Letters to the Editor

Keeping the mail moving

Dear Editor:Ê

During these challenging times, postal employees are working hard to ensure residents stay connected with their world through the mail. Whether it’s medications, a package, a paycheck, benefits or pension check, a bill or letter from a family member, postal workers understand that every piece of mail is important. While service like this is nothing new to us, we need our communities’ help with social distancing.

For everyone’s safety, our employees are following the social distancing precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials. We are asking people to not approach our carriers to accept delivery. Let the carrier leave the mailbox before collecting the mail. With schools not in session, children should also be encouraged to not approach a postal vehicle or carrier.

If a delivery requires a signature, carriers will knock on the door rather than touching the bell. They will maintain a safe distance, and instead of asking for a signature on their mobile device, they’ll ask for the resident’s name. The carrier will leave the mail or package in a safe place for retrieval.

We are proud of the role all our employees play in processing, transporting, and delivering mail and packages for the American public. The CDC, World Health Organization, as well as the Surgeon General indicate there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.

With social distancing, we can keep the mail moving while keeping our employees, and the public, safe.

Mike Rakes

District Manager

U.S. Postal Service Ð Greater Boston District

Protect Nursing Home Residents

The following letter was sent April 7 from AARP Massachusetts to Governor Baker regarding nursing home and long-term care regulations during COVID-19:

Dear Governor Baker:

On behalf of 775,000 AARP members in Massachusetts, we are writing regarding the Massachusetts Department of Public Health order dated March 10, 2020 providing guidance on MassHealth regulations for transfers and discharge of long-term care facility residents, 130 CMR 456.701 through 456.704. In addition, we are writing regarding 610.028 through 610.032, for the limited purpose of safely transferring and discharging all residents living in a long-term care facility that is intended to be used as a designated COVID-19 facility.

We deeply appreciate the state’s focus on protecting the health and safety of our state’s older population, nursing home residents and LTSS recipients, which is paramount. We are, however, very concerned that current state guidance does not adequately protect nursing home residents during this public health emergency.

Release of Information on Facilities with COVID-19 Positive Cases 

We urge Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health to release publicly the names of nursing facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Contrary to concerns that such disclosures would violate a patient’s health privacy, we do not believe HIPAA precludes a state health agency from releasing the names of facilities because a facility is not a covered entity as defined by federal law. We believe transparency and notice to the public is critical for public health. Moreover, caregivers and family members need and deserve to have this information for their own health decisions and as they consider possible next steps and interventions for their loved ones.

To be clear, we are not advocating for the disclosure of any HIPAA protected patient information. However, we do believe that disclosure of the names of nursing facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases would benefit the health of Massachusetts residents by allowing people to make informed choices.

Transfer Of Residents

 Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Many residents need assistance with activities of daily living due to physical and/or cognitive limitations. Moving these residents from their nursing homes can be unsafe and/or traumatic for them and their families, particularly when a move is involuntary and sudden.

Transfer from a facility can have both immediate and longer term negative impacts on a resident’s health. Many nursing home residents, especially those who are cognitively impaired, develop a physical, psychological and emotional dependence upon their surroundings and any disruption to this environment can cause serious emotional and psychological damage and physical stress.

Moreover, transfer without offering appropriate and effective counseling and planning can lead to isolation and despair and the lack of predictability maximizes fear and anxiety.

Proactive Communication With Caregivers

During these times of great uncertainty, when families are prevented from visiting their loved ones in a facility, we believe nursing homes should be required to provide proactive communications to the primary caregiver(s) of nursing home residents regarding their physical and emotional health and more general updates with information for families. We urge the state to modify its guidance to reflect that nursing homes must also create additional or increase listserv communications; assign staff as primary

contact for families; offer a phone hotline for family members to get information about their loved one’s care, and establish other opportunities to maintain communication between residents and their families.

We urge the state to adopt similarly strong language with regards to residents and their family members and family caregivers residing in other long term supportive service settings and residential settings, such as assisted living facilities and rest homes.

Virtual Visitation

In addition, we are concerned that nursing home residents going weeks or even months without any visits from loved ones is extremely serious, and the state directives should reflect this by requiring nursing homes to prioritize virtual visits and caregiver communications.

The Department of Public Health ordered that skilled nursing facilities should “restrict all non-essential visitors”, but didn’t make an allowance for virtual visitation. CMS guidance also contains a restriction on visitation, but only advises that facilities “should consider” offering “alternative means of communication for people who would otherwise visit, such as virtual communications (phone, video- communication, etc.).”

During this stressful and difficult time when in-person visitation is very restricted, we strongly recommend that Massachusetts immediately modify its guidance to require nursing homes to offer and facilitate reasonable and practicable alternative means of communication for individuals who would otherwise visit, such as virtual communications. Such virtual visits can be essential to the emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being of nursing home residents. For some residents, these virtual visits may be the difference between life and death.

Given the widespread adoption of video-chat options (from FaceTime to Skype to Zoom and so on), AARP Massachusetts believes these virtual visitations must include the ability to communicate on video, not only for the emotional well-being of the resident, but also so family caregivers can ensure their loved ones are being well cared for. If funding is needed to ensure video-chat options, we encourage the provision of such funding and consideration of how such communications could be part of telehealth.

Conclusion

We appreciate the efforts of you and your Administration to ensure the health and safety of older Massachusetts residents living in the community and in residential settings such as nursing homes, rest homes and assisted living facilities. We urge you to address the above-listed concerns immediately.

AARP Massachusetts

Thank You to the Unsung Heroes

Dear Editor,

It gives me great pride to write this thank you about some of Everett’s unsung heroes. For the past 10 years I have had the pleasure of enjoying my golden years at the Connolly Center in the community. Almost every day of that time, I have enjoyed spending time with many friends and taking part in countless activities and trips. We have seen many changes over the years but one person who has been a trusted face and leader to myself and countless others is Mr. Dale Palma. Dale is always available with a smile and a kind word for everyone who he comes in contact with.

Dale has always gone above and beyond to help and welcome any senior who comes to the center. He is warm, thoughtful and always sincere. He is truly a gem for my circle of daily friends and countless others. A few weeks ago this gem really stepped up to the plate. As we all know, we are living daily in one of the most unimaginable times our country has ever seen. Each one of us have had our lives turned upside-down overnight due to the Coronavirus. What was our normal day-to-day life became no more. Thankfully for the seniors in the city Dale Palma didn’t change. In fact he became even more active and showed great leadership, love and concern for all at the center. Dale has stayed in contact by phone with countless seniors including myself. He is always making sure we got our lunch that for many have been a blessing. I would also like to thank ISD inspection John Sullivan and others for bringing daily to our homes. I know in talking with many of my friends we all share in this common feeling. We have more days ahead of great uncertainty, but with leaders like Dale Palma, he makes them much more manageable. I would like to thank the Everett Council on Aging and Dale for being true rays of sunlight on these dark days. I would also like to send positive thoughts and prayers to all of my friends and community in the coming days and weeks. Together we will all get past this time and it gives me some rest knowing Dale Palma is in leadership watching out for my friends and I during it.

Rita Way

Everett Resident

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.