INDIANA, USA. – State officials say they are working on a plan to improve communication between long term care facilities and families. This is happening as the State Health Commissioner refuses to publicly release the names of sites with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Families are calling for transparency and say they are struggling to get answers.
Loved ones and representatives of residents are being kept outside closed doors and left to rely on someone inside to keep them updated.
Mick Wildin’s mom is staying at Greenwood Meadows, a facility operated by American Senior Communities. His mom has lived there for two years and said he is her power of attorney.
“I had been trying for three weeks to get information to people I have talked to at the nursing home on the statistics, how many people actually had COVID,” Wildin said.
Wildin said he is not having any luck and he does not know what else to do. He claimed the facility only told him about two cases of COVID-19, one involving a resident and the other involving an employee.
“They only told us when the first resident basically was found to have it and when the first staff member,” he said. “They have never provided any in between updates on total number of people,”
He believes there must be more than two cases at the facility because he said his mom tested positive for COVID-19 just recently.
“When I would ask it was sort of like I don’t want to answer that. They wouldn’t come out and say it,” he said.
On Tuesday, the ombudsman for long-term care in Indiana told FOX59 that those facility names should be revealed.
Lynn Clough directs an independent agency in state government dedicated to the protection of residents in Indiana’s long-term care residential facilities.
There are 551 nursing homes in Indiana with approximately 38,000 residents and those sites where the most senior Hoosiers live have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus.
After repeated questions, Indiana now says it is working with state partners to develop a plan that follows recent federal guidelines.
Clough is now working with the state to develop this communications plan. On Thursday, she said it will facilitate recent CMS guidance regarding new requirements for facilities to notify residents and family members.
In an email, she explained the plan would instruct facilities to reach out to their residents and family members to provide briefings on how many residents have tested positive and the number of residents who have passed away due to the virus.
“We feel communicating this information will go a long way in helping calm fears of residents and their family members,” Clough said.
We expect to learn more about this plan on Monday.
Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, Chief Medical Officer for Family and Social Services Administration, said they will follow-up if they hear complaints from families who are not receiving information about the COVID status of their facility.
“I think it is incredibly important in addition to the resident that are in that facility that for those who would be coming to the facility as a new admission or as a transfer that they also need to know the status of the facility in regards to COVID,” Rusyniak said during Thursday’s press briefing.
Wildin said he is not having any luck, so he reached out to the ombudsman for long-term care for help.
“Why aren’t you willing to force the nursing homes to share the statistics with people that have relatives,” he said. “I don’t see a need for them to share every nursing home, but they should be up front have to disclose to the families the numbers.”
Wildin is not alone. Terri King’s 85-year-old mom is a resident at Willow Springs in Indianapolis. She claimed she is having the same problem.
“Frustrated does not even come close to the way I feel right now,” she said.
King said she cannot get information from the facility about her mom yet someone inside tells her the situation is not good.
“Where my mom is on the third floor, they had cut off both ends, fielded them off for isolation and she said isolation means coronavirus exposed,” King Explained.
We have reached out to the two companies who run Greenwood Meadows and Willow Springs.
A spokesperson for Willow Springs got back to us on Thursday and she said she is working to find out more information about cases.
American Senior Communities operates Greenwood Meadows. We asked how many cases were inside that facility. This is the statement we received.
The health and wellness of our residents and employees remains the top priority. We are in close contact with local and state health authorities and following their guidance along with national and CDC recommendations and mandates. American Senior Communities continues to follow stringent preventative measures proactively put in place including:
– All residents assessed daily and multiple assessments are performed for those most at risk
– Screening of every employee and essential vendor or provider prior to entering the facility
– All employees wearing masks and following strict infection control policies and procedures
– No communal dining or activities
– Strict no visitor policy except for end-of-life situations