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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit nursing homes and assisted living facilities especially hard, families are wondering if they should bring their parents or loved ones home. It is a hard decision with no easy answers.
The number of nationwide coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities continues to grow. A Washington state nursing home was one of the first clusters of coronavirus reported in the United States, with at least 37 deaths associated with the facility. NBC news reported on April 16 that coronavirus deaths in long-term care facilities across 29 states had soared to 5,670.
“In New Jersey,” NBC stated, “the virus has spread to more than 95 percent of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities, according to state health officials.”
In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, most long-term care facilities are limiting or excluding outside visitors, making it hard to check on loved ones. Social activities within the facility are being cancelled, which leads to social isolation for residents. Additionally, long-term care facilities are dealing with significant staffing shortages. With the virus affecting staff as well as residents, facilities are having trouble providing much-needed care. Assisted living facilities, which are not heavily regulated, may have greater trouble containing the virus than nursing homes because their staff is not necessarily trained from a medical standpoint.
With this in mind, many families are considering whether or not they should bring their loved ones home. A Harvard epidemiologist is warning that nursing homes are not the best place to house the vulnerable elderly at this time. And a local judge in Dallas has recommended that families remove their loved ones from infected facilities. However, before taking this extreme step, you need to consider the following questions:
- Is your family able to provide the care that your loved one needs? Some patients require help with eating, dressing, medication and going to the bathroom. You need to consider whether you can adequately provide that type of care at home. In addition to your loved one’s practical needs, you need to think about your physical and emotional stamina. Further, is your house set up to safely accommodate your family member? Are there a lot of stairs? Does the bathroom have rails? If your loved one has dementia, there may be other considerations to take into account as well.
- How well can you prevent infection? Will you be able to prevent infection better than that of a nursing home? If your entire household is homebound, you may be in a good position to prevent bringing home the virus. However, if one or more member of your household is working outside of the home, you will have to take extra precautions to make sure you do not bring the virus to your loved one. Also, are you taking the proper precautions to keep your house disinfected?
- Will the resident be allowed to return to the facility when the threat of the virus has dissipated? If you take your family member out of the nursing home or assisted living facility, the facility may not let your family member back in right away. You should check with the facility to determine if your loved one will be able to return.
Bringing a family member home is a hard decision and it depends on the individual circumstances of each family.
For more on the considerations involved: