Area Agency on Aging: Long-term care outbreaks increase and a consolidated comparison website

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    By Kay Kaylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the regional long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

    An increase in COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care is occurring in Colorado and a few of the region’s care facilities have had outbreaks for the first time starting in November. Families and friends must feel helpless about protecting their loved ones. One of the standard procedures in an outbreak involves direct help from both the state and local health departments, which work with the facility staff to prevent further spread and to arrange care practices.

    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that facilities should have a plan to regularly communicate with residents, family members and health care personnel. 

    As noted on its website, “Communications should include information describing the current situation, plans for limiting spread within the facility and recommended actions they can take to protect themselves and others.”

    Given the difficulties during such emergencies, concerned families and representatives might need to advocate for communication, although privacy laws restrict giving some details. Suggested means of facility communication include electronic meetings, regular emails, daily messages left on a phone line and frequent updates posted on websites. A contact person should be designated. The state health department also has provided a staffing resource for facilities that need extra help or to temporarily replace staff who are ill.

    Care compare replaces eight health care websites

    Starting Dec. 1, Medicare created a new website, medicare.gov/care-compare, for the public to obtain information about health care providers and replacing, for example, separate nursing home and hospice compare pages. Users might have to first close related pop-up boxes and then they enter a zip code and select a type of provider. A list appears, along with a map. Aside from general information, various tabs and links provide ratings and inspection reports. Hospital and home health services also are among the eight types of providers.

    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare; see sjbaaa.org. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to kkaylor@sjbaaa.org.