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Drive-by parades give advocates and families a chance to see loved ones

COLUMBIA Mo. (KMIZ)

One Columbia long-term care facility organized a drive-by parade Thursday so relatives and others could see the residents in person.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced state leaders to keep visitors out of the facilities that the CDC considers high risk to the virus. The time when visitors will be allowed into long term care facilities is still uncertain.

This makes things difficult for people like Donna Wobbe, a long term care ombudsman director for Aging Best which serves all of central Missouri.

"We are very involved with the residents, we normally see them regularly, now we cannot," Wobbe said. "So we are utilizing these parades and anything else we're invited to to stay connected with the families and the residents."

The International Ombudsman Association describes an ombudsman as one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns. They are basically advocates for long-term care residents and their rights.

"I talk to families every day," Wobbe said. "I continue to offer everything I can to keep connected and keep these residents feeling safe and the families feeling secure."

Ombudsman normally go in and out of the long term care facilities and communicate with everyone in between to make sure people are being treated fairly. However, after COVID-19 hit the states, ombudsman were locked out of these places.

"You know, we're going to be last," Wobbe said. "We're going to be last because of the population, we're gonna be the last one to be able to get back in, but we're here, we don't have to be inside, to be able to advocate."

Wobbe works for Aging Best, which oversees around 165 homes in 19 counties across mid-missouri. Aging Best has volunteers who normally do weekly visits to each home.

"Every skilled home that's licensed with the state of Missouri we are there in the 19 counties that have just over 9,500 people just under 10,000," Wobbe said. "It's a lot of people not able to see their loved ones right now so, we are so grateful for any opportunity to continue to stay connected."

Ombudsman aren't the only ones left out of the long term care facilities - families are too.

Jane Moberg attended the parade to see her mother, who has lived at The Bluffs for eight years.

"I've been here every day for eight years," Moberg said. "So it's been really hard on me not to be able to see her, we do FaceTime once in a while, which helped but it's not like seeing her in person."

Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday that the state is working fast to implement surveillance of hotspots and PCR volunteer testing.

"That's very much part of our comprehensive testing strategy that we discussed earlier this week and one of those is surveillance of hotspots -nursing homes, prisons, jails meatpacking plants," Dr. Williams said. "So what will that look like when I told him this morning is what I anticipate we'll do is going to work with them and do some more PCR volunteer testing."

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Zach Boetto

Zach Boetto started working with ABC 17 News in June after graduating from California State University-Channel Islands with a degree in organizational communication. He reports weekday evenings and weekend mornings.

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