As our community continues to feel the effects of COVID-19, the tragic deaths of elderly patients in Utah’s nursing homes serve as an important reminder for all of us to be especially mindful of our loved ones in these care facilities. It is also critical for all of us to ensure the nursing homes in our community are strictly adhering to the guidelines from the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among these vulnerable patients.
The following is a brief summary of the guidelines Utah nursing homes must follow to protect our loved one from illness or death:
CDC Guidelines for Nursing Homes
- Restrict all visitors except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life residents. In these situations, the visitor should be limited to a specific room only.
- Restrict all volunteers and non-essential health care personnel
- Cancel all group activities and communal dining
- Actively screen residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms on a regular basis
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Guidelines for Nursing Homes
- Every individual regardless of reason entering a long-term care facility (including residents, staff, visitors, outside healthcare workers, vendors, etc.) should be asked about COVID-19 symptoms and they must also have their temperature checked
- Facilities should limit access points and ensure that all accessible entrances have a screening station.
- For the duration of the state of emergency in Utah, all long-term care facility personnel should wear a facemask while they are in the facility.
- Facilities should exercise consistent assignment (meaning the assignment of staff to certain patients and residents) for all patients and residents regardless of symptoms or COVID-19 status.
- Facilities should redeploy existing training related to consistent assignment, and ensure staff are familiar with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
In addition, your loved one’s nursing home should be doing the following
- Monitoring residents once per shift at a minimum
- Monitoring staff before each shift: taking temperatures and documenting shortness of breath and any new coughs or sore throats.
- Requiring any ill staff to self-isolate at home
- Keeping patients with respiratory symptoms or fever in their room. If they must leave the room for a medically necessary reason, they must wear a facemask
- Staying updated on COVID-19 activity in their community by actively monitoring local and state public health sources
- Posting signs throughout the facility explaining ways to prevent the spread of germs
- Having hand sanitizer in every resident’s room (preferably inside and outside the room)
- Having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees
- Ensuring proper handwashing by employees before and after contact with all patients, after contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment, and after removing personal protective equipment
- Making sure tissues, soap and paper towels are available
- Having dedicated employees who are trained in infection control to care for COVID-19 patients
- Having the proper supplies outside any infected resident’s room, including: hand sanitizer, facemasks, gowns, gloves, and a trash can for discarding PPE
- Posting signs for required PPE and proper precautions needed on the door of infected residents’ rooms
- Reporting any COVID-19 illness in residents or employees to the local health department
- Communicating with patients and family members about COVID-19, including any changes to policies and regular updates
- Training all employees in proper precautions, including: hand washing, cleaning, and disinfecting practices, and use of PPE
What You Can Do to Protect Your Loved Ones in Nursing Homes
The most important thing you can do for your loved one is to follow Utah’s distancing and safety guidelines, and to let them know you love them and are watching out for them. It is also important that you do the following:
- Ask the nursing home about their procedure to screen residents and staff for illness, and what measures they are taking to control infections
- Visit with loved ones by phone or Facetime
- Ask your loved one how he or she is feeling
- Ask your loved one if the facility staff are washing their hands when they enter their room
- Make sure your loved ones are handwashing and social distancing
- Check for regular updates on the health of your loved one
Utah Nursing Home Negligence and Coronavirus Infections
Your loved ones absolutely deserve an environment free of nursing home neglect. If they have sustained a serious infectious disease while residing at a nursing home–whether it is coronavirus or some other illness–the resulting complications can be severe. If nursing home negligence is the cause of the infection, a top-rated nursing home negligence attorney at Carlson Injury Law can help. As always, we offer free consultations through video-conference or by telephone at (801) 845-4577, and we never charge a fee unless we win your loved one’s case by holding the nursing home accountable.