Common Questions About Nursing Homes and Coronavirus

Steve Levin

A message from Attorney Steven Levin

I have a loved one in a nursing home and I’m concerned about COVID-19 exposure. What should I do?

The first step is to call the director of nursing at your family member’s facility and ask about the steps they are taking to protect residents and staff. By this point, all facilities should have a written policy and action plan available for distribution. If your facility does not, request that they create it as soon as possible, and follow up until they do. Facilities should already be following longstanding CDC guidelines for infection prevention. Here are some questions that can guide your inquiry into whether they currently comply with the rules:

My loved one’s facility has communicated their general policy for combatting the outbreak, but I have specific questions about my family member’s care. How can I get more information?

Even within the high-risk nursing home population, some residents face additional risk factors that require modifications to their care plan. If your family member has pre-existing immune compromise, respiratory issues, a condition that requires a high level of face-to-face contact with health professionals or a care routine that requires travel to outside facilities (such as for dialysis), ask the care team to provide a written plan that accounts for these special needs. If the facility will not provide this plan, or if you find the plan unsatisfactory, you have the right under Illinois law to request a care planning conference to ensure that your loved one’s care takes the particular risks of COVID-19 into account.

How are facilities screening visitors and staff members for COVID-19?

The CMS issued guidelines on March 9 directing nursing homes to actively screen visitors and restrict access for anyone who has 1) shown symptoms of a respiratory infection, 2) come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, 3) traveled internationally to a country within the last 14 days that has sustained community transmission, or 4) who resides in a community where the disease is spreading. In addition, if visitors pass the screening and are allowed to enter, the guidance suggests that facilities give them access to their resident’s room only. The American Health Care Association has issued guidance that goes further, urging facilities to bar all nonessential visitors.

The only way to know whether facilities are following these guidelines is for the Illinois Department of Public Health to order inspections of all facilities, something many industry experts are calling for. Governor Pritzker can direct state resources to the agency specifically for this initiative. Concerned citizens can express their support for this action by contacting the governor’s office here:

What should I do if the nursing home caring for my family member bars me from visiting?

It is a terrible feeling to be separated from a vulnerable family member. Research has shown that personal contact is crucial to the mental and physical health of the elderly, and while we must protect them from the spread of COVID-19, we do not want the “cure” to be worse than the disease. If your loved one’s facility has reason to keep you from in-person visits, comply with this policy and try to work with the staff to find another way to stay connected to your family member. If video calls using Facetime, Skype or another application are not mentioned in the care plan the facility provides, request them in writing.

Experienced Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home, we can hep. Please reach out to Steven Levin and the firm of Levin & Perconti now for a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Nursing Homes Must Do More to Protect Residents and Staff, a message from Attorney Steven Levin

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