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The Hardship of Having a Loved One In Assisted Living During COVID-19

Woman in wheelchair looking out a window.

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a severe acute respiratory syndrome that has spread locally and globally. The State of Texas, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends certain strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care settings such as assisted living facilities. These strategies help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to residents; manage resources to prevent the spread within a facility; understand what to do once a case has been identified; make provisions for an infected resident; and recovery from an in-house COVID-19 case. AARP’s website help families track the status of nursing home visits in your state.

With the exclusion of visitors, elderly residents are being asked to stay in their rooms and spend most of the day in isolation. While many communities are making provisions for family members to call, FaceTime, Zoom or Skype with their loved one, this does not fill their time nor replace the company or touch of another human being. Since others are being sequestered too, social activities in long-term communities have ceased.

One woman took her elderly father out of assisted living “temporarily” so he could live. She did not want to risk the spread of the virus to her father. She was able to bring him to her home and work remotely while balancing her time between working and caring for her father. When a family takes an elderly parent out of an assisted living facility, they may consider it a “discharge” and the resident may be placed on a waiting list before they can return.

Another women took her elderly mother out of assisted living so she could die. Her mother was already very ill and because of visitor restrictions, she did not want her mother to die alone. She had to obtain personal care services, like the ones Homewatch CareGivers (HWCG) provides, to provide an extra pair of hands.

This leaves many adult children considering whether they should take their loved one out of an assisted living facility. In a July 23, 2020 AARP article, entitled Nursing Home and the Coronavirus, it reports there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some individuals and families may decide that it makes sense for a spouse, parent or other loved one to come home during the pandemic, particularly if there are COVID-19 cases at their facility. But the reality is that some nursing home residents have medical or other needs beyond what can be provided at home. Ask your love one’s medical provider for advice before making a move.

Adult children can do a lot to advocate for their loved one by staying connected, providing encouragement, and keeping the facility accountable. Do not be afraid to ask the following questions:  

1. Has anyone in the nursing home tested positive for COVID-19?

2. What is the nursing home doing to prevent infections?

3. Does the facility’s staff have the personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, etc. that they need to stay safe and keep their patient’s safe?

4. What is the nursing home doing to help residents stay connected with their families or loved ones?

5. What is the plan for the nursing home to communicate important information to both residents and families on a regular basis?

6. Is the facility currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides, and other workers?

With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading through long-term care settings, families must weigh the risks of bringing their loved one home. Every family is different. Are they able to give the elderly parent the attention they need? Do they have the physical and emotional stamina to take on this monumental task? What does the parent want?

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