Families across the United States are feeling the impact of nursing home lockdowns. Emotions are high as families are forced to stay away from their loved ones in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Family members are expressing a wide range of emotions about the situation – from concern to anger to utter distress. Any of these reactions are reasonable given the circumstances.
At Nursing Home Abuse Center, our nursing home abuse lawyer wants families to know that they are not alone during this time. In this post, we offer information about the status of nursing home lockdowns. We also provide some guidance on how families can stay involved with their loved ones from a safe distance.
Status of Nursing Home Lockdowns
Nursing homes across the U.S. are restricting visits in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are closely monitoring the status of nursing home outbreaks amid the lockdown. Current estimates are alarming to say the least.
Currently, the CDC estimates that more than 400 nursing homes across the U.S. have patients and/or staff with coronavirus. There are an estimated 2,000 infections, and the virus is related to at least 450 deaths in nursing homes. While these numbers are certainly alarming, the reality is likely far worse. The federal government does not have their own system for tracking and reporting nursing home outbreaks.
In fact, the CDC is under fire for not having a formal tally of nursing homes suffering from outbreaks or those that have ongoing illnesses. The CDC has reported their tally twice since the pandemic began, but the agency does not keep its own formal tally regularly. Instead, the CDC is relying on states to report the number of cases in nursing homes. This process is far from perfect, however, as some states fail to report outbreaks and even deaths.
With the understanding that nursing home residents are incredibly vulnerable to the coronavirus, and the likelihood that the number of cases is much higher than what is being reported, the CDC and safety officials still contend that the best way to flatten the curve is to practice social distancing. Families of nursing home residents are urged to stay home and find alternative ways to connect with their loved ones.
How to Stay Connected to Nursing Home Residents
With bans on visits and physical contact, families of nursing home residents are having to think outside the box in order to stay connected to their loved ones. Some of the ways that families can stay in touch with nursing home residents includes:
- Phone Calls – Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch with your loved ones. If your loved one in a nursing home does not have a phone, see if you can have one delivered to the facility, or if the facility can install one.
- Window Visits – Window visits are becoming increasingly common at nursing homes. This is an unconventional way of visiting, but allows you to see your loved one face-to-face. Window visits allow you to hold signs, talk on the phone while seeing each other, blow kisses and feel more connected.
- Facetime or Skype – Video chatting is another great way to keep in touch with loved ones when you cannot visit them in person. Some nursing homes have tablets or iPads to help residents connect with loved ones. Staff members often help residents use technology to connect with family.
- Snail Mail – If you are unable to visit or video chat, you can give your loved one something to hold onto by sending them a letter or card. This is a great way to send special items, kids drawings or mementos.
These suggestions are all possibilities for families to stay in touch. However, these options will not apply to some families, and will be incredibly difficult for others. Changes in visits or routines is hard for many nursing home residents. Residents with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive disorders may not understand why their family is not visiting. Others may be uncomfortable allowing nursing home staff members to perform duties their loved ones generally perform.
For families with loved ones that are gravely ill, most states are allowing visits for end-of-life care. You will need to discuss visits with the nursing home and your loved one’s healthcare team.
Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest News about Nursing Homes
If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, of course you want to stay up-to-date on the status of nursing home lockdowns. There are a few ways that you can get reliable information about your loved one’s facility and what your state is doing to keep nursing home residents safe. These resources include:
- Contact your loved one’s facility and ask them what they are doing to protect residents.
- Contact your state’s Department of Health and find out about state restrictions and guidelines for nursing homes.
- Review the CDC’s guidelines for long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
- Stay connected to your loved one however possible.
You can also get information from Nursing Home Abuse Center. We update our website and Facebook page regularly with helpful information for families and nursing home residents. We are staying up-to-date on the status of nursing home lockdowns so we can pass that information along to you.