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Families push nursing homes for transparency amid deaths

Gloria Benefield and her mother Violet.jpeg
Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 22:32:57-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Health revealed Wednesday that at least 31 people have died at 12 Indiana long term care facilities from COVID-19, including nursing homes in Madison and Johnson counties.

These deaths account for 15% of all COVID-19 deaths in our state, said ISDH Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box.

Box announced an order to all long term care facilities that they need to report known and suspected COVID-19 cases to the local and state health departments within 24 hours, including residents and employees.

Meanwhile, families with loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities say they’re growing increasingly concerned.

Gloria Benefield’s 91-year-old mother, Violet, has lived in Greenwood Meadows since 2015.

Gloria is concerned because she says a nurse told her several patients at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

A worker at the facility also told RTV6 Greenwood Meadows has several positive cases and some residents have been placed in isolation.

Gloria says she’s worried about her mom and is stunned by the lack of information provided by Greenwood Meadows about the situation.

"I got a call from my mother last night and she was really, really distraught because she couldn't get any help and no one would tell her what is going on," Benefield said.

Gloria wants to know how many cases there are and what Greenwood Meadows is doing to protect residents like her mom.

“I am depressed and distraught because I'm out here and can do nothing for her,” Gloria said. “I talk to her every day but she doesn't get to see me. It's very, very upsetting."

American Senior Communities, which operates Greenwood Meadows, did not respond to questions from RTV6 about COVID-19 at that facility.

ASC provided the following statement:

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


So, where can you go for help if you’re not getting answers from your loved one’s facility?

Indiana’s Long Term Care Ombudsmen advocates for residents of licensed long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, licensed assisted living facilities, and other licensed residential care facilities. They are trained mediators who can assist residents and their families with complaints and resolve problems.

“Communication is key and it’s best for facilities to be transparent,” Lynn Clough, Indiana Long Term Care Ombudsman, said. “Certainly right now with the pandemic, people want to know what's going on and it's best to open and communicate with your residents and their family members. That's the best way to get the information out there."

Contact the State Ombudsman Information/Complaint line at 800-622-4484 or 317-232-7134. Or you can email us at LongTermCareOmbudsman@ombudsman.IN.gov

“Our ombudsmen are very aware of state regulations and federal regulations surrounding these types of care facilities and certainly have no qualms about talking to the administrator of the facility or other staff,” Clough said.