Long-Term Care Facilities Require More Testing Support - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Rick Tabor

Rick Tabor is an Alzheimer’s Association Hawaii Champion, the first vice president of the Kokua Council, Hawaii Meals on Wheels Board of Directors secretary, Hawaii Pacific Gerontological Society board member, Rotary’s Kupuna Kokua Chair and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards co-chairman and a Compassion and Choice Hawaii Storyteller. He was previously the operations manager of an in-home kupuna care and assistance business on Oahu.


As an Oahu kupuna, previous eldercare in-home caregiver service manager, and long-time Alzheimer’s Association Hawaii volunteer with other relevant experiences that I will not go into here, I am compelled to call for urgent attention for a better state safety response for our long-term care facilities.

As reported by Civil Beat, Hawaii’s contact tracing falls short of national standards. This underscores the need for Governor Ige to support additional testing protocols and resources for long-term care facilities.

Hawaii needs to ensure that each nursing home and assisted living community has the onsite capability to verify that all residents, staff and — in the future – potential visitors are free of COVID-19 infection, through testing, whether or not they are symptomatic.

Governor Ige should lead in making sure resources and guidance are available for the implementation of baseline protocols to use testing to verify that residents and staff of each facility are free of COVID-19 infection.

Hawaii needs to prioritize access to testing supplies, as an essential component of establishing baseline assessments for Hawaii’s long-term nursing homes and assisted living communities and require all residents and staff be tested on a frequent basis.

Walkers and wheel chairs at Hokulaki Senior Living LLC. care home elderly. 14 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Walkers and wheelchairs at Hokulaki Senior Living.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The testing costs could be prohibitive for some facilities so federal and state dollars may be needed to subsidize the costs. Whatever the price tag, the cost of inaction is much greater and harder to bear.

Approximately 40% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide have been related to outbreaks at long term care facilities. Therefore, the state of Hawaii should immediately purchase, deliver, and provide training in the proper use of commercially available, rapid point of care COVID-19 testing.

Thereafter, long term care facilities should implement daily testing, in addition to temperature readings for all new individuals who come onsite, and retesting for returning individuals who enter the facility, in accordance with local guidance.

Triple Digit Cases

With nearly half our long term care kupuna living with dementia-related issues, there are growing concerns with social isolation repercussions that contribute to increased stress and mental health decline for our seniors who no longer benefit from their family and loved one’s visits.

With social distancing, loneliness has become a serious concern. At the end of February, for obvious safety reasons, Hawaii’s long term care communities closed their doors to visitors due to concerns of COVID-19 transmission during the pandemic.

Recently Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases have been in triple figures. The isolation caused by social distancing has also been difficult for our state’s families who have not been able to see their loved ones for over six months, with no end in sight.

For Hawaii residents, being connected to loved ones is a key component to lifelong health and happiness. Separation increases loneliness, which carries many noted issues. The break in the visitation routine has been very confusing for individuals with dementia as well as other long term placement kupuna. Long term staff have been expected to fill this contact void as best as possible. However, that is not the same as spending time with our ohana.

Being connected to loved ones is key to lifelong health and happiness.

Unfortunately, until Hawaii can consistently and quickly identify and prevent the spread of the virus, visitation will remain a distant wishful goal. I hope that our islands will improve the contact tracing, testing and gain better control of, or eliminate COVID-19 soon, so we can resume our visits with our beloved kupuna.

Aging with dignity for our most vulnerable relies on end-of-life love, support and encouragement from those we value the most. This has been a very tough time for those who are unable to be together.

The shared outcome that we all want is really quite achievable by following a few basic common sense steps; observe social distance recommendations, wear masks and frequently wash our hands. Pretty simple, when you think about it. Let’s try to do the best we can. This too shall pass.

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About the Author

Rick Tabor

Rick Tabor is an Alzheimer’s Association Hawaii Champion, the first vice president of the Kokua Council, Hawaii Meals on Wheels Board of Directors secretary, Hawaii Pacific Gerontological Society board member, Rotary’s Kupuna Kokua Chair and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards co-chairman and a Compassion and Choice Hawaii Storyteller. He was previously the operations manager of an in-home kupuna care and assistance business on Oahu.


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