As the coronavirus spreads across the United States, nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable to the disease. How to try to ensure that your loved one stays healthy?
The first thing you can do is research the nursing home. While you likely made inquiries before your loved one moved in, you may not have gotten into specifics about the facility's policies for preventing infection. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a factsheet that covers key questions to ask nursing home officials about their infection prevention policies, including:
- How does the facility communicate with family when an outbreak occurs?
- Are sick staff members allowed to go home without losing pay or time off?
- How are staff trained on hygiene?
- Are there private rooms for residents who develop symptoms?
- How is shared equipment cleaned?
You can also check on staffing levels. Facilities that are understaffed may have workers who are rushing and not practicing good hand-washing. There are no federal minimum staffing levels for nurses aides, who provide the most day-to-day care, but the federal government recommends a daily minimum standard of 4.1 hours of total nursing time per patient.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC have issued guidance to nursing homes to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including restricting all visitors except in end-of-life situations. You should follow the rules of the facility. If the facility is not limiting or not allowing visitors, do not try to break the rules.
You should check with the facility to make sure it is following the guidance from CMS and the CDC, which includes recommendations to do the following:
- Restrict all visitors, with exceptions for compassionate care
- Restrict all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining
- Begin screening residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms
- Put hand sanitizer in every room and common area
- Make facemasks available to people who are coughing
- Have hospital-grade disinfectants available