Missouri Families Are Frustrated With Nursing Home Responses to COVID-19
Many Missouri Nursing Homes Not Communicating With Families About Residents
Family members who have loved ones in Missouri nursing homes are no longer able to visit and check on their loved ones due to concerns about spreading the COVID-19 virus. Before the visitor ban was implemented, families often implemented a “Trust But Verify” policy when it came to the care nursing homes gave to their loved one. But now, families have no way to verify and have to trust the nursing home that may not have earned that trust. While banning visitors may be a valid public health decision, nursing homes have an obligation to provide regular updates to family members on their loved ones. Unfortunately, based upon the calls our office is receiving, many nursing homes are failing to communicate with families about their loved ones. Family members call to get information and are told very little, if anything at all. Some family members even learned that their parent had been taken to a local hospital only when they received a call from the hospital. The nursing home didn’t call to let them know that their parent was sick and going to the hospital. In some instances in Missouri, there are nursing homes where a significant number of residents have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus and family members are unable to get information on whether their loved ones have been infected.
Nursing Homes Have A Duty To Communicate With Families
When a nursing home resident suffers a change of condition, injury or accident, Missouri nursing homes are required to notify family members. Regulatory rule 19 C.S.R. 30-85.042(80) states: “In the event of accident, injury or significant change in the resident’s conditions, facility staff shall immediately notify the person designated in the resident.” Certainly if a resident has one of these issues happen, family members must be notified, but there is an indication that this is not happening. Further, those who have been designated as a “Responsible Party” (often the Power of Attorney and/or close family member such as a spouse or child) to the nursing home resident should be updated on the status of their loved one on a regular basis especially if they are seeking information by telephone.
What Can Be Done?
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently issued an order requiring nursing homes in that state to notify residents and their family members if a nursing home resident OR A STAFF MEMBER of the facility tests positive for the coronavirus. This is a good start and something Missouri Governor Mike Parson should consider. In fact, he should go further and require that nursing homes provide truthful updates to at least one family member of each resident if the family so desires. Sadly, many Missouri nursing homes have not earned the trust of family residents based upon the care previously provided to their loved ones, so when there is a hesitance or outright refusal to provide information during this time when families are prohibited from seeing their loved ones and advocating on their behalf, family members are rightly suspicious and upset.
If you are frustrated by a nursing home that is not providing information to you about your loved one, you have a few options. Start by calling the Administrator and see if you can get the problem fixed there. If the Administrator is not responsive, call the Ombudsman for the nursing home. Finally, if you are still getting no results, call the elder abuse hotline at (800) 392-0210 and file a formal complaint. I did a video on this topic that you can watch at the beginning of this blog post.
Don’t give up.