Assisted Living: Have You Seen This Letter from Congress? Response Needed Before May 8, 2020

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

Last week, 3 members of Congress – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Senate Aging Committees; Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform – sent a letter dated April 29, 2020 to the CEOs of 11 of the largest senior living companies, asking for specific details about the extent of COVID-19 infections and actions being taken to prevent or mitigate the disease.

“We are concerned by reports that, in addition to the public health crisis in nursing homes, “a parallel crisis has been playing out with far less scrutiny in another setting housing vulnerable seniors: assisted living.” Unlike nursing homes, which typically serve seniors who require constant attention and medical care, assisted living facilities serve populations that need some help with day-to-day activities and care but who often live independently. And unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities are essentially unregulated at the federal level. In Massachusetts, data recently released by the state indicated that 139 of the state’s 260 assisted living facilities had at least two COVID-19 cases, and that a dozen facilities had 30 or more cases. Similar reports have revealed outbreaks in assisted living facilities in California, New York, Illinois, and presumably, nationwide.”  The letter contains numerous references and includes comments regarding a 2018 GAO (Government Accountability Office) report.

“Similarly, CMS, in response to the growing pandemic, published new guidance on April 19, 2020, that announced the agency’s intention to collect and report national data on infections in nursing homes and to require nursing homes to notify residents and their families about new cases of COVID-19.11 But there was not and is not a national reporting requirement for assisted living facilities with COVID-19 cases: there is only non-binding guidance from CDC on preventing and mitigating outbreaks in assisted living facilities.

As a result, there is little comprehensive national information available on the extent of COVID19 outbreaks in assisted living facilities and the actions taken by assisted living facilities and their operators to address these risks.

We must act quickly to identify and address the ongoing risks from the COVID-19 pandemic. We therefore ask that you provide us with answers to the following questions no later than May 8, 2020.”

The 55-page document contains the same letter with 18 questions to the CEOs of these senior living communities:

  • Affinity Living Group
  • Atria Senior Living
  • Brookdale Senior Living
  • Capital Senior Living
  • Eclipse Senior Living
  • Enlivant
  • Five Star Senior Living
  • Gardant Management Solutions
  • LifeCare Services (LCS)
  • Senior Lifestyle
  • Sunrise Senior Living

If you are part of the management team of a senior living/assisted living community, I encourage you to review the letter and the questions that are asked.  While you are not required to submit answers to Congress by Friday of this week, you may be asked these questions and more by the media, perspective residents and/or families as well as staff members and members of the community at large.  How will you answer such questions?