More Action Needed on Oregon's Nursing Home Crisis

Posted on 05/08/20

By Ruby Haughton-Pitts

AARP Oregon appreciates the state’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented public health and economic crisis that we face as a state and a nation. The gravity of the present challenge has and will continue to require both new policies and additional resources and investments beyond the recent E-board allocation. While the severe health impacts of COVID-19 can occur across all ages, recent figures showed that vast majority of deaths are occurring in older individuals and most are purported to originate in Oregon’s long-term-care facilities where individuals are more isolated than ever before with the no-visitor rules.

As each day of the pandemic passes, family members, staff and community members are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside long-term care facilities. The lack of transparency from state health officials and facilities only adds anxiety. Residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their advanced age and underlying health conditions. Worse, studies show the fatality rate for those over 80 is six times that of the rest of us[1].

That’s why AARP Oregon is calling for the state to shed more light on what is happening in our long-term care facilities, and to take swift and decisive action to ensure the health and safety of all residents and staff. Take Action here

About half of the Covid-19 deaths in Oregon originated from a long-term care facility. AARP Oregon urges our leaders to protect older adults living in long-term care facilities with a range of steps.

  • Regulators must require transparency from long-term care facilities so families know the facts about their loved ones. Facilities should immediately report cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff to health officials, residents, families and the public. In addition, Oregon must ensure a coordinated state-wide approach to testing, with adequate supplies and staffing to meet the demand.
  • With strict prohibitions on visitation in place, facilities must proactively work to connect loved ones virtually with video chats or phone calls, and regularly update family members about their loved one’s health and wellbeing.
  • Facilities must ensure that the needs of all residents are met, and have contingency plans in place when staffing is insufficient to meet those needs. The state should require facilities to immediately report when staffing is insufficient and summon assistance, such as deploying the National Guard, to provide care until staffing levels are adequate.

For those with a loved one in a nursing home, AARP Oregon recommends asking the facility six questions to help keep them safe, remain connected, and stay informed:

Has anyone in the nursing 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 nursing home doing to prevent infections? How are nursing home staff being screened for COVID-19?What precautions are in place for residents who are not in private rooms?

Does nursing home 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 nursing home doing to help residents stay connected with their families or other loved ones during this time? Will the nursing home set up a regular schedule for you to speak with your loved one by phone or video call?

What is the plan for the nursing home to communicate important information to both residents and families on a regular basis? Will the nursing home be contacting you by phone or email, and when?

Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides, and other workers? What is the plan to make sure the needs of nursing home residents are met if the nursing home has staffing shortages?

If you are concerned about the safety of a loved one living in a nursing homes or assisted living facilities, contact the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 800-522-260 or send a letter to the Governor clicking here.

Ruby Haughton-Pitts is the AARP Oregon State Director.

This story is provided by AARP Oregon. Visit the AARP Oregon page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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