Statistics regarding COVID 19 in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are shocking. NPR tells us that some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks have occurred at long-term facilities that now account for more than one-third of all COVID 19 deaths in America. In Texas, there were 6194 confirmed cases among nursing home residents in 693 facilities, with 949 fatalities as of July 1, 2020. (TDHS)

What actions are the facilities taking? The Centers for Disease Control provided some guidance.

Nursing homes are required to have on hand an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) as all staff is expected to utilize these precautions.

Residents newly admitted to the facility are placed into a 14-day quarantine, as their COVID 19 exposure may not be known.

The CDC recommends at the start of each shift to take the temperature of all healthcare providers and ask about the presence of any COVID 19 symptoms; perform viral testing of any healthcare provider who has the signs or symptoms of COVID 19. At least daily, take the temperature of all residents and ask them if they are experiencing any of the COVID 19 symptoms.

What happens if there’s an outbreak of the coronavirus? An “outbreak” is defined as any new COVID infection in a healthcare provider or any resident. At that point, the CDC recommends that the facility perform expanded viral testing of all residents and healthcare providers in the nursing home. The protocol requires repeat heating the viral testing of all previously negative residents, generally between every 3 to 7 days until the testing reveals to know new cases of COVID 19 among the residents or the healthcare providers or for at least 14 days since the most recent positive results. The CDC directs facilities to create a COVID care unit that is physically separated from other rooms are units housing residents without the virus. There must be signage at the entrance of this unit, directing what infection control precautions are necessary.

Depending on the presence of the coronavirus in the facility, such precautions as not allowing family members or friends to visit is a necessity. In some nursing homes, the residents are required to stay within their rooms. Group activities are not encouraged unless the social distance of six feet way can be maintained. Limiting social interaction leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Friends and family are using creative ways to show the resident that they are loved and that they are still relevant. Some families remain in contact with their loved ones by using technology. Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom are popular programs for digital conversations. Many nursing homes have helped set up computers and email accounts for residents. Telephone conversations are appreciated. Large windows have a new function. Residents can be escorted to the window where they can watch safely watch their visitors smile wave, dance from the outside. Old-school methods of communication, such as cards and letters, often win a smile.

Family members worry when they cannot visit their loved ones. Facility staff can provide you updates on your loved one’s well-being, although it’s not the same as being there yourself. arrangeCARE can help facilitate communication, or be there for you as advocates for your loved ones. These are difficult and trying times. Please let us know if we can help.

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