Officials with the AARP are seeking changes in how nursing homes deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s largest organization representing elderly Americans is pushing a five-point plan that it says is necessary to better protect residents of long-term care facilities. Included in the requests are more stringent policies within the facilities, as well as more funding from the government to implement necessary changes.

The plan asks for improvements in staffing, transparency, and access to PPE and testing. It also seeks avenues through which families and friends of residents can set up virtual visits in the event that it is unsafe to visit in person.

Charles Williams, the head of the Kentucky AARP Executive Council, said that it’s important for such visits to be possible in order to promote transparency, as well as to allow residents to see familiar faces – something that can improve mental and emotional health.

“When we can see our loved ones, we know what their status is, what is going on with them, and what kind of care they’re getting,” he said. “And we can also discuss their situations with the staff. So if we cannot have these visitation rights because of COVID-19 and isolation, we think that through virtual visitations, we will still be able to see our loved ones.

Williams added that lawmakers can help facilitate the action sought by the AARP by appropriating more funding to the sector. Another way the legislative branch can play a role, he said, is by rejecting any proposals that would shield nursing homes from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

“All we’re saying is we’re in a dire situation and we want to make sure that Congress is doing its part to ensure that the monies are made available and properly used and properly distributed,” he said.

Kentucky’s latest COVID-19 figures show 1,952 cases and 376 deaths among residents of nursing homes, with 184 facilities affected. Nursing home staff have also seen 965 positive cases.

John Boyle is WFPL news editor. Previously, he was a reporter and editor at focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.