COVID-19 is challenging all of us and reshaping our lives, but the virus is a unique challenge to nursing home residents. How can you ensure your loved one stays healthy during a pandemic? The first step is to research the nursing home. You probably did your research before your loved one moved in, but you may not have gotten specific information about the facility’s policies for preventing infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a factsheet that covers key questions to ask nursing home officials about their infection prevention policies, including:
How does the facility communicate with family when an outbreak occurs?
Are sick staff members allowed to go home without losing pay or time off?
How are staff trained on hygiene?
Are there private rooms for residents who develop symptoms?
How is shared equipment cleaned?
You should also check staffing levels. In an understaffed facility, workers may rush and not practice good hand-washing. There are no minimum staffing levels for nurses aides, who provide the most day-to-day care, but the federal government recommends a daily minimum standard of 4.1 hours of total nursing time per patient. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC have issued guidance to nursing homes to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including restricting all visitors except in end-of-life situations. It is crucial to follow the rules of the facility. If the facility is not limiting or allowing visitors, do not try to break the rules. Try FaceTime, Skype, or similar alternatives to communicate with your loved one instead. You should check with the facility to make sure it is following the guidance from CMS and the CDC, which includes recommendations to do the following:
Restrict all visitors, with exceptions for compassionate care
Restrict all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel
Cancel all group activities and communal dining
Begin screening residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms
Put hand sanitizer in every room and common area
Make facemasks available to people who are coughing
Have hospital-grade disinfectants available
When communicating with the facility, please remember the employees are also under tremendous stress during this outbreak. It's more important than ever to remain civil to each other!
To read the detailed guidance from the CDC, click here.