Question: I am in the difficult situation of seeking long-term care for my elderly mother from off island; I live in Los Angeles and she is in Honolulu. … I am doing research online, looking up care homes, etc., but so much information is from before the pandemic. We are trying to find out about COVID-19 because that will influence whether we try to find a care home there, or try to hire a caregiver to move in with her or even decide to move her here with us (she doesn’t want that; she wants to stay home). Where can I find this information online for specific facilities?
Answer: You are one of many readers seeking this kind of information, although most of the people we hear from live on the same island as the kupuna they are concerned about — your family’s challenge seems particularly daunting.
We know of no ongoing, systematic, public reporting by Hawaii health officials of COVID-19 infection rates at specific care homes.
Hawaii’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center did release limited aggregate statistics last week about the total number of cases at long-term care facilities and community care homes in Hawaii from March 1 to Aug. 18, which you can read at 808ne.ws/carehome.
It said there were a total of 94 cases among patients, health care personnel and others (including visitors and noncaregiver household members) at a total of 28 Hawaii facilities during that period. Six of the people died, accounting for nearly 15% of all 41 COVID-19 deaths reported in Hawaii for that period.
Staff accounted for more cases than patients: 45 of the 94 cases were health care personnel, 41 were patients and eight were “other.”
The table shows that of the 94 cases, 27, or nearly 29%, were hospitalized, and six, or more than 6%, died — both much higher percentages than for COVID-19 cases in the general population. The release didn’t specify whether the hospitalizations and fatalities were patients, staff or others.
The “facility type” includes skilled nursing facility, community care foster family home, adult residential care home, developmental disability residential setting and assisted living facility.
Fourteen skilled nursing facilities reported a total of 58 cases, followed by 20 total cases at seven community care foster family homes and 11 total cases at four adult residential care homes.
None of the 28 facilities are named in the release. The state Department of Health generally declines to name facilities with COVID-19 cases unless the situation presents an ongoing public health hazard. Doing otherwise could cause misconceptions about a facility even if cases are managed properly, the agency says.
However, some advocates decry this approach because care homes and other long-term care facilities serve frail, elderly people who are at higher risk of complications from the virus.
The AARP, an advocacy group for older people, is among those pushing state public health officials to issue more specific, complete data on a regular basis. Spokesman Craig Gima said Tuesday’s aggregate release was a start but that even more information is needed for families like yours.
“We had been calling on the state to be transparent about long-term care COVID cases since April because we’ve felt that the state needs to be making these cases more of a priority and transparency will let the public, especially people with family members in facilities, be more aware of what is going on and what the state is doing to prevent more cases and to respond,” he said in an email. “If the priority is to keep people out of hospitals and intensive care units, then the state needs to do more to keep COVID cases out of nursing homes, care homes and other long-term care facilities.”
A big mahalo to Hawaii Kai post office workers who tracked down a package of mine that supposedly was in my mailbox, but actually had not been delivered. They found it and delivered to my door. We all know Hawaii’s postal workers are the best. — Richard E.
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