The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put nursing homes and their residents in a difficult situation. In California and across the U.S., a high percentage of coronavirus deaths—close to 40 percent by some counts—have resulted from outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities. Unfortunately, nursing homes will be among the last to reopen after the pandemic subsides, and nobody knows when that might be.
The CDC and local public health agencies have issued safety guidelines, and facilities are grappling with how to best protect residents regardless of whether any have encountered COVID-19. As for what the residents experience, the lockdown means no more social activities like bingo, limitations on dining, and worst of all, no visits from loved ones.
Some fear it might be years before the 400,000 Californians in long-term care are able to visit with their loved ones in person. This has caused advocates to warn that those in long-term care are vulnerable to mental health risks brought about by extended periods of isolation.
Generally, residents of skilled nursing facilities have the right by law to receive visitors, and family members have their own right to visit with residents. Many facilities are actively helping residents connect virtually with their loved ones. In some places, advocacy groups are donating tablets to long-term care facilities so that residents can keep in touch with their loved ones.
How Do I Voice My Concerns?
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) has joined with advocates throughout California and the rest of the nation to draw attention to the isolation of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These advocates have designated June 30 as #VisitationSavesLives Day. You can help by sharing this article as well as pictures or videos of your loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities along with the hashtags #VisitationSavesLives and #ElderAbuseAwarenessMonth to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Then tag @Gavinnewson, @CAGovernor, @SeemaCMS, @CaliforniaDSS, and @CAPublicHealth to bring attention of your concern to government officials.
If your loved one is able to use teleconferencing technology, that’s great news—get in touch with him or her as often as you are able. Understandably, not every resident is able to operate teleconferencing technology themselves. The care facility should be willing to work with you and your loved one to make it happen.
Staff at skilled facilities are always busy. However, keeping residents in touch during the pandemic is crucial to their health and well-being. You have every right to ask staff to aid your loved one if he or she is unable to operate a device for telecommunication.
Nursing home staff should be prepared to work with you and your loved one to facilitate a virtual visit. If staff and management are not responsive to your requests, you might consider acting with the help of an elder law attorney.
Contact a Riverside Elder Law Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding your right to visit your loved one in a skilled nursing facility, contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Sandoval Legacy Group by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.