In Arizona the Department of Economic Security (DES) is the designated Arizona LongTerm Care Ombudsman, delegating the Ombudsman services to each Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for their respective regions. A Long-Term Care Ombudsman is a specially trained advocate for residents of long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult foster care homes. Ombudsmen seek to improve the quality of life, care, and environment for long-term care residents and work to resolve problems individual residents face.
DES estimates that as of December 2020 there were a total of 57,899 licensed beds statewide that fall under the purview of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. The Ombudsman program is a mandate of the Older Americans Act, which requires that people residing in long-term care facilities have regular and timely access to the services of the Ombudsmen. During the COVID-19 pandemic, additional restrictions have been implemented to curb the spread of the virus in long-term care facilities. Specifically, Ombudsman can only visit one facility per day and must wear required
personal protective equipment.
In 2009, the Institute of Medicine recommended that there should be one FTE Ombudsman for every 2,000 licensed beds. Currently in Arizona there are nearly 20 FTE professionals serving as Long-Term Care Ombudsman. At current staffing levels, and given the funding provided, there is one FTE Ombudsman for every 2,895 beds in Arizona, well above the recommended ratio. This disparity is only exacerbated by the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To meet the staffing levels recommended by the Institute of Medicine, the AAAs would need 33 FTE, which is an additional 13 FTEs beyond current staffing. Additional funding for personal protective equipment for Ombudsmen during this difficult time is also necessary to ensure that older adults remain safe from the virus.
To serve Arizona’s long-term care facility residents, the Arizona Association of Area Agencies on Aging is requesting an additional $1,000,000 to begin increasing staffing to meet the Institute of Medicine’s staffing recommendations and ensure adequate access to Ombudsmen to advocate for the needs of vulnerable older adults.