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Concerns growing for nursing home residents during COVID-19 pandemic

Watchdog group offers tips to stay connected
Posted at 5:39 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 07:53:05-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Family members and friends of people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are looking for new ways to stay connected to loved ones as strict visitation rules are now in effect. This comes as concerns grow about the potential spread of COVID-19 inside facilities, something watchdog groups are calling a worst-case scenario.

Touching scenes like a granddaughter showing her grandfather her new engagement ring through the window have swept the country, showing the lengths families are now going to in order to stay connected to loved ones inside facilities.

“Everybody is trying to do the best they can right now," said Brian Lee, the executive director for the nonprofit Families for Better Care. It's a watchdog group dedicated to creating public awareness of the conditions in our nation's nursing homes.

Lee encourages all family members to stay in contact with the caregivers of the facility so they are aware of the daily changes happening on the inside.

He also said most facilities still really need personal protective equipment for the staff in order to protect residents. Lee said if they don't have it, there could be serious consequences.

“It’s going to hurt residents in the long run and the families of the healthcare workers, along with themselves," Lee said.

Families for Better Care is also calling for more coronavirus testing in nursing homes to help better contain the spread and identify residents or staff who may have it, but are not showing any symptoms.

“We can get assistance to them quickly and kind of move them out of the population," he said.

This could be critical in stopping a massive outbreak. Lee is now encouraging families to contact their lawmakers.

This comes as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under criticism for refusing to provide the facilities that have had COVID-19 outbreaks.

In the meantime, he's telling family members and friends of loved ones living inside assisted living facilities and nursing homes who may have concerns to contact Families for Better Care or their local ombudsman's office. Both are working through the COVID-19 quarantine.

An ombudsman is an advocate for people who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes. All services are confidential and free of charge.

In the meantime, Families for Better Care is behind a new project to get Amazon Echo shows to residents in assisted living facilities and nursing homes across the country.

Lee said this will help residents stay better connected throughout the COVID-19 quarantine and restricted visitation.

You can help this effort by donating to the non-profit and learn more about getting an Amazon Echo for your loved one by visiting Families for Better Care.