How to protect your loved ones in long-term care facilities during pandemic

Published: April 30, 2020 5:11 PM EDT
Updated: April 30, 2020 5:29 PM EDT

According to the latest report released by Florida Department of Health, there are more than 1,300 nursing home residents statewide with coronavirus cases.

We looked at what you can do to keep loved ones safe if you have a family member or loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

The first thing you should ask: Has the facility completed their self-assessment survey?

If the answer is no, that’s a big red flag.

Diane Bortle had to check her mom into a nursing home for a month’s worth of rehab right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m not a person that drops her at the door and runs. I have to have communication with her,” Bortle said.

And that communication was really difficult since, since Bortle wasn’t allowed inside.

“It seems like sometimes I have to throw a fit to get anywhere with them on the phone,” Bortle said.

We asked malpractice attorney Kay Van Wey how you can hold a facility accountable if you can’t physically go there.

“The best and most ideal way to be an advocate for your loved one is to physically be there and look at them and talk to them,” Van Wey said. But, unfortunately, these circumstances, that’s not possible. Then, you’re going to have to rely on getting in touch with the long-term care facility and hoping that they’re being truthful with you.”

Van Wey says to make sure a facility is being truthful and ask if care providers have filled out their self-assessment survey.

It’s required by Medicare.

“If the answer is no, that’s a huge red flag,” Van Wey said. “If the answer is yes, the family member should ask for a copy of it.”

“The self of assessment survey is used to address things that affect the safety of the resident during the [COVID-19} outbreak,” Van Wey said. “So it will be is everybody wearing masks? And are the staffing levels appropriate? Are you following proper protocols control procedures?”

And you should ask the home point blank: Have you had any cases of COVID-19?

“Then you will want to ask are the [COVID-19] patients segregated from the rest of the other patients,” Van Wey said.

And, if so, how?

Bortle says her best advice for others in her shoes: “Just be persistent, and know that you as a caregiver have rights too … You have to do everything, and we are the voice of our parents, of our elderly parents.”

You can also look up health department information on nursing homes with COVID-19 cases.

It’s published on the Florida Health COVID-19 page. You have to scroll down and click where it says “See the report” under long-term care facility activity.

MORE: Florida long-term care facilities with COVID-19 cases