Group urges Michigan nursing home staff, residents to get vaccinated

click to enlarge A nurse and an elderly patient. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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A nurse and an elderly patient.
The most recent Michigan data showed 51% of staff and residents of nursing homes have been vaccinated against COVID-19, despite the disproportionate share of deaths this group has seen since the pandemic began.

More than 5,700 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Michigan have died from COVID. They make up roughly 27% of the state's total deaths, but less than 1% of the population.

Lisa Dedden Cooper, manager of advocacy for AARP Michigan, said her group is calling on nursing homes to require residents and staff to get the vaccine.

"Increasing vaccination rates in nursing homes is just one of the most commonsense and powerful actions we can take to protect the lives of these vulnerable older adults," Cooper asserted.

President Joe Biden has already said nursing homes must require vaccinations in order to keep receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding. Opponents of a vaccine mandate are concerned it may worsen already severe staff shortages. But Cooper argued it is clear there must be greater investments in the care workforce, and in alternatives to nursing-home care.

Cooper added AARP is calling on Michigan to use some of its funds from the American Rescue Plan to invest in alternative long-term care delivery models. There are home and community-based services that allow nurses and aides to go into people's homes, but she noted many will need residential care at some point.

"People overall don't want to have to go into a nursing home as they age; they don't want to have their family member go into a nursing home," Cooper observed. "But access to the alternatives has been limited."

She noted the Green House or "small house nursing home" model of care has proven to be safer from infectious diseases like COVID than the larger, more typical nursing home model. She hopes alternative investments could prevent future outbreaks that disproportionately harm older and more vulnerable people.

Originally published on Michigan News Connection. It is republished here with permission.

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