The headlines are frightening: Descriptions of nursing homes across the country hit with a rapid spread of Coronavirus. And no doubt, these are truly devastating situations. These tragic events are heartbreaking. The high-risk residents of nursing homes and assisted living communities certainly deserve the best possible care and protection available to them.
Out of concern for their loved ones, I’ve heard from families who are considering moving them out of long-term care facilities into their homes. Under the right circumstances, this certainly can make sense. However, I want to encourage families to look at the full impact of this type of decision before making it.
First, let’s remember that nursing homes are highly regulated medical facilities with stringent safety precautions all aimed at protecting the health and well-being of the residents. Assisted living communities in Wisconsin are licensed and regulated by the state as well. During this pandemic, under the direction of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and following CDC guidelines, these communities have implemented stricter protocols for their employees, and have limited visits to all but the most critical professionals who are providing essential care and support to the residents.
Before we bring our loved ones home form nursing or assisted living homes, let’s remember the reasons why they are living in a care facility. As I mentioned, these are communities that exist to provide care, support, socialization, safety and security to individuals who need their service. Perhaps your loved one has a physical condition that requires them to receive help with transferring from bed to wheelchair, help with getting dressed and showered, or help on and off the toilet. Are you able to provide that kind of care in your home? Is your home accessible for the individual to be able to move about? Maybe your loved one is living with dementia. People living with dementia need long-term care when they are no longer safe at home. Perhaps they wander and may walk away from the house when no one is looking, or they no longer recognize the difference between shampoo and a bottle of water. Maybe they need a full day of structured support to keep them from becoming anxious or fearful. Perhaps their days and nights are mixed up; awake all night and keeping the household from getting a full night of rest. These individuals need and deserve 24 hours supervision and support. Are you able to provide that level of care in your home?
Is your home Coronavirus-free? We don’t really know that unless we have quarantined for over 2 weeks. No environment is guaranteed virus-free, not even hospitals, where reports of employees getting the virus are reported regularly.
What if you try it, and things don’t work out at home? Your loved one may or may not have a room to return to. If they are accepted back into a community, they will face a full 14+ day quarantine.
There is no guarantee that your loved one will not be exposed to Coronavirus regardless of their living situation. Remember, nursing home and assisted living communities are professional organizations who are taking all possible precautions to keep your loved ones safe and healthy. It’s the purpose of their existence.