Arizona Nursing Home Operator Talks About Risks, Benefits Of Reopening

Published: Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 7:38am

Last week, long-term care facilities in Arizona came out with their own policies and procedures for family visits. Many in the aging services world would say, it’s a step in the right direction, but there are risks.

Donna Taylor is the chief operating officer for Lifestream, which operates four senior living communities in Phoenix. Taylor sat on Gov. Doug Ducey’s task force which crafted recommendations for family visits. She voted in favor of resuming those visits. 

"And so we came up with what I will say is an imperfect solution," she said. "But at the end of the day, the reason I voted yes was because I want families back in my building. It represents tremendous risk, and I am not unconcerned about that. In fact, I'm probably losing sleep over that very thing because the risk comes, which was such a significant impact."

And that risk — the virus getting inside the building — can be deadly. At the same time, Taylor says the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which regulates skilled nursing facilities, has come out with what she calls a very heavy-handed, punitive structure if facilities get COVID-19. So, Taylor is facing a double edged sword. 

"So thinking about that we, at the same time, are opening up, because our state has told us that that's what we need to do. We've got the federal government saying but don't get any cases in your building," she said. "So we've got those pieces, but then I jump back over to the other side of just knowing that my residents deserve the opportunity to be in fellowship with their families. They are adults, and just like you and I, have the dignity of choosing to take risk when we want to."

Taylor says the lockdown has taken a toll on residents.

"Our residents were losing weight, we were having higher complaints of pain. So that such that we were having to increase medications. These are all things that we have worked so very hard to decrease over the years."

She says it was a situation that could not continue. 

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