10 Questions to Ask Your Loved One Quarantined in a Nursing Home
Many family members remain profoundly concerned about how their loved ones are doing while being confined to their nursing homes, without regular visitors and routine inspections to keep up on safeguards to ensure their care is not failing. While this is not an easy time for anyone and distancing remains the most critical measure when dealing with nursing home residents, there may be small things you can do to ease any anxiety or identify the warning signs that something may not be right. The next time you speak with your family member or friend who is a resident, be sure to ask these questions.
- What do you know about coronavirus or COVID-19?
While raising the alarm can feel scary and cause other issues for those with mental illnesses or cognitive limitations, the novel coronavirus kills an estimated 13.4% of patients 80 and older. When appropriate, it’s essential to inform your loved one of their risk and set the facts straight. This way they will understand the importance of taking preventative measures to stay safe, like washing their hands and reporting any sickness symptoms to their caretakers.
- Do you know of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hard hit by the coronavirus. Although facilities are required to report any infectious disease cases of both residents and staff to their local health departments, many are not. Some residents and their family members remain unknowing about what is happening within their facilities, leaving many unaware of outbreaks or their positive COVID-19 status.
- How are you feeling?
Review the symptoms of COVID-19 as you ask this question.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
The emergency warning signs for COVID-19 will require emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Contact the nurse on call, nursing home administrator, and a medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
- Are you seeing staff wearing extra gear like masks and gowns?
Although expected to be wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), a survey published on March 30, 2020, revealed more than 77% of the nation’s nursing homes say they are both underequipped and understaffed. Gear such as masks, gowns, gloves, and shoe covers are just some of the infection control products falling under the PPE label.
- Do you feel safe? What do you need from me?
This is an unsettling time for most, but this question can reveal much when answered by a vulnerable resident. Listen to their response and act immediately if you suspect anything unusual that may lead to elder abuse or neglect.
- When was the last time you had your physical therapy?
Services like group physical therapy and occupational therapy may have been discontinued. If so, you will want to know how the facility is still providing individual sessions to keep your loved ones active.
- Are you doing any activities outside of your room? Are you getting out of bed each day like before? When is the last time you had a shower or bath?
Ask what kind of entertainment like games, music, and enrichment is being provided. Understaffed homes may not be able to keep up with leading extra activities due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Hygiene issues are becoming extremely troublesome for facilities to manage, and residents are not regularly tended to for bathroom use or cleaning when necessary.
- Are there any friends at your home who you are worried about, have been transferred, or you have seen mistreated?
Sometimes it takes a staff member, another resident, or a resident’s family member to advocate for those who may not have a support system in the outside world. Don’t be afraid to share any concerns you hear about with an administrator and ask questions about what you have been told regarding the care of other residents during this time. Often, when outsiders request more information regarding possible neglect, it discontinues inappropriate behaviors that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
- Do you ever want to call me and they won’t let you?
By now, facilities should have reached out to family members to arrange communication channels and schedules for conversations and check-ins between you and your resident. Ask your family member if this is working or if they are having struggles connecting to you. Facilities should be providing regular phone calls between residents and their family members or use technology apps such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. Facility updates and changes to care plans and business challenges should be provided by email, phone updates, or virtual discussions. Direct communication with facility staff, including the director of nursing and administration, is vital to find out what the care team is doing to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.
- Would you like to file a complaint about something? Or, is a care worker going above and beyond to help you right now?
Residents can still file a grievance for violations of the standard of care and the processes in place before the pandemic still applies. Facilities are required to issue a written response to any submitted grievance.
Likewise, if support staff or workers are making your loved one feel safe and providing them extra comfort during this time, be sure to recognize those good deeds as well.
A Special Note on Top Performing Homes and Dementia Residents
Although skilled nursing facilities are regulated by mandates expected to protect residents and staff, COVID-19 has presented a difficult situation for even top-performing homes and those with specialized environments. A select group of residents carries characteristics that put them at higher risk of illness and death related to infectious disease due to cognitive limitations, which impair their ability to respond to an emergency.
For those with loved ones battling Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, or those with restricted communication abilities, this may be an extremely challenging time. And we suggest reviewing these six tips for dementia caregivers of individuals who reside in assisted living or long-term care facilities.
Report Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Concerns
For decades, nursing home owners and operators have cut corners and allowed for facilities to perform under minimal oversight. Legal liability serves a definite purpose and is a functional safeguard for nursing home residents who have the right to be served by an operation that complies with laws and regulations.
If you fear for a loved one due to COVID-10 disruptions, contact the skilled legal team at Levin & Perconti to discuss your concerns. Call us today at 312-332-2872 for a free consultation with one of our Chicago nursing home negligence attorneys.