To the Editor:
These are challenging days for everyone. This is particularly true for the long-term healthcare community. Whether you are a resident, the family members, friends, or other acquaintances of a resident; or, someone who is in an administrative position or works as direct-care staff in a long-term healthcare facility, you are probably stressed out and anxious (justifiably) about Covid-19.
As the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman (RLTCO) with the Southwestern Commission- Area Agency on Aging, serving the seven western-most counties in North Carolina — Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain — I offer some suggestions of ways to deal with this challenging time in regards to the long-term healthcare community.
• Be grateful for the facilities and those who are working to provide care for the residents who live in the facilities. These staff members are seeking, while at personal risks to their own health and that of those closest to them, to provide for the needs of the residents in ways that are adequate and appropriate.
• As you have opportunity, express your gratitude to those that are staffing the facilities. Kind words and simple tokens of appreciation can go a long way in encouraging these folks to keep on doing their work on behalf of the residents.
• Strive to be realistic and reasonable. Realistically, no one knows the many ways Covid-19 will impact the facilities and the entire long-term healthcare communities. The numerous limitations and restrictions that have been put into place will be frustrating for those desiring to have intimate contact with residents. The unavailability of needed equipment and supplies to address Covid-19 will be difficult to accept. The expected increase in the number of those who will test positive to the disease will be frightening and the results (deaths) devastating. These things, and so many more are likely to happen before an improvement in containing and controlling the spread of the virus occurs. The best way to approach these issues is to be reasonable. Inasmuch as is possible, practice patience, kindness, understanding, and advocacy for best practice in caring for the residents. Reasonableness requires that responses exhibit control of anger outbursts, avoidance of excessive demands, and a willingness to listen to the explanation of those most closely engaged in the situation.
Please be assured that it is acceptable to raise any concerns and complaints that you may have during these days. If you suspect that a resident has been abused, intentionally neglected, or is being (or has been) financially exploited, contact the Department of Social Services-Adult Protective Services (DSS-APS) in the county where it occurred. If you suspect that the rights of a resident are not being honored, or there are questions concerning the quality of life experienced by the resident, contact the RLTCO (828.586.1962, ext. 223). You will be asked to leave a voice message and will receive a return call. If you prefer, call your complaint to North Carolina Division of Health Services Regulations (NC-DHSR) at 1.800.624.3004 (within NC) or 1.919.855.4500. Again, be realistic and understand that your complaints will be handled in a timely manner, given the current situation. And, be reasonable and understand whatever resolution may be possible will be dependent on the restrictions and limitations in place due to Covid-19.
Long-term care ombudsman