GREENWOOD — Families with loved ones in Indiana nursing homes are fighting for more answers when it comes to residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and deaths at those facilities.
Gloria Benefield can only see her 91-year old mother, Violet, through a window at Greenwood Meadows since the pandemic began.
Since we last brought you her story on April 9, Gloria says Violet has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Gloria says she’s been trying for weeks to get Greenwood Meadows to tell her how many other positive cases or deaths they’ve had at the facility.
“I want to know the number, and I want to know how they're going to isolate her when she's over this,” Gloria said.
The Indiana State Department of Health is providing statewide totals of nursing home cases, but they’re not breaking down cases by facility due to “privacy reasons.”
More than 260 people have died at Indiana long-term care facilities, making up one-third of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
On Monday, the state announced new requirements that long term care facilities brief families and residents on handling staff shortages, the number of residents who tested positive, and the number of residents who have died due to the virus.
After the announcement, a representative from Greenwood Meadows told the Benefield family that the facility had 70 cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths.
American Senior Communities released the following statement to Call 6 Investigates:
The health and wellness of our residents and employees remain our highest priorities. We are in close contact with local, state and federal health authorities, following their guidance, mandates and reporting requirements.
Our hearts are with our families who are separated from their loved ones due to the visitor restrictions. We are very sensitive to the needs of our customers and understand that connecting our residents with their loved ones is incredibly important. We offer access to communication devices and extra support to families who desire a visit with their loved ones through alternative methods such as telephone, email, text, video chat or social media during this challenging public health concern.
Uniquely, ASC has created our own testing strike team of nurses and partnered with a private lab to expand our testing capabilities. This strategy enhances our ability to quickly identify and implement isolation protocols when appropriate. Transparency and communication with families is important to us. Should a positive COVID-19 case occur, all residents, families, and employees are notified.
* We continue to follow stringent preventative measures proactively put in place including:
* Assessing all residents for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 daily and multiple assessments are completed for those most at risk.
* Screening of every employee and essential vendor or provider prior to entering the facility.Following personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines and strict infection control policies and procedures.
* Adhering to the policy of no communal dining or activities.Adhering to the strict no visitor policy with the exception of end-of-life situations.
We are saddened by the impact COVID-19 has had on the long-term care community. The residents and families we serve are very important to us and we will continue to move forward with compassion, and an over-abundance of caution and quality care.
The state created a new email address for families to contact ISDH at email@example.com.
AARP’s State Director Sarah Waddle said when families aren’t informed, it creates added stress. She added:
Due to their advanced age and underlying health conditions, residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. We have seen this devastating reality in the numbers of deaths across the state.
As each day of the pandemic passes family members, staff and communities are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside these facilities. If there’s a lack of transparency from Indiana health officials or facilities, it only adds anxiety.
We believe that operators and state officials should be clearly communicating in a timely fashion when residents and staff are diagnosed with coronavirus. We appreciate the actions taken by the Governor and health officials in the administration have taken thus far, and we are working with leadership at the Indiana Department of Health and the Family Social Services Agency to improve upon these actions and find the best ways forward in the weeks and months ahead.
It is our hope to work with the state and facilities to proactively find ways to connect loved ones virtually with video chats or phone calls, and regularly update family members about their loved one’s health and well-being.
If a designated family member who receives information from their loved one’s facility doesn’t feel they are getting the communication they believe is required, we encourage them to reach out to the Indiana State Department of Health at firstname.lastname@example.org.