The world is being affected by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This is an unprecedented time, and everyone is learning different ways to cope and adjust to the new environment.

The federal government has instituted temporary changes for long-term care facilities (nursing homes) to help combat the spread of the disease. The changes include:

  • restricting who can enter the facility to only allow essential health care workers in, and
  • stopping communal dining and group activities.

Facilities are required to continue following infection control policies.

Just because we cannot visit our elderly relatives in nursing homes, does not mean that we cannot communicate with them often. Frequent communication will help maintain your relatives’ mental health, as well as your own. You should speak with the nursing home staff about providing your relatives with access to Wi-Fi devices such as cell phones, tablets, or computers. This will help them stay in touch with family, the Ombudsman, and online resources. An ombudsman is an official who represents the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of mal-administration or a violation of rights.

Now, more than ever, it is important for your relatives living in long-term care facilities to communicate their needs and maintain their normal routine as much as possible. They should speak with staff about exercising in their rooms and going outside for fresh air. They should not be afraid to ask for help. The staff are there for them.

Hygiene has always been a top priority in nursing homes, and the recent COVID-19 crisis has only emphasized its importance. Staff should be following established handwashing procedures and covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze. There should be posted signage throughout the nursing home to encourage the same etiquette from others.

If you or your loved ones have concerns, you can reach out to your State and local Ombudsman for guidance and assistance. You can always call the Start & Stark – Resident Advocates.


Laurie Facciarossa Brewer, State LTC Ombudsman
New Jersey Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman
P.O. Box 852
Trenton, NJ 08625-0852
Work: (609)826-5090 or 1-877-582-6995
Fax: (609) 943-3479


Deirdre Mraw
State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Volunteer Advocate Program
P.O. Box 852
Trenton, NJ 08625-0851
Work: 609-826-5053
Fax: 609-984-3479
Area Served: Statewide

Amy Brown
State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
I Choose Home NJ/Money Follows the Person
P. O. Box 852
Trenton, NJ 08625-0851
Work: (877) 466-3005
Fax: (609) 984-3490
Area Served: Statewide