Thursday August 13, 2020—The Governor’s LTC Task Force

Published on 08/18/2020 • Posted in

Dear Friends,

The recently established Governor’s Long-Term Care (LTC) Task Force has met twice so far. I am honored to be part of the group and this newsletter is a first update on the Task Force. The escalating cases of COVID-19 in LTC’s and the challenges that LTC residents, facilities, staff and family members confront every day is important to us all. The Task Force is comprised of organizations, state agencies, legislators, community stakeholders and family members, which I appreciate. It is important to bring everyone to the table as we work to address the issues that LTC’s are tackling during the pandemic.

Becky Hill, a well-known and respected capitol lobbyist whose mother has lived in LTC for 10 years, is a Task Force member. Her input, and that of the other family members on the Task Force, is vital to the group because they represent the families and friends of LTC residents and provide valuable insight into the unique challenges confronting LTC residents. Isolation during the pandemic is a serious problem in LTCs. Residents are unable to see family and friends, which contributes to depression and anxiety among residents. This is just one of the issues that the Task Force is addressing and why family members are an important part of the Task Force.

AZ AARP has been a strong advocate for LTC accountability, providing adequate PPE to LTC’s, safe visits, and above all else, transparency! AARP is part of the Task Force and at our first meeting, AZ AARP Director Dana Marie Kenney provided comments and recommendations on how best to serve our LTC s and her contribution during our first meeting, in my humble opinion, addressed the multiple issues affecting our LTC’s, the residents and staff are going through. Here are Dana’s comments from our first meeting…….

AZ AARP’s Recommendations Concerning LTC Facilities

Dana Marie Kennedy

AZ AARP Director

The Governor’s LTC Task Force Member

From the First LTC Task Force Meeting

The following principles should guide the development of policies to re-instate visitation:

Minimizing Risk:  All LTC facilities, their staff and visitors must comply with all required infection control precautions and guidelines established by federal and state governmental entities.  This includes screening of visitors (temperature and symptom checks), requiring visitors to properly use masks and other PPE, requiring the use of hand sanitizer, disinfecting visiting areas, and physical distancing.

Fairness/Universality:  All LTC residents should be afforded regular opportunities for in-person visitation, in accordance with guidelines established by governmental authorities.  It is not acceptable to deny, restrict, or prioritize visitation based on a resident’s cognitive status (dementia), physical limitations, or inability to verbally express feelings of loneliness or depression. Additional flexibility regarding visitation is appropriate for end-of-life and other compassionate care situations.

Individualized Plan: All residents and their families should be engaged by the facility in developing an individualized visitation plan that is reflective of their wishes and preferences, while adhering to all governmental guidelines. These plans should address visitation schedules, location of visits (indoor, outdoor, in-room, designated area, etc.) and responsibilities of all parties.  These plans should be reviewed frequently and adjusted to meet changing circumstances and needs. Residents and their families may question or otherwise challenge the individualized visitation plan or any visitation restriction or determination, and they should be provided with Ombudsman assistance in doing so.

Responsibilities of LTC Facilities to Facilitate Visitation:  The state should require all facilities to facilitate visits in accordance with each resident’s individualized visitation plan. The state must require each facility to ensure that they have sufficient staff, PPE, adequate and appropriate space to meet

privacy needs and distancing requirements to carry out the visitation plan.  It is incumbent on the facility to report to the state if they are not able to meet these requirements, and to provide an explanation for this and a plan for how it intends to address this failure.  The state should require the facility to prioritize the use of [state/federal] funds for this purpose.

Notification:  It is essential that there be clear, regular information from LTC facilities to residents and their loved ones about how visits will be scheduled and facilitated.  The state should require that this information be shared with the state LTC Ombudsman, residents, and families on an ongoing basis in the manner best likely to inform them (email, phone, flyers on meal trays, under doors, posting in common areas, etc.).

Should you wish to find out more about AARP’s work, click on one of these links:

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Kids & Covid-19

I want to commend AZ Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman for her school reopening benchmarks. Her leadership and that of our school superintendents have made public health and science-based testing the criteria for reopening schools safely. We need to make certain that teachers, students and families are safe and have the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 because it is the only way our schools can safely teach. Our top priority regarding schools reopening must be community health, safety and ensuring that our schools have the funding and PPE they need to keep our students, teachers and staff safe.

I am including links to two articles about COVID-19 in children. I hope you will take the time to review them because they say a good deal about how the virus affects children.

New report finds Arizona leading the US in kids testing positive for Covid-19:

COVID-19 Related Evictions

The COVID-19 pandemic and the end to the eviction moratorium in the Fall could cause a housing crisis very soon. We need to talk about ways to lessen that crisis for Arizonans:

Free Masks Available for Those in Need

The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) is providing free cloth masks to all who need them. This link will provide information about how to request the set of 5 masks. Thanks to AZDHS and Hanes for creating the masks. AZDHS provided these masks for our last day of the 2020 Legislative Session and I was very impressed with them because they are light, breathable and comfortable. 

Final Thoughts

I will continue to keep you posted on the work the LTC Task Force is doing. This coming Tuesday August 18, the Community & Legislative Partners in Aging (CLPA) Zoom Meeting will focus on the Task Force and we will have 4 Task Force members provide insight about the group and its goals; I will report on that meeting in my next update.

I leave you today with a photo of Lois Pfau, a dear friend who resides in the assisted-living wing of the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix.

Lois celebrated her 90th birthday on July 4th and is part of the very active Democrats Breakfast Club, which meets on the Beatitudes Campus. Lois is one of Arizona’s most respected and celebrated Democrats and is a Democrats Hall of Fame Inductee for her work for Maricopa County and the State of Arizona; above all else, I am honored to call her my friend.

Lois is an active and vibrant older Arizonan and cherishes her independence. Others—many who are younger and many more who are older than Lois—are not as fortunate. They are living in LTC’s and are compromised by debilitating health conditions; they need, have earned and deserve our support.

Please remember to wear a mask in public settings

Stay at home when possible

Practice social distancing

We are not out of danger yet, but we will get there sooner if we all work together.

Today’s COVID-19 Numbers:

  • Total Number of Cases – 190,794, an increase of 1351 from yesterday
  • Total Number of Tests – 1,303,570 (An increase of 18,784 from yesterday)

o   1,056,770 Diagnostic tests

o   246,800 Antibody tests

  • Total Number of Deaths – 4383, an increase of 36 from yesterday

I value your feedback so please continue writing me with your questions and comments.

Thank you,

Lela Alston

LD 24 State Senator