As we now know from the tragic deaths at a Seattle area nursing home, the elderly and patients in nursing and long-term care facilities–especially those with underlying health conditions– are most at risk from the coronavirus. That is why it is so important for your loved one’s nursing home to be extra vigilant at preventing infections during this critical time. All long-term care facilities should be following the special nursing home guidelines from the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among patients and staff.
CDC Guidelines for Nursing Homes
- Restrict all visitors except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life residents. In these situations, the visitor should be limited to a specific room only.
- Restrict all volunteers and non-essential health care personnel
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining
- Actively screen residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms on a regular basis
For complete guidelines, see here: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-14-nh-revised.pdf
Nursing Homes Should also be Following IDPH Guidelines
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has issued its own guidelines for Long Term Care facilities. Your loved one’s nursing home should be doing the following:
- Monitoring residents once per shift at a minimum
- Monitoring staff before each shift: taking temperatures and documenting shortness of breath and any new coughs or sore throats.
- Requiring any ill staff to self-isolate at home
- Keeping patients with respiratory symptoms or fever in their room. If they must leave the room for a medically necessary reason, they must wear a facemask
- Staying updated on COVID-19 activity in their community by actively monitoring local and state public health sources
- Posting signs throughout the facility explaining ways to prevent the spread of germs
- Having hand sanitizer in every resident’s room (preferably inside and outside the room)
- Having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees
- Ensuring proper handwashing by employees before and after contact with all patients, after contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment, and after removing personal protective equipment
- Making sure tissues, soap and paper towels are available
- Having dedicated employees who are trained in infection control to care for COVID-19 patients
- Having the proper supplies outside any infected resident’s room, including: hand sanitizer, facemasks, gowns, gloves, and a trash can for discarding PPE
- Posting signs for required PPE and proper precautions needed on the door of infected residents’ rooms
- Reporting any COVID-19 illness in residents or employees to the local health department
- Communicating with patients and family members about COVID-19, including any changes to policies and regular updates
- Training all employees in proper precautions, including: hand washing, cleaning, and disinfecting practices, and use of PPE
For complete guidelines, see here: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus/long-term-care-guidance
Who Is Most at Risk from COVID-19?
According to the CDC, senior citizens with multiple health conditions are at the highest risk for complications from the coronavirus. Because nursing homes and long term care facilities have large groups of vulnerable populations congregating in one location, they are especially susceptible to the quick spread of COVID-19. There have already been several cases of COVID-19 spreading quickly through nursing homes, and visitors and health care personnel who are ill are the most likely source of introduction of COVID-19 into nursing homes. That is why it is so important for these facilities to limit visitors.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Coronavirus
In order to slow or stop the spread of coronavirus, especially among at-risk older adults, it is important to identify the symptoms, get tested, and follow proper precautions (including isolation) if infected. The CDC has identified the following symptoms of COVD-19 (although there may be other less common symptoms, as well):
- Shortness of breath
Emergency warning signs of COVID-19 that require immediate medical attention:
- Breathing difficulties and shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Confusion or inability to rouse
- Discoloration of the face or lips
Note that these symptoms may appear 2-4 days after exposure.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Loved Ones in Nursing Homes
The most important thing to do is to follow any guidelines that will best protect your loved ones. After that, it is also critical to let them know that you care and are watching out for them. Specifically, you can be doing the following:
- Visit with loved ones by phone or Facetime
- Ask your loved one how he or she is feeling
- Make sure they are handwashing and social distancing
- Ask the nursing home about their procedure to screen residents and staff for illness, and what measures they are taking to control infections
- Check for regular updates on the health of your loved one
- Most importantly, do not try to visit in person
Illinois Nursing Home Negligence and Coronavirus Infections
If your loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease while residing at a nursing home–whether it is coronavirus or some other illness–the resulting complications can be severe. If nursing home negligence is the cause of the infection, we can help. Call the dedicated nursing home attorneys at The Collins Law Firm for your FREE CONSULTATION at (630) 527-1595.
Meg Collins contributed to this blog.