COVID-19: What to Look for When Visiting Long-Term Care Facilities

COVID-19 has necessitated lifestyles changes from all of us, but many don’t fully realize the deep impact it has left on the elderly. Economic insecurity has broadened, depression-inducing levels of isolation have become typical, and some long-term care facilities have adopted harmful practices to handle the additional burdens COVID-19 has introduced to their staff.

With a vaccine still months away from achieving widespread inoculation, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and AARP Foundation have released a guide on things to keep in mind as you visit loved ones in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

One of the first things Consumer Voice recommends doing when reuniting with a loved one living at a long-term care facility is to note both their mental and physical states. Have they gained or lost weight? Is their skin healthy, with no pressure sores or bruises? Is their energy level and alertness what it should be, or do they appear confused? Be on the alert for signs of harmful medication changes.

Observing the state of the facility is also crucial to ensuring your loved one is getting the care they need. Are facility areas such as the bedrooms, bathrooms, and common rooms clean? Are the residents and staff wearing masks? Does there seem to be a sufficient number of staff in the building – with the number of nurses and certified nursing assistants on shift posted as required? A ‘No’ to any of these questions suggest problems that could put your loved one at risk.

You don’t need to rely solely on your own observations, however. It’s worth asking questions directly to your loved one to ensure they’re satisfied and truly receiving the care they need.

If concerns or issues arise during your visit, it is of the utmost importance that you act on what you know. Talk to the nurse on duty about your concerns, request a care plan meeting, ask the director of nursing or the administrator what will be done to address issues, and possibly file a complaint with your state survey agency. There are a multitude of options available to you, but keep in mind that just because you’ve expressed your concerns doesn’t mean the facility will take action on them. To truly be certain your loved one is safe, it is vital to follow up and act as an advocate until you’re certain the matter is resolved.

COVID-19 has brought much uncertainty into the world, but knowledge and foresight can help keep those you care about safe until the pandemic is behind us.

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