Residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for roughly a fifth of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. If you have a spouse, sibling, parent or other loved one in a nursing home, here are 10 key questions to consider asking the facility, as recommended by experts.
1. What is the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in the facility?
- Is the facility tracking when residents and staff are due for additional COVID-19 vaccines or boosters?
- What is the facility doing to educate residents and staff on the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety, including the omicron-specific bivalent boosters?
- What proportion of residents and staff are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters? You can find vaccination rates of both residents and staff at any Medicare-certified nursing home and compare them with state and national averages on Medicare.gov’s Care Compare website.
- What hurdles is the facility facing in keeping residents and staff up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters? What’s being done to resolve this?
If you’re concerned about the safety and well-being of a loved one who lives in a nursing home, contact your state’s long-term care ombudsman.
2. What is the status of COVID-19 in the facility?
- Is there a dedicated person planning and managing the facility’s infection control program, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
- Is the facility routinely testing residents and staff with symptoms to swiftly detect cases, as required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)?
- How many positive cases have been identified at the facility in the past two weeks?
- Are outbreak investigations occurring when a new case of COVID-19 occurs among residents or staff, in line with CMS requirements?
- If in outbreak status, are residents being placed in a single-person room or cohorted in line with CDC recommendations? For example, is there a designated COVID-19 unit with dedicated workers to care for residents with suspected or confirmed COVID-19? Are those residents in private rooms?
3. How is the facility communicating important COVID-19 information?
- How can family members and resident representatives stay informed on COVID-19 case rates, community transmission rates, vaccination rates and other issues? Is the facility using phone calls, email, a web page, a newsletter or another platform to provide regular updates?
- If a COVID-19 case within the facility is confirmed, how long will it take for resident representatives to be notified?
- How are residents and staff staying informed on these issues?