8 Questions to Ask if a Loved One Is in a Nursing Home


By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts

Mike Festa of AARP Massachusetts highlights 8 questions to ask nursing homes.
Mike Festa

REGION – Americans living and working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for roughly a quarter of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. If you have a spouse, sibling, parent or other loved one in a nursing home, here are 8 key questions to consider asking their facility, as recommended by experts:

What is the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in the facility?

  • What proportion of residents and staff are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot
  • Is the facility tracking when residents and staff are due for boosters?
  • Is the facility having trouble accessing or administering vaccines or boosters as residents and staff ask for them? 
  • What is the facility doing to educate residents and staff on the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety?

Is the facility screening and testing residents and staff for COVID-19 in line with government recommendations and regulations?

  • Are residents and staff, being screened at least daily for COVID-19 symptoms, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
  • Is the facility testing residents and staff as specified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)?

If COVID-19 is detected, is the facility ready to respond quickly to prevent further spread?

  • Is there a dedicated person planning and managing the facility’s infection control program, as required by the CMS?
  • Is the facility able and ready to implement the correct infection prevention and control protocols, as established by the CDC, to prevent COVID-19’s spread?
  • Has a positive case been identified at the facility in the past two weeks?
  • If so, is the facility performing an outbreak investigation, as required by the CMS?
  • How many residents and/or staff have tested positive?
  • Are all visitors entering the facility being screened for COVID-19 symptoms?

How is the facility helping residents stay connected with their loved ones virtually?

  • Does the facility have tablets or other technologies to enable virtual calls/visits?
  • Is the facility offering to schedule — and assist — residents in calling their loved ones?

Does the facility have sufficient levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) — masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, gowns and gloves?

  • If not, what is the plan to obtain more and what safety measures are in place in the meantime?
  • Are staff, residents and visitors trained on how to properly use PPE? Is PPE available for visitors?

How is the facility communicating important COVID-19 information? 

  • How can family members and resident representatives stay informed on COVID-19 case rates, community transmission rates, vaccination rates, changes to visitation and other issues? Is the facility using phone, email, a website, a newsletter or another platform to provide regular updates? How often are the updates being issued?
  • How are residents and staff staying informed?

Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides and other workers?

  • If not, how are the care needs of residents — bathing, feeding, medication management, exercise, social engagement, etc. — being met?

Are healthy-living programs back up and running?

  • How are communal activities like dining, exercising, socializing and entertainment being adapted in order to follow infection-control practices? Have any services been cut?  

For more information, visit: www.aarp.org/nursinghomes.




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