– As the elderly and long-term care facilities remain among the heaviest hit communities through this pandemic, Rep. Gary W. Day (R-Lehigh/Berks), chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, and members of his committee heard testimony earlier today about the vast negative impact COVID-19 has had on statewide nursing homes and care facilities, how that has effected ombudsman program services from effectively overseeing those residing in these facilities, and talks of possible future solutions to prevent the issues currently being documented.
“Pennsylvania’s ombudsman program plays a vital role in providing a voice to the senior citizens who live in our nursing homes and long-term care facilities and this pandemic has greatly affected the way they are able to perform their duties,” said Day. “Today’s hearing was a great opportunity to discuss what needs to be done to ensure the safety and security of our seniors while also protecting and prioritizing their health and well-being. There is much work to be done as we look to repair the damage that this crisis has caused on these facilities and create new measures to ensure events like these do not occur this harshly in our elderly communities in the future.”
Testimony during this informational meeting was provided by Margaret Barajas, state long-term care ombudsman, Pennsylvania Office of Advocacy and Reform; Diane Menio, executive director, Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly; and Jason Kavulich, director, Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging.
Additionally, the Department of Aging announced today it is partnering with AARP Pennsylvania to offer communication devices to long-term care facilities that will help residents increase contact with their family and friends. With support from the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, this pilot program will provide cell phones and tablets to 46 skilled nursing facilities in 40 counties where resident advocates known as Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents (PEERs) or a facility’s staff member had expressed a need for phones/tablets and have made a commitment to support the appropriate use of the devices. Nineteen devices will go to facilities identified as Special Focus Facilities by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and/or are operating under provisional licenses.
Pennsylvania’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program works to resolve complaints and issues on behalf of individuals residing in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes. This program also helps educate residents about their rights under federal and state law; advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves; and to ensure that they receive the highest quality of care.
Representative Gary Day
187th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Abby Krueger