted living communities.

We are honored to be taking care of the community’s aging family members and loved ones during this most difficult time, and we salute our hero caregivers who deserve our support and recognition.

Judy Hackler

Executive Director / Virginia Assisted Living Association (VALA)