Families facing long term care for parents and husbands and wives have always struggled to answer questions, some of them obvious, like how long is the stay, how much will it cost, what treatments and therapy are being provided, and is the care covered by health insurance and, if not, then what. Our office has worked with clients to answer these and other inquiries that come at a very stressful time.
In the age of Covid-19, more questions arise and you might not know what to ask or when. Here is some information to assist from a recent AARP on-line publication titled “Is Your Loved One in a Nursing Home? 6 Questions You Need to Ask,” www.aarp.org/caregiving/health/info-2020/coronavirus-nursing-homes-questions.html. I have added some commentary of my own based on more than twenty years experience reviewing care as an elder law attorney. This fits within the category of “life care planning.” I will have some suggestions at the end to deal with your individual case. Remember there are differences from facility to facility that need to be taken into account but this information from AARP supplemented by some commentary from me is to get you started thinking.
First, “Has anyone in the nursing home tested positive for COVID-19? “ The article explains this is both for residents, staff and vendors. I would add questions including “what is being done to separate individuals who have tested positive from others.” Also “are residents confined to their rooms?” Note this could have both positive and negative effects. Also I would add “how do residents who are receiving therapy continue to be able to progress if they must remain in their rooms?”
Second, “What is the nursing home doing to prevent infections?” This question includes “how are nursing home staff being screened for COVID-19 especially when they leave and reenter the home?” Also, “What precautions are in place for residents who are not in private rooms?” I would add “Is there an overall written plan regarding COVID-19 that could be made available to you.”
Third, “Does the nursing home staff have the personal protective equipment (PPE) – like masks, face shields, gowns, gloves – that they need to stay safe, and keep their patients safe?” If not yet available, what is the plan to obtain personal protective equipment?
Fourth, “What is the nursing home doing to help residents stay connected with their families or other loved ones during this time?” This can be critical to keep up their spirits. Isolation can be extremely stressful both for the resident and family. “Does the nursing home help residents call their loved ones by phone or video call?” Note that our office has a way of dealing with this. Read below.
Fifth, “What is the plan for the nursing home to communicate important information to both residents and families on a regular basis?” This question is similar to the last one but relates to changes in status, regulations and other matters. Is the best way to communicate with you by email, phone, text or other.
Sixth, “Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides and other workers?” If there are staffing shortages how is this being made up for with activities like bathing, meals, medication management and social engagement?
Note this is a full plate of questions for some seriously stressed workers who also need to be concerned regarding their own health issues. It is not an easy time for them either.
Aside from the AARP article I would note that our office engages in a practice of scheduling a “Care Plan Meeting” for clients to learn more about their parents’ or spouse’s care. I must say I have been very impressed with the quality of these meetings and of staff with facilities we have contacted. This can be a zoom meeting involving you and representatives of the facility including nursing, physical and occupational therapy, social work, and administration and might include your family member if physically and emotionally able. It is a great way to learn details regarding his or her wellbeing and care.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.