As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the globe, 2.1 million Americans live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. According to national statistics compiled from the CDC and other publicly-available sources, these nursing homes and assisted living facilities are Ground Zero for the novel coronavirus pandemic, accounting for 42% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
Those numbers could actually be understated in places like New York state, where a March 2020 directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced nursing homes to accept patients who were “medically stable” without testing them for COVID-19. And, since New York state counts nursing home residents as hospital fatalities if they die in a hospital, the impact of that directive may never be fully appreciated.
“It’s worth noting that approximately 70% of the nursing homes in the United States are for-profit, and many of them are owned by nursing home chains,” says Phyllis Ayman, a bestselling author, eldercare advocate, and industry expert with 45 years of experience. “According to the literature, it is with the preponderance of for-profit homes where insufficient staffing and less than adequate care has been documented.”
Ayman, an outspoken proponent for elder citizens, believes the COVID-19 pandemic only highlights preexisting deficiencies in the eldercare system. “Before the pandemic, 75% of nursing homes did not have enough registered nurses to meet the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expected staffing levels and 55% did not have enough total nursing staff to meet expected staffing,” Ayman says. “Therefore, it was not surprising that these nursing homes were more likely to have COVID-19 resident infections and deaths.”
“Phyllis Ayman saw the storm coming,” says Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, a global nonprofit working to improve the care provided to older people. “As the COVID-19 pandemic approached, she foresaw the terrible impact it would have on staff and elders alike. She also understood that this terrible tragedy would open the way to change, a transformation that moves us all closer to a person-centered approach to care and caring.”
Ayman’s latest book is Dignity and Respect: Are Our Aging Parents Getting What They Deserve? The book became an instant bestseller, premiering as the number one new release on Amazon.com in the Parent and Adult Child Relationships category in December, 2020.
“Phyllis has answered the call to speak out and stand up for people as they age, and especially those who become ill, frail or infirm,” says Frank Shankwitz, co-founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation. “In Dignity and Respect, one can feel Phyllis’s passion. The book should help every reader understand the need to change our attitudes towards older adults so that they receive quality care and quality of life, no matter their age, physical or mental ability or where they reside.”
“Rather than viewing older adults as a burden, they are a valuable and precious resource,” says Dr. David Grabowski, Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. “If we are going to reimagine nursing homes in a post-pandemic world, Phyllis has given us a necessary starting point. What an incredible gift.”
Ayman believes that many health care workers want to do their best, but are often constrained by a system with different priorities. “What have we learned from the virus in our nation’s nursing homes? The nursing home experience, both before and during the pandemic, can be summed up in these words: Understaffed, Undertrained, Undersupplied,” Ayman says. “What changes will we make about the care and treatment of our elder citizens?”
Phyllis Ayman is an eldercare advisor, family care mediator and strategist, advocate, speech/language pathologist, speaker and trainer for the public and private sector and holds various certifications for dementia training. She has worked with thousands of residents, families, and health care workers in almost 50 nursing homes during a career that spans 45 years.
Ayman is author of the bestselling book Dignity & Respect: Are Our Aging Parents Getting What They Deserve? and has created two courses: Resilience Toolbox Secrets: How to Overcome Stress, Burnout and Overwhelm and Caregiving Guide for Caregivers – The Basics. She is about to film a promo for a television show.
For resources and information about issues related to eldercare, or for media interview requests, visit PhyllisAymanAssociates.com.