Nursing Home Safety – The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of tension and anxiety across the United States, especially in nursing homes. The elderly and often ill residents are at a much higher risk of death or severe results when exposed.
Infections can spread rapidly in long-term care facilities due to the enclosed quarters and the susceptibility of their residents. Studies show there are anywhere from one to three million serious infections that occur in these facilities each year. The novel coronavirus is a particularly rapidly spreading type of virus with particularly severe effects.
If you have an elderly loved one who is in need of nursing home care, it is important for you to feel confident in the safety of a nursing home before admitting them. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Make sure the facility has appropriate safety measures in place
What is the facility doing to protect its residents and staff? You should talk to the administrator of any nursing home you are looking into to determine if they have enough staff on hand, particularly registered nurses.
Ask if there are infections disease experts who have examined the steps they’ve taken to determine their sufficiency.
Determine if the facility has temporarily banned visitors. This a difficult decision but given the severity of the virus, and the ease with which it passes from person to person, a correct one to make.
There are other preventative measures facilities can take to keep the virus from spreading among people who are already in the facility. It may be a red flag if nursing homes haven’t canceled social activities, or if certain public areas of the facility have not been shut down. You should also make sure public areas are sanitized regularly and that all workers have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for interacting with the residents.
It is also important to determine if the nursing home is properly screening all staff members before they enter the facility each day. There is still always the possibility that staff could be bringing the virus in with them.
Finally, you should ask the administrator what the facility is doing to help all of its residents stay in touch with their loved ones while in isolation. There’s not much that can be done about the “no visitors” policy—it is a necessary strategy for keeping residents safe. But it is also important that these facilities protect the mental and emotional health of their patients. That can mean helping to set up video calls with family members and making sure they find creative ways to let residents interact with others.
Summary of Nursing Home Considerations
- Is there enough staff? Registered nurses?
- How are residents and staff being protected?
- Personal Protective Equipment for staff and residents
- Screening of staff and visitors
- Disinfecting of surfaces frequently
- Cancelling of non-essential gatherings
- Shutting off common areas to prevent gatherings
- How do they help residents stay in touch with loved ones?
- Has their safety response been reviewed by an infection disease expert?
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