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10 Questions to Ask if a Loved One Is in a Nursing Home

Guidance for caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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En español

Americans living and working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for roughly a quarter 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 their facility, as recommended by experts:

1. What is the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in the facility?

2. Is the facility screening and testing residents and staff for COVID-19 in line with government recommendations and regulations?

3. If COVID-19 is detected, is the facility ready to respond quickly to prevent further spread?

4. Has a positive case been identified at the facility in the past two weeks?

  • If so, is the facility performing an outbreak investigation, as required by the CMS?
  • How many residents and/or staff have tested positive?

5. Is the facility managing visits in line with government regulations?

6. How is the facility helping residents stay connected with their loved ones virtually?

  • Does the facility have tablets or other technologies to enable virtual calls/visits?
  • Is the facility offering to schedule — and assist — residents in calling their loved ones?

7. Does the facility have sufficient levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) — masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, gowns and gloves?

  • If not, what is the plan to obtain more and what safety measures are in place in the meantime?
  • Are staff, residents and visitors trained on how to properly use PPE?
  • Is PPE available for visitors or should they bring their own?

8. 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, changes to visitation and other issues? Is the facility using phone, email, a website, a newsletter or another platform to provide regular updates? How often are the updates being issued?
  • How are residents and staff staying informed on these issues?
  • If a COVID-19 case within the facility is confirmed, how long will it take for resident representatives to be notified?

9. Is the nursing home currently at full staffing levels for nurses, aides and other workers?

  • If not, how are the care needs of residents — bathing, feeding, medication management, exercise, social engagement, etc. — being met?
  • If not, is there a plan to increase staffing levels?

10. Are healthy-living programs back up and running?

  • How are communal activities like dining, exercising, socializing and entertainment being adapted in order to follow infection-control practices?
  • Have any services been cut?  

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.

Editor's Note: This article, originally published on April 24, 2020, has been updated to reflect new information.

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