Tours aren't an option, so how can you choose a nursing home during a pandemic?

Posted at 6:58 AM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 07:58:14-05

With COVID-19 hitting Wisconsin nursing homes hard -- it's not an easy time to be placing a loved one in a long-term care facility.

Under normal circumstances, getting a tour of a nursing home would be one way for a family to see if it's the right fit. But to keep everyone safe, it's just not happening during COVID-19, but there are other ways to do your research.

"I would talk to friends, family members who may have placed a loved one in a facility in the community," said Rick Abrams, President, and CEO of Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living.

Abrams said word of mouth is always helpful and doing a virtual tour is an option. He also stresses with COVID-19 top of mind, families should ask questions.

"Ask the facility whether currently there is an outbreak in the facility," Abrams said.

He said don't stop there if the answer is yes.

"What have you done to contain the infection spread within your facility?" Abrams said is a good follow-up question.

The latest monthly data from the AARP shows the rate of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes has gone down slightly, but COVID-19 deaths were slightly up.

Data from Nov. 23 to Dec. 20, show there were 9.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100 -- That's down from 13.4. Also, during that time frame, there were 2.7 COVID-19 deaths per 100 -- which is up from 2.11.

Abrams said family members can compare nursing homes in their area and read inspection reports of the facility online. Click here to do that.

"The survey documents, as they're called really aren't a transparent picture -- they're a picture," Abrams said.

Abrams says after looking over inspection reports, families need to ask the facility questions if they come across anything concerning.

Wisconsin's Ombudsman program is another resource families should look into.

The group provided TMJ4 News with a list of additional questions family members can ask a facility during the pandemic:

  • How is the home currently managing visitation?
  • Has the home had outbreaks of COVID-19 and how have they managed those outbreaks?
  • What has the home learned over the past several months of managing COVID-19?
  • How has the home managed vaccination, and have most of the staff agreed to be vaccinated?
  • How will they communicate with me, or enable my communication with my loved one, if I am unable to visit?

The group helps older adults and families with long-term care options. You can call them at 1-800-815-0015.

Also, families can read the "Making the Right Choice: Choosing a Residential Facility" publication.

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