By Bob Katzen

The Dignity Alliance Massachusetts, a coalition of disability and senior advocacy organizations across the state, has been formed in response to the death of more than 5,600 people who died in 379 Massachusetts nursing homes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A comprehensive effort is needed to promote the dignity of all people in the commonwealth, especially older adults and those with disabilities,” said Arlene Germain, a co-founder of the coalition. “Dignity Alliance seeks to ensure the highest possible quality of care and quality of life for all. The eagerness of so many groups to come together this quickly tells us that the time for change is now.”

According to the coalition, the 5,600 deaths equals 15 percent of all nursing home residents in the state and some 66 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. Over 24,000 nursing home residents and staff have tested positive. The mortality rate of infected nursing home residents is more than 22 percent, three times the rate of the general population.

“The nature and function of nursing homes has remained essentially unchanged for the past half century,” said Paul Lanzikos, executive director of North Shore Elder Services and a former Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. “Virtually every segment of our society has advanced to try to serve the individualized needs of people with modernized concepts, policies and practices. It is well past time for nursing homes to meet the needs and expectations of adults and persons with disabilities.”

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