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AARP Arizona Letter to Governor Ducey

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Letter sent to Governor Doug Ducey


Dear Governor Ducey:

AARP Arizona, with over 900,000 members and all older Arizonans, I would like to take this opportunity to express our concerns regarding an unintended impact on residents living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, as a result of your Administration‘s Executive Order for residents to stay-at-home. Without question, we support your Administration’s efforts to reduce and slow the coronavirus spread throughout our state. We equally appreciate your focus on nursing homes and Long Term Supportive Services (LTSS) recipients by allowing CRNA’s to practice to their full extent and make telemedicine more accessible so everyone can more effectively social distance.

As you know, we deeply care for these individuals who live in these facilities and their family caregivers; protecting their health and safety is paramount. We are, however, very concerned that neither the current state guidance, nor the current guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), truly enable nursing home residents and their families to virtually visit and communicate during this public health emergency. Requiring nursing home residents to go weeks or even months without any visits from loved ones is extremely serious, and the state guidance should reflect this by requiring nursing homes to prioritize virtual visits and caregiver communications.

During this stressful and difficult time when in-person visitation is very restricted, we strongly recommend that Arizona immediately modify its guidance to require nursing homes to offer and facilitate reasonable and practicable alternative means of communication for individuals who would otherwise visit, such as virtual communications. Such virtual visits can be essential to the emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being of nursing home residents. For some residents, these virtual visits may be the difference between life and death.

Given the widespread adoption of video-chat options (from FaceTime to Skype to Zoom and so on), AARP Arizona believes these virtual visitations must include the ability to communicate on video, not only for the emotional well-being of the resident, but also so family caregivers can ensure their loved ones are being well cared for. If funding is needed to ensure video-chat options, we encourage the provision of such funding and consideration of how such communications could be part of telehealth.

In addition, during these times of great uncertainty for families, we believe nursing homes should be required to provide proactive communications to the primary caregiver(s) of nursing home residents regarding their physical and emotional health and more general updates or information for families. We urge the state to modify its [guidance] to reflect that nursing homes must also create additional or increase listserv communications; assign staff as primary contact for families; and offer a phone hotline for family members to get information about their loved one’s care.

I appreciate your Administration’s efforts to ensure the health and safety of nursing home residents and LTSS recipients, and understand the challenges LTSS facilities are facing. At the same time, it is essential for residents and families to be able to communicate and visit virtually,especially during this public health emergency.

As always, thank you for your consideration, as this issue is of great importance to our state’s nursing home residents and their respective families. I look forward to working with you on this and other matters of mutual interest and concern. If you have questions, please contact me at 602-284-1881

Sincerely,


Dana Marie Kennedy State Director AARP Arizona

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