Families Feel the Impact of Nursing Home Lockdowns

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Status of Nursing Home Lockdowns

Nursing homes across the U.S. are restricting visits in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are closely monitoring the status of nursing home outbreaks amid the lockdown.  Current estimates are alarming to say the least.

Currently, the CDC estimates that more than 400 nursing homes across the U.S.  have patients and/or staff with coronavirus.  There are an estimated 2,000 infections, and the virus is related to at least 450 deaths in nursing homes.  While these numbers are certainly alarming, the reality is likely far worse.  The federal government does not have their own system for tracking and reporting nursing home outbreaks.

In fact, the CDC is under fire for not having a formal tally of nursing homes suffering from outbreaks or those that have ongoing illnesses.  The CDC has reported their tally twice since the pandemic began, but the agency does not keep its own formal tally regularly.  Instead, the CDC is relying on states to report the number of cases in nursing homes.  This process is far from perfect, however, as some states fail to report outbreaks and even deaths.

With the understanding that nursing home residents are incredibly vulnerable to the coronavirus, and the likelihood that the number of cases is much higher than what is being reported, the CDC and safety officials still contend that the best way to flatten the curve is to practice social distancing.  Families of nursing home residents are urged to stay home and find alternative ways to connect with their loved ones.

How to Stay Connected to Nursing Home Residents

With bans on visits and physical contact, families of nursing home residents are having to think outside the box in order to stay connected to their loved ones.  Some of the ways that families can stay in touch with nursing home residents includes:

  • Phone Calls – Phone calls are a great way to stay in touch with your loved ones. If your loved one in a nursing home does not have a phone, see if you can have one delivered to the facility, or if the facility can install one.
  • Window Visits – Window visits are becoming increasingly common at nursing homes. This is an unconventional way of visiting, but allows you to see your loved one face-to-face.  Window visits allow you to hold signs, talk on the phone while seeing each other, blow kisses and feel more connected.
  • Facetime or Skype – Video chatting is another great way to keep in touch with loved ones when you cannot visit them in person. Some nursing homes have tablets or iPads to help residents connect with loved ones.  Staff members often help residents use technology to connect with family.
  • Snail Mail – If you are unable to visit or video chat, you can give your loved one something to hold onto by sending them a letter or card. This is a great way to send special items, kids drawings or mementos.

These suggestions are all possibilities for families to stay in touch.  However, these options will not apply to some families, and will be incredibly difficult for others.  Changes in visits or routines is hard for many nursing home residents.  Residents with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive disorders may not understand why their family is not visiting.  Others may be uncomfortable allowing nursing home staff members to perform duties their loved ones generally perform.

For families with loved ones that are gravely ill, most states are allowing visits for end-of-life care.  You will need to discuss visits with the nursing home and your loved one’s healthcare team.

Used with permission: https://www.nursinghomeabusecenter.org