The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has ravaged the world. It has infected millions of people and killed thousands. It has overwhelmed public health systems in many countries, leading to further distress for many sick and suffering patients.
Residents and healthcare workers at nursing homes are quickly falling prey to the coronavirus pandemic spreading through America, with at least 5 deaths of residents reported last weekend.
Coronavirus has proved especially deadly to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or underlying conditions, and residents at nursing homes fall within this at-risk group. Housing in close quarters also makes nursing homes especially vulnerable to spread.
According to the U.S Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, 47 nursing homes over 27 states have at least one resident with coronavirus.
ABC News reports that just over the last weekend:
- 66 residents at a nursing home Mt. Airy, Maryland tested positive, 11 were hospitalized, and 1 died.
- 115 residents at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation outside of Nashville, Tennessee tested positive, and 2 died.
- 37 residents and 6 healthcare workers at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Richmond, Virginia, tested positive, 18 of which were this weekend, and 2 residents died Friday.
- 21 residents and 8 employees at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown, West Virginia, tested positive.
Some nursing homes are being evacuated to prevent further spread among residents, such as the St. Joseph’s Senior Home in Woodbridge, New Jersey, after all 94 residents tested positive. The Gallatin Center in Nashville was also evacuated this week.
It was a nursing home, the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, that was at the center of the state’s coronavirus outbreak. A New York Times report on March 10 called nursing homes “islands of isolation” with shocking mortality rates. Elderly patients with various medical complications in close quarters has led to a far from ideal situation in nursing homes.
Precautions for COVID-19 in Nursing Homes
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) website has a comprehensive set of guidelines for nursing homes to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include guidelines for prevention of infection, how to conduct facility wide COVID-19 testing, what to do if a patient tests positive and additional resources for nursing homes with mental care units.
Some tips for nursing homes include:
1. Prevent COVID-19 entry:
- Nursing homes should restrict all visitors, volunteers and non-essential service professionals.
- They should actively screen anyone entering the facility for any symptoms.
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2. Identify infections early:
- All nursing home residents should be screened regularly and those with fever or COVID-19 symptoms should be isolated.
- State or local health departments should be notified immediately if there are severe respiratory infections that cause hospitalization or death, clusters of respiratory infection, or individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
3. Prevent spread of COVID-19:
- All group activities should be cancelled and social distancing must be enforced among residents.
- The nursing home should ensure that residents and health care personnel wear cloth face covering.
- If COVID-19 is detected in a patient, residents should be restricted to their rooms.
- The nursing homes should ensure adequate supply of (PPE) for healthcare personnel.
4. Identify and manage severe illness:
- Nursing homes should designate a location for residents with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- They should monitor ill residents (including documentation of temperature and oxygen saturation) at least 3 times daily.
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What You Can Do
It’s a stressful time for those with loved ones in nursing homes. Most nursing homes have stopped in-person visits, and isolation also poses a threat to the mental health and well-being of nursing home residents. But you can still remain connected via phone or video chat. You can also contact the nursing home to check if they have a contingency plan to deal with coronavirus. The nursing home owes a great responsibility toward its patients and families, especially during a public health crisis such as this one.
It is important to stay positive and help your loved ones through the crisis.
At the Sundale Nursing home in Virginia, hospice workers who can’t enter the premises have set up a sign that says “Love and Hope” in bright pink letters. This is what we need in these difficult times.
Know that our firm is here for you 24/7, and we’re honored to continue serving you as always during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have offered guidance and legal representation to many nursing hone clients, and can answer all your questions. Reach out to us at (800) 794-0444.