Without rapid, reliable Covid-19 testing, older adults remain on tenterhooks

By Sean Kelly, President and CEO, The Kendal Corporation

April 18, 2020—We are writing to bring greater understanding and urgency to the need for our government and departments of health to view service providers in the Long Term Care and Seniors Housing and Services (“aging services”) sectors as highest priorities alongside the healthcare systems and hospitals, whose people are providing incredible support and care for older people as our nation battles the coronavirus.

This highest priority status should allow for aging services providers to access the latest available testing on an immediate and ongoing basis so that we can reach the ultimate and necessary goal of being able to administer reliable and proactive mass testing for staff, as well as older adults in senior housing communities, in long-term care settings and for those receiving care in their own homes.

With the nation’s focus turning to the devastation that the coronavirus has brought upon people served by providers in the aging services sector, particularly in stand-alone nursing homes, it is ever more apparent that this sector is in particular need of high-quality, widely available and reliable testing. Reliable mass testing will provide those served by aging services providers, as well as the heroes who provide that care, with the greatest assurance that they are being cared for in a safe environment, without exacerbating the risk of inadvertent spread among highly vulnerable older adults.

The current practice of rationing the limited numbers of reliable tests by departments of health and other agencies with jurisdiction is understandable and necessary today. However, as time progresses and our nation becomes more capable of providing reliable mass testing, our leaders and administrators MUST see the aging services sector as a top priority, on par with America’s healthcare systems and hospitals.

We have an absolute duty to do everything within our power to care for the most vulnerable among us. With access to the vital information that comes from rapid and reliable testing, aging services providers will have a tremendous positive impact on the overall healthcare system. Reliable mass testing will empower these housing and care environments to sustain healthy older populations over the long term and reduce the numbers of people who would otherwise require care within a healthcare system and hospital that is overwhelmed by the coronavirus. Without rapid, reliable testing, older adults will remain on tenterhooks until proven antibody testing and vaccinations are readily available.

Our healthcare workers now are recognized as heroes, and we should honor our elders as valuable members of society. Let’s treat both groups as the precious resources they are and get them the tests they need.

Sean Kelly is President & CEO of The Kendal Corporation, which has 13 locally owned and operated senior living communities in eight states.