Staff at RegalCare New Haven celebrate Spirit Day. Photo provided
Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor

One of the most meaningful steps forward Connecticut was able to take this year during the 2021 legislative session was in our state’s nursing homes. After the terrible early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continued spread of the virus through these homes in the months that followed, we realized many of the issues plaguing nursing home residents and were able to enact change.

To prevent future horrors like those seen during the pandemic, nursing homes and dementia special care units will have full-time infection and prevention control specialists on staff, and nursing homes will be required to maintain two-month supplies of personal protective equipment. Additionally, supporting residents’ wellness, they will receive 33% more direct care hours per day, while nursing homes will also be required to have a social worker for every 60 residents, down from one per 120 residents previously.

We also accomplished advances for residents of long-term care facilities, bolstering the nursing home patients’ bill of rights. Individuals can treat their living quarters as their own homes and gain access to purchase and utilize technology including devices allowing for video calls. During the pandemic, visitation for residents became a severe risk and was stopped for some time, negatively impacting patients’ social and emotional health.

Those struggling through the complicated, difficult long-term care insurance market will also have increased protections thanks to measures imposed on insurance companies, preventing steep year-to-year rate increases that have financially harmed so many.

But for these advances, there is still work to do. There is still inequity faced by residents of long-term care and assisted-living facilities, most prominently elder abuse or neglect, whether purposeful or caused by overburdened workers not being able to fulfill their roles. As many as 13% of long-term care residents may experience verbal abuse, another 7% potentially experiencing physical abuse.

Misapplication of care has dire consequences, especially considering the pandemic. We must strengthen guidelines for care in long-term care facilities. Enhancing nurse-to-patient ratios and better keeping of clients’ nutrition can guarantee better health outcomes for these individuals, especially as many are unable to protect themselves due to health conditions.

There’s also the recent dire controversy unfolding in some nursing homes in the state. A loophole in Connecticut’s sex offender laws does not require nursing home operators to inform state police when a registered sex offender is transferred into their facilities from other states. Such an oversight directly led to at least one sexual assault, if not more, at a nursing home in East Windsor, a tragic outcome from something that could be so easily changed. We must act to close this loophole and protect nursing home residents and workers from such a disturbing and avoidable scenario.

I am proud that my colleagues and I were able to impact positive change for nursing home residents in Connecticut. I am also aware that there is more work to do to protect these residents, as well as the workers selflessly attending to their needs every day. Continuing to assist nursing home residents will remain one of my primary goals in the 2022 legislative session – and I’ll do all I can to fight for them in the second half of 2021, too.

State Sen. Saud Anwar represents the 3rd Senate District of East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington and South Windsor.