TAMPA, Fla. — Days after the state revealed more than 300 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida have at least one case of COVID-19 inside, anxious family members are eager to take action.
“It’s just a battle back and forth of what to do,” said Barbara Namias.
She recently found out the Pinellas County assisted living facility her mom has been staying in for the past few months has more than 55 positive COVID-19 cases. At least three of its residents recently died from the virus. Namias wants her mom tested and out.
“We’ve shed a lot of tears, a lot of worries. It’s just very, very stressful,” she told WPTV NewsChannel 5.
Namias joins thousands of concerned family members wondering how they can ensure their elderly loved ones stay safe when they’ve been shut out of long-term care centers locked down in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Experts advise family members to stay close by staying informed and asking the facility’s staff questions…lots of them.
“What is their quarantine policy? What are they doing when they find out somebody is infected with COVID-19, how are they making sure it doesn’t spread,” advised Palm Beach Gardens attorney Sean Domnick of Domnick Cunningham & Whalen. “These are folks that are the most vulnerable and we have no reason to think this isn’t just going to get worse and worse for our parents and grandparents,” he said. Domnick specializes in nursing home litigation.
“When people know they’re not being watched, that’s when things happen,” he said.
Domnick advises relatives to document conversations they have with staff members and their own loved ones who are in the facility. Domnick said even video-recording facetime and zoom moments are opportunities to keep loved ones close and long-term care centers accountable amid as staff work to control the pandemic with limited resources and a shortage of supplies.
Florida still hasn’t released which nursing homes across the state have the most cases and how many of those infected in these facilities are residents versus staff members. It’s widely believed the more than 1800 cases reported inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities is an undercount.
“I don’t think anyone can really have confidence that the system is working well,” Domnick said. "The amount of testing that’s been going on is woefully inadequate.”
All the more reason family members have to be their loved one’s greatest advocate, even when the answers to so many questions remain unclear.
“Every day, it’s another nightmare another nightmare that doesn’t seem to go away and I don’t think it will go away until we get mom tested, I know it’s negative and I can put my arms around her and bring her home,” said Namais.
Other questions to ask a facility long-term care centers during the pandemic:
- How is the facility screening people for signs of the illness?
- How are they educating residents about their risks?
- If they’re relative tests positive, will they be transferred? What is the that process and what is the process when it’s time for their family member to return?
- What is the process and criteria for taking a family member out of a long-term care center during the pandemic, what is the process for when they return?
- How is the facility making sure its staff stay engaged with elderly residents and those who may be suffering with unrelated conditions?
- How is the facility ensuring residents are receiving proper medications during this time.
- How is the facility ensuring its staff doesn’t get infected?