The Coronavirus or COVID-19 is affecting one of the most vulnerable demographics in our society – people over 60 – the hardest. Many of whom are in nursing homes, assisted living or long-term care facilities.
As we have seen on the news, if the Coronavirus hits one of these facilities, its residents are in grave danger. This leaves the residents, the staff and loved ones with many concerns and questions, chief among them – am I safe and will I become infected.
Below our nursing home abuse and neglect team will provide facts and recommendations on what you should know and what you can be doing during this unprecedented time. If you need help or suspect you might not be getting the full story from your loved one’s facilities, please give us a call.
Tips for Visiting Your Loved Ones in Nursing Homes During COVID 19
While many were hopeful COVID-19 would be gone and life would be back to normal, that sadly isn’t the case. Many of our daily activities continue to be restricted or discouraged. One such activity is visiting our loved ones in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
With our economies opening back up and some closing again, it is hard to know when or if you should visit your loved one in person. With seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities accounting for 42 percent (or 62,000 people at the time of this post) of all U.S. COVID deaths, this decision to visit is truly life or death.
In 30 states and Washington D.C. outside visitors are allowed. Even if visitors are allowed many rules and restrictions apply. What should you expect? What should you do if you want to visit? What can you do if visiting is not an option? We outline that for you in this post.
What To Expect and Do
First, call your loved one’s facility and ask what their specific rules are for visitation and if it is even allowed. Please note this changes often.
If you or anyone else going to visit is sick, has been sick or tested positive for COVID recently, do not go visit.
Anyone visiting is required to wear a mask for the entirety of the visit.
Visitors must maintain physical distancing, i.e. no hugging or touching your loved one.
You will likely need to make an appointment to visit, and that appointment will have a time limit.
If new cases are reported or an outbreak is occurring, you likely won’t be allowed to visit.
Depending on the state, many of these visits are restricted to outdoors only. This is true for Missouri and Kansas is strongly encouraging this as well.
To see what your state is allowing, please visit this AARP website.
Several states are also allowing for end of life visits inside the facilities.
If You Can’t Visit In Person
If your loved one has a phone or computer, FaceTime or video chat with them as often as possible.
If your loved one doesn’t have these items or is not able to do this on their own, call the facility and ask them to take a phone or computer into your loved one’s room so you can talk.
Check in with the nursing home often about how things are going and how your loved one is doing. The residents who are visited or checked in on often tend to receive better care.
Send cards and photos via the mail or email.
Whether you can visit in person or not, the biggest thing to remember is to keep your loved one’s interest in mind. Check in often so they know they are loved. Visit if you are well and the facility lets you, even if it is just for 20 minutes. We know you miss them and they miss you, but their safety and yours must stay a top priority.
Coronavirus Pandemic Serves as Reminder to Do Your Homework on Nursing Homes
One of the hardest hit and most at risk age demographics for Coronavirus of COVID-19 are people over 60. A segment of our population that is already vulnerable has become even more so due to this pandemic. Our elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are a major source concern. This concern was heightened even more by outbreaks in homes, like the one in Washington, where U.S. spread began.
Nursing home, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living centers have been on lockdown since March 13, when Coronavirus was declared a worldwide pandemic. While this ban was beyond necessary, it has led numerous people and agencies to further question these facilities capabilities to keep its residents safe.
Many of these facilities have long struggled with inadequate staffing, difficulty providing the level of care needed and having the appropriate medical support. What are these facilities doing to combat the Coronavirus? What should you be looking for? What can we learn from all of this to be ensure the health and safety of our loved ones?
Let’s begin by reviewing the facts when it comes to the impact of the Coronavirus on people over 60.
Symptoms – they are the same for people of all ages – fever, cough, shortness of breath.
Why is it impacting the elderly more – simply put, they have weakened immune systems. Many also have underlying health conditions that make them not as strong to combat this infectious disease. In Europe, 80 percent of those who have died have had an underlying medical condition, particularly cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.
31-70% of those 85+ and 31-59% of those 65-84 – have required hospitalization
10-27% of adults 85+ and 4-11% of those 65-84 – have died.
Number of Nursing Homes Impacted – Since the first case in Washington, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and CDC have found at least 400 nursing facilities have a positive COVID-19 Case.
How are Nursing Homes Responding?
Since the first major outbreak in Washington where two-thirds of the entire home tested positive for Coronavirus and at least 37 have died, the government has updated its guidance for nursing homes. These include:
No outside visitors.
Restriction on all volunteers and non-essential employees.
All group activities canceled and common areas closed.
Active screening of residents and staff for fever and respiratory symptoms.
Similar to the social distancing measures we are seeing across the country, these measures are helping, but the spread is still occurring.
According to a recent The Hill article, “Controlling the spread of infectious diseases has long been a problem at nursing homes. Advocates say a combination of factors created a perfect storm for outbreaks of COVID-19 at these facilities. About 75 percent of nursing homes are understaffed, forcing employees to juggle multiple patients and making it harder to follow proper infection control protocol.”
Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities are facing similar medical and personal protective equipment shortages as the medical community as a whole. Like so many places throughout the country, they need more tests as well. How well these homes are handling this virus can be attributed to their performance and safety ahead of the virus hitting.
The Example: Life Care Center
There are more than 200 Life Care Center facilities in 28 states. Its Kirkland location was the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Since then several more of its facilities have COVID-19 positive cases, including homes in Kansas and Missouri.
When you look at the Kirkland home’s response, many missteps were taken. The first being it was supposed to alert the Public Health Department of any suspected or confirmed influenza within 24 hours. Documents show they had concerns starting on February 10, but didn’t report this until February 26. By then, the virus had already spread.
This coupled along with other severe issues have been found in subsequent days by the CMS, leading the government to warn the home of a $611,000 fine if it does not correct course.
On March 13, the first person in Kansas died of COVID-19. He was a man in his 70’s who lived at the Life Care Center of Kansas City. This facility was listed as “much below average” on the Medicare.gov’s. According to research by The Kansas City Star, “ the Wyandotte County facility received 18 health deficiencies as a result of an Aug. 22 inspection, more than double the average for both the U.S. and Kansas.”
Life Care Centers has seen spikes at two other facilities, another one in Kansas and one in Missouri. At its Burlington location, a 90-year-old resident has died. Currently, 11 patients and seven workers have also texted positive. In its St. Louis home, six cases have been confirmed including four residents and two staff.
Life Care Centers are far from the only facilities dealing with this virus. In our own backyard, new clusters of cases are constantly popping at nursing homes. Riverbend Acute Care Center has had four deaths, and 33 residents and four staff members test positive.
While no one could have predicted the Coronavirus, seeing how these nursing home and assisted living facilities responded to it reminds us of the importance of doing your research prior to selecting a home for your loved one.
Picking the Right Home, What to Look For
When looking for a nursing home or assisted living facility for your loved one, clearly you have to look at location and what type of care they need first. Once you have that narrowed down, the next most important step is doing your research on those facilities.
One of the best resources is Medicare.gov. This website allows you to search for homes within your desired area and provides you with overall ratings on these homes’ health inspections, staffing and quality measures.
In addition, look at online review sites and discussion boards. How are these places ranking on social media channels and what are people saying about them? The more stars and positive reviews, the better, especially after this current pandemic.
Once you have this part of the research done, consult a lawyer, like Dollar, Burns, Becker & Hershewe, who specializes in nursing home abuse and neglect cases. We can research any public suits or litigation brought against those places. We know the substandard homes and can steer you in the right direction to avoid these places.
Finally, once this pandemic has passed, and it safe to visit each other and nursing homes, go visit the facility. Talk to staff, residents and their families about what it is like there, and what it was like during the Coronavirus spread.
All of this should paint a solid picture of how that facility handles day-to-day as well as crisis.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is how much life matters. When it comes to picking a new home for your loved one, you can never be too careful. Let this pandemic serve as your reminder.
Recent news and media interviews about coronavirus in nursing homes
WDAF Fox-4 recently did a fantastic in-depth piece on how the coronavirus has brought to life inadequacies in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The segment including our attorney, Rachel Stahle, as well as numerous other healthcare and nursing home […]
Attorney Rachel Stahle filed the 1st wrongful death lawsuit related to the coronavirus pandemic against Brighton Gardens, a Kansas senior living community, on behalf of the Grohman family. Gordon Grohman, a Brighton Gardens resident and loving father, was diagnosed with […]
Rachel Stahle, the first attorney to file suit against Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation Center, the epicenter of the Kansas outbreak, has frequently been asked to provide insight and understanding into nursing home litigation linked to the spread of the coronavirus. […]
Tim Dollar is representing Missouri resident, Ronnie Karin, in his lawsuit against Jim Bakker for common law fraud, unjust enrichment and violating consumer protection laws for selling a bogus coronavirus cure. This story as well as another suit by the […]
Attorney Rachel Stahle appeared on the national broadcast of Fox & Friends. During the segment, Rachel discusses her suit, the first lawsuit filed against Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation Center, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Kansas. Rachel was hired […]
Rachel Stahle filed the first COVID-related lawsuit in Kansas against Riverbend Post Acute Rehabilitation Center on behalf of Okey Long’s family. Okey, a 87-year-old man who entered the facility for rehab after suffering from a stroke, died from complications due […]
Attorney Rachel Stahle was interviewed by Fox 4 for a segment about how to properly care for your loved ones who are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the country, families and friends are […]
Lauren Dollar recently co-wrote the February cover story for KC Counselor magazine. The article was titled, “Desegregating the Bar: The Road to Inclusion.” This well-written article does into detail […]
Attorney Jill Kanatzar has been elected to the 16th Circuit Judicial Commission. The 16th Circuit Judicial Commission helps fill judicial vacancies, pursuant to the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan, in Jackson […]
Attorney, Rachel Stahle, was recently named Chair of Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s Medical-Legal Nursing Home Committee. In this year long commitment, Rachel will be in charge of planning […]