Commentary: Protecting our loved ones in nursing homes from COVID-19

By Lucretia Young

As each day of the pandemic passes, family members, staff and communities are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside long-term care facilities. Yet, Gov. John Carney is still not publishing the names of facilities with COVID-19 cases. The lack of transparency from state health officials and facilities only adds anxiety.

AARP Delaware is urging its leaders to protect older adults living in long-term care facilities with a range of steps:

Lucretia Young

• Regulators must be more transparent. The state’s Coronavirus Dashboard should include the number of cases in each facility, so families know the facts about the risk to their loved ones. In addition, Delaware must ensure a coordinated statewide 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 well-being.

• 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 or strike teams, to provide care until staffing levels are adequate.

• No immunity. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities must be accountable for the care they provide. Delaware should not strip away the rights and protections of residents.

If you are concerned about the safety of a loved one living in a nursing home, contact the Delaware Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at (800) 223-9074. Families and caregivers can also find additional information and resources about COVID-19 at 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 we love.

Lucretia Young is the state director for AARP Delaware.