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Ombudsman Outlook
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December 2020 | Volume 7, Issue 2 

In this issue:

COVID-19: Updates and Resources for Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs

As the response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues evolve, please find brief updates and links to additional information below.

Federal Updates

Information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Earlier this fall, CMS launched the Nursing Home Resource Center, a new online platform that serves as a centralized hub of the latest information, guidance, and data on nursing homes that is important to facilities, providers, residents, and their families. The Resource Center consolidates all nursing home information, guidance, and resources into a user-friendly, one-stop-shop that is easily navigable for providers, residents, and caregivers. The new site includes COVID-19 information. 

CMS also released Nursing Home COVID-19 Testing FAQs. The FAQs cover questions related to county positivity rates, when testing frequency can be reduced, considerations for false positive antigen tests, when to perform outbreak testing, and more. 

CMS’s Toolkit on State Actions to Mitigate COVID-19 Prevalence in Nursing Homes was updated on December 3, 2020. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

Check the CDC website for Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities for updates and information about COVID-19.

Learn more »

New and Updated Resources

NEW! 2019 NORS Data Now on NORC Website

The 2019 NORS Data is now available on the NORC website. The Two-Year Comparison Report and Multi-Year Complaint Trends Report have also been added to the NORC website.

NEW! State Ombudsman NORS Training Posted on the NORC Website

NORC held two webinars for State Ombudsmen and staff of the state Office that assist with NORS annual reporting. The webinars introduced two new resources, Older Americans Act Performance System Reporting: Variance Analysis Guidance and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) Older Americans Act Performance System (OAAPS) Submission National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) Table 3 – Guidance

NEW! October, November, and December NORC Notes

NORC Notes is a monthly email reminder of available resources on the NORC website and tips for how your program can use them. The October issue highlighted Residents’ Rights resources, the November issue reviewed resources on electronic monitoring devices/surveillance cameras in long-term care facilities, and the December issue provided COVID-19 and holiday visits resources. Sign-up to receive NORC Notes.

NEW! Older Americans Month 2021: Communities of Strength

ACL announced that the theme of Older Americans Month (OAM) 2021 is Communities of Strength. Older adults have built resilience and strength over their lives through successes, failures, joys, and difficulties. Their stories and contributions help to support and inspire others. In May, ACL will celebrate the strength of older adults and the Aging Network, with special emphasis on the power of connection and engagement in building strong communities. Stay tuned for resources to help you observe OAM 2021. Early next year, ACL will begin releasing logos, activity ideas, and more at acl.gov/oam.

NEW! Altarum Report: Experiences of Nursing Home Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Altarum recently published the results of their survey of nursing home residents about how COVID-19 restrictions have impacted their lives. 365 nursing home residents in 36 states responded to the survey, which was conducted from early July to August 31, 2020. Key findings included:

  • Social interactions outside the nursing home have dropped sharply.
  • Social interactions and activities within the nursing home have also dropped sharply.
  • 76 percent of respondents reported that they felt lonelier under the restrictions.
  • 64 percent also indicated they no longer even leave their rooms to socialize.

Read the report and press release for more information.

The survey was distributed nationally as an online, public link, and residents learned about the survey through providers, Ombudsman programs, activity professionals, family members, and others. If you shared the survey link with residents in your local area or state, thank you.. 

National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) Corner

We have received several questions about reporting activities, especially visits, during the past year. Many programs have expressed concerns regarding their inability to conduct routine access visits (a visit each quarter, not in response to a complaint). While in-person visits with residents are a core part of Ombudsman program outreach and advocacy, there is no federal requirement for Ombudsman programs to conduct quarterly visits. However, a state program may have that requirement for representatives or local Ombudsman entities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, visits have been dramatically curtailed, and it is understood and expected that there will be very few, if any, facilities that receive a visit each quarter this fiscal year. It is important that Ombudsman programs accurately reflect this decrease to show the impact of the pandemic on the program and residents. There is no substitute for an in-person visit, while outreach by other means is necessary, we do not want to give the impression that the program operated as usual. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) anticipates that there will be a sharp decrease in visits, and that is appropriate, given the circumstances. 

For other information about documenting activities during COVID-19, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Documenting Activities During COVID-19 or view the FAQs as a PDF.

Learn more »

News from the Network

Ohio State Ombudsman, Beverley Laubert, Interviewed on Communicating with Long-Term Care Residents During COVID-19

Idaho Ombudsman Pairs Pen Pals in Facilities Across the Nation

Assistant Secretary Lance Robertson Celebrates Residents’ Rights Month and Recognizes the Work of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen

Ohio Ombudsmen Work to Protect Resident's Right to Vote During Pandemic

Pennsylvania Ombudsmen Recognized for Virtual Family Council

Happy Holidays and THANK YOU!

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To say that this year has been difficult, especially for individuals living in long-term care and their families, is a severe understatement. However, despite the significant barriers to in-person visits and communication with residents, Ombudsman programs created new, creative ways of connecting with residents and families. While changing program practices and routines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, programs continued to provide information and assistance, investigate individual concerns, and address systems issues. 

As we gladly say farewell to 2020 and start a new year, please take time to rest and reflect on what you and your program accomplished this year. Make a list and include all the moments that you know you made a difference (e.g., made window visits, held video calls with residents, spoke with concerned family members about lack of visitation, worked with your volunteers to find new opportunities to connect with residents). 

While 2020 was often extraordinarily difficult and sad, through all the chaos, you persevered to advocate with, and for, residents. 

Thank you for empowering residents and ensuring their voice is heard. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and we look forward to working with you in 2021.

Read past issues of the Ombudsman Outlook on the NORC website. If you did not receive this email directly and would like to sign-up to receive NORC emails please fill out the form on our website. If you would like to receive The Voice (the Consumer Voice weekly e-newsletter) automatically sign-up on the Consumer Voice website. If you have any questions, challenges, or article suggestions related to long-term care Ombudsman advocacy and program management, please let us know.

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