(TRENTON) – As New Jersey continues to navigate the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, issued the following statement on legislation she will introduce to combat senior isolation during public emergencies:
“During this period of social isolation, it is critical that we maintain a steadfast commitment to mental health. For seniors and other residents of long-term care facilities, the outbreak of COVID-19 has no doubt exacerbated the isolation that many may feel living in congregate living facilities.
“Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation or loneliness. It is for this reason that I will be introducing legislation which would require the Department of Health to implement and oversee a Senior Isolation Prevention Plan for all residents in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities during periods of public emergency.
“Under this legislation, facilities must adopt and institute a senior isolation prevention plan and have the appropriate technology, staff and other capabilities in place to prevent seniors and other residents in the facility’s care from becoming isolated during public emergencies.
“Additionally, the bill states that residents of long-term care facilities with disabilities that may impede their ability to communicate, including those who are blind, deaf, or individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias, will be given access to assistive technology to help facilitate face-to-face or verbal/auditory communication with loved ones.
“Whether it be a natural disaster or a public health crisis, we must ensure that residents in these facilities can stay connected to their families and loved ones remotely when in-person visits are not feasible.
“This legislation will be critical not only in fighting isolation and its mental health ramifications, but also in ensuring that families have the ability to continue to advocate for their loved ones in long-term care facilities.”