The Covid-19 pandemic has brought chaos on our country that no one under the age of 80 has ever experienced. It has sequestered people from each other including their family. My parents are 81 and 79 respectively. I have not been able to see them in person for more than four weeks. They are fortunate because they can isolate themselves in their homes and stay away from others who may be sick or carrying the virus. Unfortunately for many elderly catching the virus is a death sentence.
The 1.5 million people who live in assisted living and nursing homes are at an even greater risk. These long-term care facilities are much more susceptible to being over run by the virus resulting in the death of a large percentage of their residents. In New Jersey, the National Guard was deployed to help control an outbreak of the corona virus after it killed 10 residents in two weeks. And because of the nature of the virus almost all nursing homes have been quarantined.
This separation keeps them separated from family members and friends that are vital to their happiness but more importantly are often a critical watchdog to ensure that patients are receiving proper treatment and care. As an attorney who has litigated nursing home cases and seen the very worst of what occurs I understand the importance of family and friends watching over their loved ones.
It is very frustrating having a spouse, parent, sibling or child at a nursing home during this time of separation. The elderly patients under the best of circumstances are exposed to injuries from bedsores, infections, falls and fractures. A recent article in AARP discussed the issues that are being faced by people with loved ones in long term care. Here are some tips that you can do to try to ensure your family member, in addition to not being exposed to the coronavirus, is receiving proper treatment: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
- CALL. Daily- twice a day-or morning afternoon and bedtime. Talk to your mother or father and see how they sound on the phone. Ask if they have been moving- when they got out of bed, did they do any walking, anything that would prevent them from laying in bed on the same spot. Ask if anyone has moved them if they are bed bound and confirm the schedule on the phone with someone at the facility.
- FACETIME. If they are able and have a smart phone put the video features to use. Leave instructions with the Administrator, nurses on duty that you know or CNA’s that you will facetime or video chat with your loved one every day at the same time and to assist the patient to accept the call.
- MONITOR EVERYTHING. If you can facetime, or even have zoom or a similar app downloaded onto their phone, have your parents show you the room. Even if from the bed or chair this will ensure that it is clean and that there are no obstacles that might cause them to fall.
- TALK TO ADMINS- The old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease could not be truer in this situation. You can’t be there in person, but you can ensure that all who oversee their care understand what is needed and expected. Find out about what is being done to prevent the spread of the virus and equally important are there enough members on staff to take care of the residents. Be friendly if possible because another old saying is true as well “you get more with honey than vinegar”.
- ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO- Ask the staff, whether a nurse, admin or even you had a relationship with any member, and you have their personal number. Call and see if you can do anything for them, for the residents in general and for your family member specifically.
- CONTACT YOUR AREA OMBUDSMAN. If you are seriously concerned about the conditions of the facility whether it is related specifically to the Coronavirus, staffing or the situation of your family member call your Long Term care ombudsman. Don’t hesitate.
- In Benton and Washington County you can contact them here:
- Bryan Maloney
1410 SE 14th Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
1-888-268-3610 or (479) 273-9424
- Bryan Maloney
If you live in another part of Arkansas you can contact them by going to this website:
Our long-term health care workers are a vital part of the care received by our elderly. They are under enormous stress and it is important that the nursing home owners do everything they need to do to ensure that their employees receive the support necessary to do their job. While you are limited there are steps that can be given to you the peace of mind that you have done all you can.