An elderly gentleman with a caregiver in a nursing home (Courtesy photo/stock)

COVID-19 deaths have changed the landscape of many residents living dynamic, including the once settling decision of having elderly loved ones residing in nursing homes – one of the most dangerous environments persistently being rocked by the health pandemic.

Nursing homes have served as a deadly coronavirus hot spot for healthcare workers and senior residents alike, forcing family members to consider their abilities in providing the same level of health care and vigilance matched to the services of these local facilities. Many residents reportedly seek counsel in finalizing decisions of how to best provide protection for their family nursing home residents amid the health emergency.  

“The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] is the governing body for all nursing homes and local Medicaid offices like DC Medicaid – everyone goes off of those guidelines. CMS has been very diligent getting these nursing home facilities to make certain that they have the highest of safety protocols in place,” said Albert Reed, Home and Community based Ombudsman of The Legal Counsel for The Elderly.

As of June 18, CMS and the Centers for Disease Control have reported 989 total deaths of elderly nursing home residents in Maryland with an additional 93 deaths in the District. The alarming death tolls have incited CMS to revamp protocol measures to ensure safety and recovery amongst the elderly residents.  

Reed works with nine CMS facilities across the city, overseeing residents held in the required quarantine wards, created as a separate ward unit, for those residents who have tested positive or had symptoms that are related to coronavirus. They have assigned staff to those wards who only address COVID-19 patients. 

“This is especially important because there are individuals who were transferred to the hospital and when they come back, because they’re not in the same protected environment they were when they left the facility, they’re going to have to go into quarantine,” Reed said.

When people get sick and are transferred to the hospital, they have to go in quarantine upon return – another precaution the ward has taken for the safety of residents and employees.  

As advocates, serving to protect the safety and rights of senior residents, they work to provide clientele with useful questions and dialogue to ensure they are making the most efficient decision to maintain proper care and standards for their family members.

Typically, the organization asks family members of nursing home residents to consider three issues. First, to consider the safety of their loved ones in the facility. They are in a protective environment 24/7 and those safety protocols are put in place. The facility can limit the amount of individuals who come into the facility. However, can family members manage to maintain that protocol at home for the safety of their senior citizen who is more susceptible to catching the virus?

Second, is the around the clock physician’s assistance given to the senior citizens within a nursing home? Either a nurse or a CNA are available to perform key chores throughout the day for the senior resident such as changing soiled clothes, feeding and transferring immobile residents from bed to bathroom. 

Family members of residents often ask if they can bring their family member back to the senior nursing homes after being hospitalized and if there will still be an available bed. According to CMS guidelines, whether a COVID-19 environment or not, when one transfers out of the facility, CMS guarantees that beds will be held for 18 days. After that, residents may not have the same bed. 

Nursing home residents cannot be discharged to another nursing home, or any unsafe environment such as the streets, etc., during the COVID-19 health emergency. 

Finally, families should consider the differences within Medicaid benefits – those that cover patients while in a nursing facility and those that provide skilled care workers coming to one’s home. 

“If you are having trouble, try every day to get an update from the facility regarding your loved one. If you’re having difficulty with that, that’s what our office is here for, to reach out to us,” Reed said. “Our 20 volunteers will help them connect with the facility.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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