Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Since the first widespread outbreak of the coronavirus in a nursing home in Seattle, it’s clear that long-term care facilities and residents who live there are the most vulnerable to the viral transmission. And since that first outbreak, about 11,000 deaths have been reported in long-term care facilities across the United States.
Hawai‘i has been fortunate, at least as of this writing, in keeping COVID-19 out of long-term care facilities. But as the state looks to reopen, keeping staff and residents of Hawai‘i’s adult residential care homes, foster homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes safe must remain a priority.
AARP Hawai‘i is advocating for adequate supplies of protective equipment and for priority testing at long-term care facilities, at both the state and national levels. We all want transparency about confirmed COVID-19 cases and urge the state and federal government to take steps to make virtual visitation available for all residents of care facilities and their family members.
For those with loved ones in a nursing or care home, there are steps you can take to get information about the safety of a facility. We recommend asking the following key questions to help keep your loved one safe, remain connected and stay informed:
Has anyone in the nursing or care home tested positive for COVID-19? This includes residents as well as staff or other vendors who may have been in the nursing home.
What is the facility doing to prevent infections? How are staff being screened for COVID-19? What precautions are in place for residents who are not in private rooms?
Do staff have the personal protective equipment and training they need to stay safe and keep their patients safe? If not, what is the plan to obtain personal protective equipment?
What is the care facility doing to help residents stay connected with their families or other loved ones during this time? Will the facility set up a regular schedule for you to speak with your loved one by phone or video call?
What is the plan for communicating important information to both residents and families on a regular basis? Will the care facility be contacting you by phone or email, and when?
Is the nursing or care home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides, and other workers? What is the plan to make sure the needs of residents are met if the facility has staffing shortages?
If you are concerned about the safety of a loved one living in a long-term care facility, contact the Hawai‘i Long Term Care Ombudsman at 586-7268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Adult Protective Services at 832-5115. Families and caregivers can also find additional information and resources about COVID-19 at www.aarp.org/coronavirus.
Coronavirus has meant most residents can’t have in-person visitors. But it does not mean families can’t have answers. It’s time for full transparency and disclosure now, because information empowers families to act, speak up and protect those they love.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.