Dayton's Ombudsman Shares A View Of Life Inside Long-Term Care During COVID-19
In Dayton and Montgomery County, the Joint Office of the Ombudsman has the mission of advocating for all of the residents of the Miami Valley’s long-term care industry. That’s nursing homes as well as other residential care facilities. Data from the Ohio Office of Research shows more than 21,000 people living in licensed residential facilities in the Miami Valley in 2018.
WYSO’s Jason Saul sat down with Diane Welborn, the Montgomery County Ombudsman, to learn a little bit more about the state of life in nursing homes today.
Jason Saul: So what are you seeing and hearing out there? The people who live in nursing homes are at the greatest risk from catching COVID-19 and at the greatest risk of of serious health impacts when they do catch COVID-19. What are some of the challenges that you see people struggling with right now?
Diane Welborn: Well, family members who were accustomed to helping their loved one in a nursing home by doing things like even going in and helping a spouse eat in the evening or in the morning, they're not able to do that now. And we've had lots of folks arranging the window visits. And we've had some facilities which have enabled outdoor visits, because you can keep people spaced far apart and they can get closer. They can't see one another [well]. They can't hug one another as family members want to do, but they can at least see one another. While everybody wants to keep the residents safe, the family members are just very hurt that he can't see their loved ones and be with them in the way that they're that they're accustomed to being. That separation is just really, really hard on people.
Jason Saul: In addition to the separation, what are some of the more common complaints that you get from nursing homes right now?
Diane Welborn: Well, from nursing homes right now the visits are really the highest level of complaints that we're getting. But we also constantly get complaints about staffing levels in nursing homes because as everyone can imagine, to work in a congregate environment like that could put staff at risk as well. So some people have quit and are not you know, are not showing up for work. I think this is a very hard time for staff members. The work is hard and they have a lot to do and they have a lot of people that have a lot of needs. So I think it's it's a difficult job. And of course, we would, you know, advocate for better pay. But it's that's not our decision. But we advocate. And so I think it's very it's very, very tough. And no facility and no health care professional at any level, whether, you know, whether it's that the staff that provide the meals or whether it's the aides or the people that that do the laundry and help keep the facility running. Nobody wants to see COVID in their facility and they don't want to have it. You know, nobody wants this terrible disease and they don't want to see any of their residents get it. It's a very challenging time.
Jason Saul: Can you tell me what involuntary discharges from nursing homes are?
Diane Welborn: It is pretty much exactly what the word says: involuntary. It's not desired by the resident. The resident does not want to leave. It's not their choice that they want to leave. I think the closest thing I can come to this that many people would understand, it's like an eviction, being evicted from the nursing home. In cases where they are not able to go home and they're not able to leave, then we have to make sure that the place that they are being discharged to is appropriate and adequate.
Jason Saul: But sometimes it's a homeless shelter, though, right?
Diane Welborn: Yes. Unfortunately, we do see that. And that is not an appropriate or adequate discharge for anyone from a nursing home.
Jason Saul: Do you see a lot of involuntary discharges in southwest Ohio?
Diane Welborn: Yes, unfortunately we do. It's one of the activities that our office is busiest with here. We do a lot of a lot of discharge hearings and a lot of advocacy for people in discharge hearings.
Jason Saul: If someone or their family member is facing an involuntary discharge from a nursing home, what can they do? Who can they go to for help?
Diane Welborn: They can call us. That's what we're there for. We're there to advocate. It's something that we know how to do and we do a lot of it. So we definitely want people to call us.
That was WYSO news director Jason Saul, speaking with Diane Welborn, the Ombudsman for the Dayton-Montgomery County Joint Office of Citizen Complaints. If you have a question about long term care and need help from the Ombudsman, their phone number is 937 - 223 - 4613