Navigating the path of caregiving has become increasingly challenging since the pandemic, and restricted visitation means families can’t have the same level of contact with their loved ones. Betsy Johnson, president of the Kentucky Association of Healthcare Facilities, gives us the latest on what you can expect if you have a loved one living in a long-term care community or are seeking a new home for them.
Are nursing homes accepting new admissions, and if so, what is the process?
They are taking new admissions. The Long-term Care Task Force developed transfer and discharge guidelines. It requires at least one negative COVID-19 test result within a 24-hour period before the skilled nursing facility will take someone discharged from the hospital or before accepting someone new into the community. If a facility does not feel like it can safely care for the resident and also ensure the safety of their other residents, they have the right to refuse to admit that person.
What happens if someone who has already been admitted tests positive for COVID-19?
People can be asymptomatic and be positive for COVID-19, or they can have a test done and depending on when that test was administered, it could present a false negative so this goes back to the ability of the facility to safely care for that new admission and protect their other residents. They are quarantining newly admitted residents within the building by putting them in an isolation area for 14 days to ensure that there is enough time for symptoms to develop or if waiting for a COVID-19 test result. It is different for every facility, but if an individual tests positive and they’ve already put them in the facility, they will not immediately discharge that resident. They are going to assess that situation. If a person exhibits certain symptoms, the facility will discharge them to an acute care setting or hospital.
When will skilled nursing care, assisted living, and personal care communities lift restrictions?
It will be a long time (before visitation can resume). The only exception are family members whose loved one is at the end of life. With lower levels of care such as assisted living, there are discussions going on with the state about loosening some (other) rules. Many people who live in assisted living communities still drive. The conversation has been about when they can let hairstylists back into the communities, because it might be smarter to make sure the residents are staying healthy in their community rather than going out.
What about independent living communities?
Independent living is not regulated by any government agency, but the guidelines that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have put out with regard to housing services applies to assisted living, personal care, and skilled nursing facilities. However, in order to keep everyone in a community safe, these guidelines apply across the board for communities that offer multiple levels of care.
What suggestions would you have for relatives about how they can continue to monitor the care of their loved one since they can’t visit them?
Communication is key. The administrators of those communities need to communicate effectively with family members and residents about how they can communicate with each other, whether it be a window visit or FaceTime. The state ombudsman office is charged with ensuring residents’ rights are protected. They can’t come into the buildings and can’t see residents, but they are fielding complaints. You have a right to know what is happening with your loved one. People should call their local ombudsman if they feel like they are not getting the information they want or need.
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BY TIFFANY WHITE