Wisconsin nursing homes face critical shortages as pandemic surges

As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket for the general public, they are skyrocketing inside of Wisconsin nursing homes, too.

AARP reports that staffing levels in many nursing homes are so short that some employees are going to work infected with COVID-19.

"This is the worst we’ve seen in nursing homes in Wisconsin," said Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin.

AARP Wisconsin is reporting that 30.8% of residents in senior homes are included among the new COVID-19 cases in the state and 0.3% of new deaths.

"We are well above the national average in both those areas," said Marks Dicks. "We’re trying to keep an eye on the government to be transparent, so they’re being open about what is going on in the nursing homes.

"We’re being supportive where we can about making sure that PPE and other equipment go into the nursing homes."

Cases aside, staffing, PPE and testing shortages are also reaching record highs. According to AARP Wisconsin, 39% of nursing homes do not have enough PPE to last them one week. Forty-one percent of nursing homes are short on staff and some staff members are even working after testing positive.

"We’re lobbying on the national level, and we’re letting the information get out and not get swept under the carpet about how bad things are," Marks Dicks said.

Continued isolation is also a major concern as many seniors struggle with not being able to visit with loved ones.

"If you know someone in a nursing home for heaven’s sake, write them a letter. You can’t visit them right now. Write them a letter….it’s the best we can do right now," said Marks Dicks.

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The pandemic is especially hard on seniors now that they are not going to be able to visit with family for the holidays.

AARP recommends reaching out to loved ones by mail or phone and, even if you don't know someone in a nursing home, reaching out to a facility near you to see how you may be able to help a stranger in need.

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