The novel “coronavirus” (also called “SARS-CoV-2”) causes the disease “COVID-19.” It first appeared in late 2019 and was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019. Here’s a link to the WHO’s site for the latest global information. At this point, the virus has infected over a quarter million people on every continent except Antarctica.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are especially hard hit. The biggest early cluster of COVID-19 in the United States was at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. In fact, by March 17, King County, Washington, reported that 30 COVID-19 deaths and 59 cases were related to the nursing home. The facility had 120 residents and 180 staff in mid-February. COVID-19 hits nursing homes particularly hard because the nursing home population is particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. It is particularly lethal to older people with underlying medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, the very people who predominate in nursing homes.

The CDC has updated its recommendations regarding nursing homes:

  • Restrict all visitation except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life situations
  • Restrict all volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel (HCP), including non-essential healthcare personnel (e.g., barbers)
  • Cancel all group activities and communal dining
  • Implement active screening of residents and HCP for fever and respiratory symptoms

Here’s a link to the CDC’s page regarding COVID-19.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) echoed this advice:

“COVID-19 is being increasingly reported in communities across the United States. It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will be identified in more communities, including areas where cases have not yet been reported. As such, nursing homes should assume it could already be in their community and move to restrict all visitors and unnecessary HCP from the facility; cancel group activities and communal dining; and implement active screening of residents and HCP for fever and respiratory symptoms.”

Many times, residents of nursing homes have loved ones who provide care, love, and encouragement. That encouragement and love are vital to the well-being of those residents. So, if you have a loved one like a spouse, sibling, parent, or grandparent in a nursing home, what can you do to provide them with encouragement and love during this critical time? You can show you care by connecting with them by old-fashioned methods like writing a letter or making a phone call. But, even more powerful ways of communicating today include using Skype or FaceTime to make a video call. Imagine how Granny would light up if you did a video Skype or FaceTime call with the grandchildren. Just a quick call could brighten Granny’s day immensely. She’d be the talk of the home! There are also online games you could play with your loved one. There are electronic versions of many games, such as Scrabble. You could also play games like Charades remotely. Here’s an article that discusses online games for people in isolation, like with social distancing. Here’s a link to an article from AARP which discusses COVID-19 and nursing homes in greater detail.

Social distancing and self-quarantine are important to the mitigation of the impact of COVID-19. Here’s an article from Johns Hopkins explaining social distancing and self-quarantine. Residents of nursing homes are doing both at this point. While these methods can be difficult, they are essential to save lives. Your spouse, sibling, parent, or grandparent may be in a nursing home which is on lock-down. But, they may need your support even more than ever. Use the methods above to try to lift their spirits and your spirits. Make a call with FaceTime or Skype today and brighten their life. You’ll be glad you did.

Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
www.aaepa.com

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