Everyone deserves to live a full life with dignity. However, COVID-19 has robbed many of that right—in just over five months more than 5,600 people have died in 379 Massachusetts nursing homes, 88% of the 429 homes in the state, and the toll increases daily. These deaths comprise 15% of all nursing home residents in the state and nearly 66% of all COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth.
Dignity Alliance Massachusetts (DAM), in which Mystic Valley Elder Services is a member, has been formed to address the structural and systemic deficiencies which have created this public health crisis. DAM is committed to implementing and expanding access to essential care improvements and living alternatives that will make the Commonwealth a model of care and living choices.
There can no longer be any doubt about the urgency of the need for comprehensive change to the nursing home model as the predominant institution for long-term care of seniors and people with disabilities. Not only is a fundamental restructuring of facility operations necessary, but as a coalition of advocates with first-hand experience, DAM is here to say it can be done. New public policies are urgently required to promote community-based services while improving the conditions inside existing facilities. These places remain far too vulnerable at a time when the threat of a COVID-19 resurgence remains high.
In response, Dignity Alliance Massachusetts has organized as a broad-based group representing a wide range of stakeholders, including nursing home resident advocates, disability rights organizations, legal service entities, mental health organizations, health policy experts, faith-based groups, and labor organizations, and those representing the voices of older adults and individuals with disabilities. DAM’s aim is to advance policies that revolutionize long-term care, putting the dignity of individuals first, ensuring affordable options for community living, and providing living wages and benefits for caregivers and service workers in facilities and home and community-based settings.
Organizations and individuals interested in learning more about Dignity Alliance Massachusetts or becoming involved are invited to send an email to [email protected].