As the threat of COVID-19 decreases, families can finally visit with their loved ones who have spent over a year isolated in nursing homes.
While some nursing home residents communicated with their family through video conferencing, most relied upon telephone calls or had no family contact of any kind due to physical or cognitive limitations. Residents falling into these last two categories were thus not “seen” by family for over a year. Beyond the obvious depression resulting from isolation and an inability to see the faces of those you love, the absence of meaningful visitation meant people did not know whether their loved ones were being properly cared for.
“If you’re not able to check in on a loved one to see how they are doing, you can’t intervene with their care,” says Annie E. Andrews, an attorney with the Steinberg Law Firm. “It wasn’t just the threat of COVID that put people in danger. Family members who had always been physically present in nursing homes, who were faithful advocates ensuring their dad or mom was receiving the care they needed, suddenly had no firsthand knowledge of their health or safety. It was terrifying.”
She warns, however, that even though family members can now visit personally with their loved ones, they must still remain vigilant. Andrews cited pressure ulcers as a common problem for nursing home patients, pointing out that patients who are bed-bound need to be repositioned periodically. If that’s not happening, their condition will continue to worsen.
“Great advice for family members is to inspect your loved ones when you visit them in the nursing home. Make sure they don’t have bruising or skin tears. A lot of people don’t think to do that or are uncomfortable doing that,” she says.
Andrews points out that family members must play a role in making sure their loved ones receive appropriate treatment, especially since most nursing homes are having trouble hiring and keeping employees.
So what should you do if you suspect that your loved one isn’t receiving proper nursing home care? Andrews says your first option should be to speak with the Administrator who is responsible for supervising the nursing staff. If that doesn’t work, immediately consult with an attorney. You can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Environmental Control, the agency that regulates nursing homes in South Carolina, but an experienced lawyer “is the best way to ensure your complaints are making their way to the right places,” Andrews says.
“The situation can be difficult for family members to navigate,” she comments. “It’s good to have an advocate who understands these complex situations. If you’re not seeing immediate improvement in your loved one’s care, a lawyer can help you navigate the various options.”
She adds that the best thing you can do for your loved one who is in a nursing home is to visit as often as possible to be sure your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent is receiving the proper care. She says there should be a Care Plan in place that lists everything the nursing staff will do for the patient – and the family should be involved in creating that plan and making sure the nursing home follows it.
Are you concerned about whether your loved one is receiving appropriate care in a nursing home? The Steinberg Law Firm, which has offices in Charleston, Summerville, and Goose Creek, can help you navigate through a difficult situation. To learn more, call 843-720-2800 or visit steinberglawfirm.com.