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Arizona Nursing Home Advocates Not Allowed Inside Facilities To Investigate

Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - 9:21am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:45pm

Roughly three months have passed since Arizona families were restricted from visiting loved ones in long-term care facilities due to the coronavirus. But it’s not just families who are not allowed into these places — the people who are supposed to investigate and resolve complaints also have been barred.

Regan Smith is the long-term care ombudsman with the Area Agency on Aging in Maricopa County. That’s a fancy way of saying she’s an advocate for people who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But with the shut down, she and other ombudsmen haven’t been able to go inside these facilities.

In May, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced guidance for reopening nursing homes.

"And ombudsman aren't listed specifically in those phases," said Smith. "So if we continue to be listed as non-essential health care personnel, ombudsmen won't get in until phase three, which could be a long time from now."

So, they rely on the phone. But Smith says, many residents can’t always understand what’s being said to them.

Another issue, you can’t see a resident’s facial expressions — are they happy, sad, scared or sick. 

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