Laurie Brewer, Ombudsman
Laurie Brewer is a longtime nursing home advocate. She has been with the New Jersey office of the long-term care ombudsman program since 2010 and was appointed as the state long-term care ombudsman in 2019. Click the black squares below to hear and read about Laurie’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The expanded interview (edited for clarity) is available at the bottom of the page.
Our caseloads went, I mean our calls went through the roof. There was no time to say ‘Oh, how are we going to deal with this?’ We had to deal with it. We had to answer our phone line, our 1-800 number, right? We had to start reaching out to long-term care facilities, which at this point are starting to implode.
I felt like we were abandoning the people in long-term care. I felt like they were being left to their own devices, and I knew it was going to be bad.
And I remember driving home from Trenton, which is the state capital in New Jersey on my way home from the office on March 13th. Black Friday, I guess. Friday the 13th. And I was talking to my supervisor of investigations and she said, before I could even say it, we need to pull everybody from the field and I actually wept at the thought of the ombudsman program not being in these long-term care facilities.
I literally have ombudsmen, volunteer ombudsmen, who are like, they put them on a cart, virtually with an iPad that we have donated to the facility because we purchased a whole bunch of iPads for this purpose. They put my volunteer ombudsmen on a cart and they take them through the facility so they can actually see what’s going on in the facility as if they’re actually there.
So we are now kind of equipped to do remote advocacy, but nothing will ever replace being there in person and having one-to-one contact with the residents who need you.
Click below for the expanded interview (07:02).