Advocating on behalf of nursing home residents and their families

Debra Tyler-Horton
Debra Tyler-Horton, State Director, Georgia AARP

Checking on our loved ones during COVID-19 is a top priority for many of us. As nursing homes and other long-term care facilities resume in-person visits, the top priority is keeping residents, their family members, and staff safe.

From across the country, more than 60,000 residents of nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities died from COVID-19. Nursing home residents make up less than 1 percent of the population, but over 44 percent of all deaths related to COVID-19 are from nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

AARP advocates on behalf of nursing home residents and their families. We urge that Congress take immediate action to address the crisis by ensuring all nursing homes and long-term care facilities can provide regular testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff, release daily reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and conduct virtual visitation for families.

While we continue to fight for residents in nursing homes, assisted living, and long-term care facilities, AARP provided key questions that families of loved ones in long-term care facilities should ask to ensure their loved ones’ health and safety. Here are five key questions you can ask:

  1. What is the nursing home doing to help make it safe for visitors to come back? You will want to find out if the facility has met the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommendations for allowing visitors.
  2. What kinds of health checks will be required for visitors? Ask if the facility plans on doing temperature checks or if visitors will be asked about COVID-19 symptoms or potential exposure.
  3. Are visits restricted by time and place? You will want to find out if you or other family members need to make an appointment to visit or if visits will be held outdoors.
  4. What protective and social distancing measures are in place? Find out if you have to wear a mask, if you have to stay 6 feet away from your loved one, or if you will be able to bring food or gifts.
  5. Are you doing everything possible to minimize risk to residents? There are times when you really want to consider whether an in-person visit is safe for your loved one. If you feel ill, even if the symptoms are only mild, you might consider a virtual visit instead.

AARP urges Congress and Georgia state leaders to keep residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities safe and their families connected. Visits are going to look different for a while, and AARP wants to ensure anyone with a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility has the information they need to prepare for an in-person visit.

For more information on how you can protect nursing home residents, you can view the AARP Nursing Home Campaign video or you can visit www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.

Debra Tyler-Horton
Debra Tyler-Horton
Debra is the State Director for Georgia's AARP. She is committed to building community in Georgia and working together to develop Age-Friendly communities, support for family caregivers, strengthen financial resiliency, and protection from fraud, scams, and identity theft.

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