Biden Regulations Do Not Qualify Families As Essential Caregivers

When the Biden administration proposed new nursing home regulations recently, some people were content while others were confused. 

The regulation establishes minimum staffing requirements as well as advocates for stronger regulatory oversight and improved public details about the quality of nursing homes. These measures have been the subject of advocate campaigns for years. These regulations, however, do not address the right that residents have to contact family members and friends who provide caregiving services.

What Is an Informal Caregiver?

“Informal” caregivers or as they are sometimes referred to, “family caregivers” include any individual who gives care to a family member or friend often without receiving any type of compensation. Caregivers provide care, often in a home environment for a loved one regardless of whether that person is aging, seriously ill, or disabled.

The Role of Informal Caregivers During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The role of family and friends has been a difficult one during the pandemic. Many informal caregivers have not been able to visit loved ones and many residents have become isolated. Even worse, thousands of residents died alone during the panic, which left hardships for many people who couldn’t be on their side. Data reveals that over 200,000 residents and staffers in long-term care centers died of Covid-19 during the first two years of the pandemic.

During the pandemic, many people realized that family support is critical to the well-being of residents. Even though nursing home residents have a federal right to receive visitors, this protection was interfered with during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, some critics worry that facilities and public health departments will feel encouraged to reduce visitation whenever an infectious disease outbreak occurs.

Arguments in Favor of Informal Caregiver Laws

Advocates argue that what is needed now is legislation stating that even in a public health crisis, residents have a fundamental right to receive support from informal caregivers that cannot be waived. 

Appreciating the Essential Caregivers

The federal Essential Caregivers Act of 2021 represents another measure that has shaped the rights of the elderly at nursing home facilities in recent years. 

If widespread nursing home changes do not address the dangers faced by residents when they are cut off from loved ones, many people remain in difficult caregiving situations. The White House has not yet responded to requests for commentary about whether it will address the informal caregiver issue.

Informal Caregivers Serve an Invaluable Role

New data reveals the degree of care that informal caregivers provide. Utilizing national data from 2016, researchers from the  University of Pennsylvania published in a Health Affairs study showing that informal caregivers helped 91% of nursing home residents who required aid with medications, while 76% of residents required assistance with self-care, and 75% of residents had difficulty with mobility.

Besides the harmful effects that residents face being deprived of informal caregivers, the loss of assistance during the pandemic placed extra stress on nursing home workers and contributed to the staffing crisis that impacts long-term care.

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