Statement from AARP New Jersey Director of Advocacy Evelyn Liebman
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – “Over the last few days, AARP has grown increasingly concerned at the rapid increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in our state’s nursing facilities and saddened at the uptick in the number of residents dying from this pernicious virus.
While we appreciate the actions that our state’s elected and health care leaders have taken to address the crisis, we believe more must be done to protect New Jersey’s nursing facility residents.
Given recent press reports, we are concerned that some families remain in the dark about the care that their loved one is receiving, that facilities are not communicating to families quickly about developing COVID-19 cases in facilities, and that the workers on the frontlines are completely overwhelmed. Moreover, we are concerned that residents and families in New Jersey’s assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, Veteran’s Administration homes, and other long-term care facilities may be finding themselves in similarly distressing circumstances.
With the crisis continuing to worsen, we cannot afford to wait another second to shine a light on the situations facing our nursing facility residents and staff. Our system must be more transparent. In particular, we call on the Governor and the Department of Health to immediately address the following:
- How will you make public the names of nursing facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases? Public reporting will ensure families and staff have the information that is critically needed in real time, helping them to make decisions about their own health and possible next steps and interventions for their loved ones.
- How will you ensure that all facilities have a point of contact for families and regularly report to families about the number of known COVID-19 positive cases among residents and staff, mortalities in the facility, and any reductions in staffing levels compared to staffing levels before the declaration of the state emergency? Press reports continue to raise questions as to whether or not facilities are communicating timely with families and we know the Department’s enforcement capacity is strained.
- When and how will you make information public around the administration’s proposed regional plan to transfer COVID-19 positive residents from nursing facilities into other facilities? Transfers from a facility can have both immediate and longer term negative impacts on a resident’s health and any plan should involve families and provide appropriate and effective counseling to better minimize trauma and anxiety.
- How will you ensure nursing homes have adequate staff to meet the demand resulting from the crisis? What are your plans to ensure that facilities can maintain staffing levels and supplement staff (e.g., utilize Ombudsman volunteers for nonclinical work, engage the National Guard as Maryland has done) when and if staffing levels drop?
- How are you managing nursing facility access to and appropriately use of critical PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among staff and residents?
- How will you, in a time when residents cannot receive visitors, ensure that all facilities prioritize virtual visitation and regular communication with resident families?
- When and how will you make public the efforts of the Task Force on Medical Rationing the DOH announced on March 26, 2020? This issue is of deep concern to our members, indeed all older residents and those with disabilities.
The scope of this pandemic is like nothing we have seen in our lifetimes. AARP stands ready to work with the Governor and Department of Health in any way we can to implement measures to ensure timely communications for residents and families and steps to improve care for our most vulnerable populations.”
About AARP New Jersey
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP New Jersey educates and advocates on behalf of those 50 and older on issues that are important to them, their families and to all Garden State residents. The organization works to strengthen New Jersey communities with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/nj or follow @AARPNJ on social media.