There is little argument that COVID-19 has changed normal life for the majority of the world. Most of us in good health still have ways to adapt and recreate a new normal for ourselves and our families. Adults are finding ways to work from home. Students are experimenting with virtual school to interact with peers and teachers. Some medical facilities are even offering virtual screenings for their patients. But, one demographic that is not as flexible as others is the elderly living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. With an already limited lifestyle, these patients are not only cut off from visitors, but many worry they are now trapped inside a breeding ground for the virus.
How Have Florida Nursing Homes Been Affected?
It has been reported that one in four Florida nursing homes have been infected with the new coronavirus. The most recent news claims 2,481 lives have been infected inside care facilities, either by patient or caregiver. Additionally, over 270 of those lives have ended. On April 18, after much criticism, the state released a list of 303 names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have been infected. In mid-March, a VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines reported two military veterans had been infected, and one of the two later passed away from his complications. As of April 17, that same VA nursing home had 12 infected veterans with eight of those twelve now being hospitalized. In Fort Lauderdale, Atria Willow Wood nursing home has lost six patients so far. As the numbers continue to roll in, it is expected that more lives will continue to be at risk in these settings.
What Does the CDC Say About Nursing Homes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says every nursing home or assisted living facility should require all health care professionals (HCP) to wear all the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) if there is even one positive case of COVID-19 in the building. Leaders within these buildings should continue to educate the HCP as new information is made available on the progress of the virus. Checking temperatures and monitoring possible fevers should be a daily practice by now. There should also be a close eye kept on the workers who spend time in multiple facilities because they could easily carry the virus from one location to another. Of course, alternate methods for visitation should be offered with an emphasis on video conferencing. Lastly, if possible, designate an area within the building to be a specific treatment space so a plan is already in place instead of having to scramble for one when it is too late.
Should I Remove My Loved One from a Nursing Home?
Many people are considering moving their loved one from their nursing home or assisted living facility. However, medical professionals are encouraging us all to think very carefully about this step. It is natural and understandable that you would feel scared to leave your parent or grandparent in a potentially harmful environment or situation. But, you must think through this to avoid making a decision based on a knee-jerk reaction.
Here are some things to consider:
- First, ask the facility specific questions to understand what they are doing to protect your loved one.
- Ask how many workers on their payroll work at multiple facilities.
- Consult a doctor about your loved one's medical needs to see if you can even provide that kind of care from your home.
- If you still want to move your loved one out after asking these questions, create a discharge plan. Try to make it as calm as possible.
- Expect a transfer plan to be suggested from the care facility. Be open to options.
- Be patient. Any plan that is put in place will probably not happen immediately. The transfer or discharge of one patient requires the consideration of every other life in the facility. It takes time right now to consider all the best options for the largest number of people.
- Prepare your home or the new setting for your loved one. Anticipate how you will incorporate his or her needs into your daily life under these unusual circumstances.
What Can I Do to Help?
If you have a loved one in a care facility, do your best to follow the CDC suggestions. Avoid visiting in person because you could unknowingly expose your loved one or others to the virus. Instead, set a weekly reminder on your phone or computer to either call on the phone or hold a video conference. These visits are crucial to the morale of your loved one and his or her health, so don't let this be the time you forget to maintain this priority of checking in. Find a new method and establish the habit now so you don't forget in the future.
As always, if you are concerned about the legal care of your loved one, contact us today at Keller, Melchiorre, and Walsh to discuss your next steps in getting the help you need.