It is strange to think how much has changed over the last three months, with the COVID-19 crisis having worked its way into every aspect of our daily lives. Since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve spent every day connecting with advocates, colleagues at every level of government, healthcare professionals and my constituents. A recent conversation I had with a constituent highlighted one area where this crisis has had a particularly devastating impact – skilled nursing facilities.

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), often referred to as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers or convalescent hospitals, are the live-in facilities that provide nursing care for the chronically ill or those recovering from a medical condition or surgery. Our state is home to 1,224 of these facilities.

According to a recent report by the California Dept. of Public Health (CDPH), nearly 6,000 patients in these facilities have contracted COVID-19 with a staggering 1,150 dying from the virus or related complications. That is almost a 20% fatality rate, and represents just about 40% of all the COVID-19 related deaths in California.

It’s heartbreaking. SNFs are an integral part of our healthcare system, particularly for the elderly. Seeing them become a battleground of this pandemic is devastating.

California has responded aggressively, forcing CDPH to be more vigilant in terms of monitoring and nimble in how it responds. In normal times, the state will go into each facility annually for licensing inspections and respond to complaints throughout the year. Governor Newsom and the CDPH have increased the number and frequency of visits, and have also set up infection control strike teams to respond to outbreaks. They have focused attention on testing, improving training for healthcare workers and working with our federal partners to get the necessary personal protective equipment to all employees of these facilities. In addition, the governor’s budgetary May Revise, composed almost entirely of across-the-board budget cuts, maintains a 10% rate increase for four months for SNFs to help them handle the impact of COVID-19, pending approval from the federal government.

The crisis has also accentuated the same challenges that workers, residents and families face regardless of a pandemic – the unique needs of this population. The majority of residents in SNFs do not have the same access to technologies that help us cope with stay-at-home orders and maintain communication with loved ones. Preventing the spread of the virus to an already immunocompromised population means that the visits have been halted that many residents rely on as their only form of connection to the outside world.

When I spoke with the constituent who brought up the challenges of dealing with a family member currently in an SNF, this was her primary concern. She felt entirely in the dark when it came to how her family member was doing. I cannot imagine the pain and anxiety residents and family members are facing because of this issue.

What I told her, and what I would like everyone who may be in this situation to know, is that you are not alone. Thousands of people across the state are dealing with these same challenges. Please know that there is help. Under the California Dept. of Aging, there exists the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Through this program, every region in the state has a representative to assist residents and their families with everything from communication and access to healthcare coverage to ensuring residents’ rights and protections, and addressing quality-of-care concerns.

I’m in regular contact with our region’s ombudsman who has been especially proactive during this crisis in attempting to address issues, including publishing a guide for families and developing inventive ways to maintain contact with residents. In fact, our ombudsman’s office sent out 76,000 postcards to residents in SNFs in our region to assure them of their rights and to check in on the care they are receiving.

Given the extraordinary impact of COVID-19 on Californians in SNFs, it is more likely than not that this is going to be the new normal for a long time. Coming up with sustainable and effective solutions will not be easy to ensure quality care and combat isolation for residents and their families. Fortunately, at the state level, regionally, and within the facilities themselves, there is an army of people working every day to ensure that residents have access to the resources and care they need. We have a profound responsibility to protect and care for our most vulnerable and those that care for them every day.

If you or a loved one needs help navigating any circumstance surrounding long-term care, please know that my office is there to help you. As always, I welcome your thoughts, experience and concerns with this or any other matter.

Laura Friedman

Please feel free to reach out to me at my District Office by calling (818) 558-3043 or sending me an email at