By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
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.