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Advocates Say Nursing Home Issues Haven't Disappeared Despite COVID-19 Improvement

Brock Turner

Advocates for older Hoosiers say while Indiana nursing homes have emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still ongoing issues that can’t be ignored.

And AARP Indiana says state legislative changes made this year can both help and hurt their cause.

State Director Sarah Waddle said there are key things that can help what she calls the ongoing nursing home “crisis.” One is public reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in those facilities – which Indiana has done weekly for months.

Also important is allowing family visitation. Lawmakers approved a bill this year, SB 202, that guarantees visits by essential family caregivers. Waddle said that’s a good start.

“We need eyes in these facilities to see what’s going on and we need to be able to make sure that our loved ones are OK,” Waddle said.

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What Waddle doesn’t like is the broad protection nursing homes got from lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we have to ask the question who is being prioritized in this equation," Waddle said. "Is it the long-term care facility or is it the residents who actually call this place home?”

Lawmakers approved broad COVID-19 liability protections this session in SB 1 and HB 1002 for businesses, schools, health care providers and, in particular, nursing homes.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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