By Sandra W. Reed

Jan’s mother, Erin, suffers Alzheimer’s and has been in a nursing home for the past year. The nursing home policy doesn’t allow Jan to visit her mother. Erin doesn’t understand and expresses stress over Jan’s absences when they talk by phone. Jan is worried that her mother is at greater risk for the COVID-19 in the nursing home than she would be if Jan brings her to live with her. Should she remove her mother from the nursing home?

Are concerns regarding nursing homes valid?

Jan is right to question the efficacy of leaving her mother in the nursing home. Most long-term care facilities are struggling to provide needed care, due to increased staffing shortages created by the outbreak of the virus. For this reason, one Harvard epidemiologist is warning that nursing homes are not the best place for vulnerable seniors. A Dallas judge has recommended that families remove their loved ones from facilities where coronavirus infections have been identified.

What should be considered before removing a loved one from nursing homes?

• What is the infection rate at the facility? If the facility has no current cases, then it may be best to leave the loved one in place. That may depend upon whether the facility has protocols in place that are likely to maintain that virus-free environment. If there are limited cases, is the facility taking measures to isolate the cases from the rest of the facility’s population?

• Can adequate care be provided at home to meet the loved one’s needs? Can family members assist with eating, dressing, medication and going to the bathroom, if needed? Do family members have the physical and emotional stamina to cope with what is necessary? Can the home meet the safety requirements?

• Can the household and persons living there maintain the measures to stay disinfected. Are family members able to remain home bound? Extra precautions will be needed if one or more family members are working outside the home. Can children stay home from school? Can teenagers be restrained from socializing?

• How will the loved one react to a change in the environment to which he or she has become accustomed?

Decision ultimately a matter of balancing

The decision whether to leave a loved one in a long-term care facility comes down to a balancing of the risks and rewards. Ultimately, the decision must be made on the basis of the individual circumstances of the particular family.

Sandra W. Reed practices Elder Law in Somervell County, handling probating of estates, drafting of wills, trusts, powers of attorney and deeds as well as estate and Medicaid planning. She lives in beautiful Chalk Mountain. She can be reached at (254) 797-0211; (817) 946-2809 or by at