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Communicating with Loved Ones in Nursing Homes During COVID-19

It has become clear that nursing home residents face more risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 than almost any other group. Estimates show that between 35% and 40% of all fatalities caused by the coronavirus have happened in nursing homes. This has led to states all over the country imposing visitation restrictions on facilities. While limiting visitation may be the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this is also led to increased feelings of isolation amongst nursing home residents. For the elderly, isolation increases cognitive decline and feelings of depression.

Find Ways to Stay in Touch

If your loved one is inside of a nursing home, we understand how difficult it can be to no longer be able to visit with them on a regular basis. Even if you are in a state that has begun to allow limited visitation, there are many reasons why you may still not want to do so. However, staying in contact with a loved one does not have to be impossible. Some of the ways that you could stay in contact with your loved one include the following:

  • Communicating through a video. Many elderly residents in nursing homes have access to phones, tablets, computers, or other devices. You can use various apps to stay in contact with them, including FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and more.
  • Talking on the phone. If you are unable to communicate with your loved one through a video conference, you should still call them on the phone.
  • There may be isolation zones. Some facilities have created isolation zones and allow you to get close to your family member without actually touching them.
  • Stay in contact with facility staff. You need to stay in constant contact with facility staff members. Keeping an open dialogue with those who are caring for your loved one may decrease the chances that abuse will occur.

Watch for Signs of Abuse

When you are speaking to your loved one, or if you are able to visit with them, you need to be on the lookout for any obvious signs of abuse. This starts by asking your loved one about the care they are receiving. However, most people do not outright tell you if they have experienced some form of abuse. In fact, various types of abuse may not be immediately recognized as abuse.

Some of the most obvious signs of abuse that you need to look out for include:

  • Any visible or unexplained bruising, lacerations, skin tears, etc.
  • Dirty or unkempt clothing, bedding, or rooms
  • Recurring and unexplained infections
  • Unexplained bruising around the buttocks, genital, or breast areas

However, not all signs of abuse are physically visible. You should also be on the lookout for the following behavioral issues:

  • Newfound depression or anxiety
  • Unease around certain caregivers or nursing home staff members
  • Rapid changes in mood or behavior
  • Panic attacks
  • Social or emotional withdrawal

Find an Advocate

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused inside of a nursing home, there are various steps you can take to protect them. If the danger is immediate, contact law enforcement officials. You can then contact your Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Licensing and Certification Program of the California Department of Public Health. A report should also be made to the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.