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Protecting Our Loved Ones in Nursing Homes During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Steve Levin

A message from Attorney Steven Levin

Nursing home residents are at the center of a perfect storm: starkly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, which has proven particularly deadly to the elderly, and cut off from those who can most effectively speak up to protect them.

As experienced advocates for patients in long term care and their families, our firm is ready to help you ensure that your loved ones stay safe and healthy.

With the news here in Illinois that a suburban nursing home has at least 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19, we all know that we must act decisively to protect our loved ones in long-term care facilities. Open communication between families, facilities and caregivers is the key to making this happen. And families must take action to make it happen.

We are advising families to ask the director of nursing at their loved one’s facility for a written plan that accounts for the patient’s needs during this time of crisis. If the facility will not provide this plan, or if the plan unsatisfactory, families have the right under Illinois law to request a care planning conference. If they’re not allowed inside, they can meet outside the facility.

If you have questions about what you can do to protect your loved ones, please call us.

You have the right to know that your loved one is being well cared for — and that their care takes the particular risks of COVID-19 infection into account. We stand ready to help you assert that right and to protect our vulnerable elderly citizens during this crisis.

Caring for our elderly means more than simply quarantining them from the spread of the virus; it means ensuring that all their basic needs are met, even in the face of the current challenge.

Historically the long-term care industry has cut front-line staffing levels at their facilities to the point where there is not an adequate number of caregivers to perform labor-intensive tasks, such as helping residents turn over safely in their beds or use the toilet. Visiting family members have to assist with this work or it doesn’t happen.

Now, as nursing homes try to stem the tide of infection from the novel coronavirus, and the federal bureaucrats who were supposed to be holding them accountable for meeting basic standards of care scramble to implement rules for quarantines, we are locking the doors of these facilities, blocking outside visitors and depriving family members of their ability to see their elderly loved ones or know what’s happening with their care.

According to the guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services late last week, facilities should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only.

For individuals that do enter in compassionate situations, facilities should require these visitors to perform hand hygiene and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks. Decisions about visitation during an end of life situation should be made on a case by case basis, which should include careful screening of the visitor (including clergy, bereavement counselors, etc.) for fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat) should not be permitted to enter the facility at any time (even in end-of-life situations). Those visitors that are permitted, must wear a facemask while in the building and restrict their visit to the resident’s room or other location designated by the facility.

We expect CMS to issue additional guidance later today and will share this in another communication as soon as it is available.

Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Related to Coronavirus

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home or the intentional understaffing its workforce, we can help. Please reach out to Levin & Perconti, a Chicago-based law firm ready to provide you with a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Coronavirus Concerns Grow For Illinois Nursing Homes

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