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Join the discussion: How can we keep seniors protected in the pandemic?

This year’s pandemic has been particularly deadly to the elderly and those in long-term care settings. The Globe’s Spotlight Team’s series, “Last Words,” found that one out of seven nursing home residents in the state died from COVID-19, and this fatality rate was among the highest in the country.

In the second and third installments of their three-part series, Spotlight reporters delved into tragic death toll in Massachusetts long-term facilities, looking for lessons learned. The team also looked closely at one five-star home, Belmont Manor, that was particularly hard hit.

What are your ideas for protecting the elderly, especially as we head into a potential new spike in cases?


Please share your ideas in the box below, as well as see some reader comments so far. If you provide your name, it may be posted with your comment, but giving your name is not mandatory.

Some submissions may be edited for length and appear in future coverage by the Globe.

Some readers’ comments

In the short-term, nursing homes, because of their being the default option for long-term care, will need to be phased out. There are a number of recommendations for improvements at nursing facilities. They include short-term improvements: 1.Single-room occupancy in nursing homes. 2. Full-time infection preventionist on staff. 3. Safe visitation policy to prevent isolation. In the longer term, America needs to transform the way we pay for and provide long-term care. Medicaid programs need to invest considerably more in care in all settings. -- Richard Moore

This series is heartbreaking. We can do better. More resources to upgrade the nursing-home experience for both residents and employees, and commitment from our world-class medical institutions to include nursing homes in their spheres of influence. Clearly, the current systems in place to finance elder care -- assisted living, nursing homes, and in-home care -- miss the mark. -- Pat Canavan


There is no way in many of these nursing homes to isolate and protect. Isolation is so painful for them. Not allowing family to visit is heartbreaking. Setting up cohorts of three or four residents with the same caregivers would help should an outbreak occur. But we need more staff, more PPEs, and more space for this to work. And sadly, there are shortages of all. Test, test, test. Every worker, every patient, and every health care provider. Each new patient must be quarantined. -- Joni Schockett

In “normal” times, the number of CNAs most affect a client’s comfort and well-being. How many CNAs means how often, promptly, carefully, you are toileted, bathed, assisted with eating, positioned comfortably in bed, responded to when you speak or cry out. Belmont and Armenian have enviable CNA rates. Does more hands-on care mean faster transmission? More infection training for these caring heroes, and for the hardly-mentioned frontline cleaning staff. -- Anonymous

Higher reimbursement, more oversight and support. Nursing home CNAs, etc., should be given the opportunity for more training and advancement and better pay. What about partnering with the academic nursing programs and training in the community hospitals? -- Anonymous

Thank you for this series. Your reporting is exceptional. It allows readers to feel the frustration, pain, anger, and fear of the patients, families, and staff. Reform must begin with state government where oversight, long before the pandemic, was at best absent and at worst criminally negligent. -- Anonymous


We get corporate greed out of the picture. I’ve seen it all. CARE. -- Anonymous

This story highlights the need to regulate compensation and ensure money is spent on patient care and staff training. -- Janet Stotsky

Covid was the perfect storm. Most nursing homes rely heavily on Medicaid funding and daily rates barely cover expenses on a good day and don’t include extras for PPE and isolation. I taught nursing aid students in Rhode Island and the facility I worked for with 180 patients gave me one set of PPE to teach isolation techniques, I never saw anything more than paper gowns and surgical masks, never saw an N95 mask. We should be doing weekly testing at every facility with assistance from the state. -- Cheryl Withers

It would help to have a statewide (better yet, nationwide) infection tracking system that was kept up to date and that distinguished the sort of living arrangements of different cases. -- David Bean

Staffing ratios need to be increased. Staff needs to be well paid and not allowed to travel. Test staff on a daily basis. Stop violating residents' rights to socialize and welcome visitors as they see fit. They care about the quality of their life, not quantity. They have been suffering for seven months in isolation, how dare we condemn them to one more day. -- Anonymous

Until an effective vaccine is developed, we do not. -- Larry Pratt


Separate patients from those infected and test staff for COVID on a daily basis. -- Monica Sullivan

Today, nursing homes are required by the state to admit from hospitals recovering but still infected covid patients. This is yet another example of the State is deliberately exposing our most vulnerable, patients and staff, to this disease and death. Families and staff are horrified by this practice. -- Barbara Ridge

Only way we could have, and could in the future, protect residents of institutions is to have two shifts of workers (12 hours on/off) be locked in with the residents. This would require combat pay and foresight/planning. Neither was available at the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s still not available now -Anonymous

Obviously nursing homes need more direct supervision of infection control procedures. My previous comment was cut off but my father passed away of COVID in Jund after contracting this at CareOne Randolph where he was allowed to sit in the hallway without a mask.he was sent to South Shore hospital only after he became unable to swallow or speak.He was acutely I’ll but was kept at a chronic care facility. - Anonymous

Stop blaming and start assisting; stop ruining the morale of every nursing home worker and driving them away from LTC; regulators focused on punishing nursing homes through the pandemic - Anonymous

My father is among the statistics outlined in this article. He lived at a phenomenal nursing home - Belmont Manor, where he received excellent care from brave and caring staff. While the state could have done more, the blame lies with the federal government and its lack of a nation-wide coordinated response. The deaths in Washington State set off an alarm that went unheeded. The lack of tests, the shortage of PPE - the fault lies squarely in the lap of the president of the US - Julie White


Very frequent testing of staff, patients, outside third-party health practitioners who go into for specific tasks/treatments, is essential....kn95 masks and high-level ppe also is essential to prevent this crisis from happening again ....over the next several months and year....Anonymous

How many of these residents could have remained at home with home-delivered services? They would have been happier, more able to see their family members, and probably safer in terms of the virus. As we see from nursing homes, jails, prisons, and other congregate facilities, group living is inherently more risky during a pandemic to both patients and staff. And the heartbreak of separating older confused and lonely people from their families would be reduced.-- Susan Stefan

Proper PPE, educating staff, improving staffing ratios, PAY THE STAFF , stop praising only the likes of MGH who have more $$$ than god and the best nurse patient ratios in the state and help those who need it most!!!! - Anonymous