COVID-19 UPDATE from Bellas & Wachowski

Nursing Home Visitation Restricted

Published on March 20th, 2020

On Tuesday (March 10, 2019), the American Health Care Association (AHCA), and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), released new guidelines meant to protect elderly residents, who are the most vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus disease. With these new restrictions, visitation is limited to those in hospice. 

Based on the recent events at Life Care Center (a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington) and the spread of coronavirus resulting in numerous deaths of elderly residents, adding these precautions for those at high risk of infection makes sense. But, the quarantine and COVID-19 can add even greater anxiety to those who are responsible for others. Medical teams, especially nurses and nursing aides (CNAs), are already under enormous stress. According to the American Holistic Nurses’ Association, nurses and CNAs are experiencing workplace stress at higher rates than most other professions. These stressors include physical demands, management issues, lack of resources, and difficulty balancing home and work responsibilities. The quarantine and lack of visitation have family members across the country concerned that nurses and CNAs have the ability to retain the quality of care required, that their loved ones are treated with respect, and that the elderly are safe and comfortable including receiving proper medication. 

Recommendations During Nursing Home Quarantine

Based on the AHCA recommendations, nursing homes should not completely ban all visitors and suggests not restricting visitation for those with time-sensitive reasons (hospice). They do recommend restricting any activities that can increase the exposure of residence such as routine social visits, tours, and group activities. The AHCA also urges facilities to set up procedures to allow for remote communication so residents can remain in contact with their loved ones such as FaceTime and Snapchat. 

If you have a loved one in quarantine, here are some important steps you can take: 

  • Do not violate the restricted visitation policy. While the quarantine may seem strict, remember that it’s in place to protect your loved one first and foremost. 
  • Identify the responsible party (the person designated in the resident’s records like the one to call for all changes in condition). The responsible party is the point person for the whole family. Due to HIPAA laws, the facility won’t give any information to anyone other than the responsible party. 
  • The point person can request periodic updates that include condition and photos or videos and they can send these communications to the rest of the family. Having one point person will provide consistent information and will help the facility from being overloaded with calls and emails. 
  • By now, facilities should have a plan on how they will communicate with point persons for each resident. Gather as much information about how your particular facility is addressing COVID-19 and adhere to their plan. If the facility has not reached out to you directly, demand regular updates regarding coronavirus emergency plans, exposure and testing. 
  • Stay apprised of CDC daily updates and recommendations. You can set up Google Alerts for national or local updates regarding CDC and COVID-19. 

Quarantine Requires High Level of Communication 

The plan to protect nursing home residents has been mandated by most state governors and therefore, family members across the country are having similar worries regarding the health and treatment of their loved ones. 

For those who are not getting any proactive communication and cannot get a response from the nursing home, state-level resources are available including Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program  (LTCOP) and Citizen Advocacy Group (CAG). 

If a Loved One is Injured or Dies During Nursing Home Quarantine

If your loved one is living in a nursing home and either becomes ill or dies from complications related to coronavirus or is injured as a result of the quarantine, you may have grounds to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the facility. The facility’s failure to implement proper safeguards to protect your loved one from elder abuse and/or illness or death due to the coronavirus could potentially expose them to liability. As with any personal injury or unlawful death, the proof is required to determine “at fault”. With a no visitation policy in place, this could become very difficult to prove. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney will be essential in order to gather facts and evidence for your lawsuit. 

As we continue to monitor the situation, you can be assured our Chicago nursing home and elder abuse lawyers are ready to legally help family members should the need arise. Hopefully the nursing home quarantine will be lifted in a few weeks but, we could be looking at a longer timeline before the visitation of the elderly is safe again.

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