Nursing Homes & COVID-19: How To Keep Your Family Safe

U.S. Nursing Homes have been called the “ground zero” for the COVID-19 Pandemic.

COVID-19 has now affected all corners of the U.S. Nursing homes are being particularly devastated. We saw similar destruction with the Norovirus. Why? How were these facilities not better prepared?

The issues lie within the implementation of infection control programs.

Every nursing home in the U.S. is required by law to have an infection control program, or IP. Surveys and national reports, most notably conducted during the Norovirus outbreak, have shown that IPs are lacking, difficult to execute, or aren’t being implemented at all. One study found that only 3% of nursing homes’ staff had received IP training. Alarmingly, one third of nursing homes in the study received deficient IP ratings. This is due in part to underfunding, as well as a high staff turnover rate.

COVID-19 has created a unique and uncertain environment.

The virus has left residents at these facilities more alone and more vulnerable than ever before. Family members are barred from visiting. This makes it harder to monitor the level of care their loved ones are receiving. If your relative is a resident in a nursing home, it is important to call and check in frequently during these times. If possible, residents should have cell phones. Some families have installed cameras in their loved ones’ rooms to keep an eye on things; of course, it’s a good idea to check whether this practice is legal in your state or if there is language permitting this practice in a facility’s admission contract.

Our immediate community here in KC has not been spared.

Recently, residents at Riverbend Post Acute in KCK were sent to their homes after being exposed to the Coronavirus. Several have died from this and many of their family members have contracted it as well. More accounts at other area facilities continue to surface.

Fortunately, helpful information is not a secret.

It is readily accessible to the public through state advocacy websites, like Kansas’ KABC.org and Missouri’s senioragemo.org. Deficiency reports for nursing homes across the country are available through ProPublica. In addition, the Washington Post has provided an ongoing updated list of facilities across the country with confirmed COVID-19 cases

Good, safe nursing homes DO exist.

While the information can seem both dismal and overwhelming, good nursing homes are out there and you can find them. Our firm’s expert, Mr. Ruben Krisztal, implores families to meticulously research nursing homes before admitting a loved one. He lauds Kansas Advocates for Better Care as a reputable and reliable resource. The National Institute on Aging offers great insight and links as well. Medicare has also released a helpful checklist. Diligence and preparation are key when choosing a nursing home, especially in times like this. And, as always, if you have any questions or need help, don’t hesitate to reach out or give us a call.