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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (April 21, 2020) – Zach Cattell, President of the Indiana Health Care Association, issued the following statement addressing long term care resident and resident representative notifications:
“The Indiana Health Care Association/Indiana Center for Assisted Living (IHCA/INCAL) supports clear communication with all residents and their designated primary representatives regarding incidents of COVID-19 within long term care facilities. It is disappointing to see reports that a small number of families have had issues with obtaining information from long term care facilities – their grief is understandable. It is important to understand that communication with individuals other than the resident themself is directed by the resident and that the facility is only authorized to communicate with the designated primary representative of the resident.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, the IHCA/INCAL has recommended that facilities follow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on having a plan and mechanism to regularly communicate with residents and family when cases of COVID-19 are identified within a facility. Some version of this guidance will become a new federal law as early as this week. These communications are very helpful to promote transparency and enlist the help of families in the fight against COVID-19.
Communication with families is important not just to indicate whether there is a positive case in the facility or not, but also to educate families on the steps they can take to help – including adhering to visitor restrictions, social distancing and wearing a face covering just like the CDC recommends. Once COVID-19 has been identified to be within a facility, the next most important communication is whether that family member’s loved one is either exhibiting symptoms or is positive. This is very similar to the communication facilities already perform with any change in condition.
The overwhelming and vast majority of Indiana’s more than 500 nursing homes and more than 300 assisted living facilities are communicating quickly and completely with residents and their designated representatives. Some of the communication methods being used are phone calls, written letters, automated text messages, voice recordings, website portals, and public website postings with COVID-19 status reports.
Long term care facilities want families and the community at large to know that residents are receiving the very best care in this crisis. Long term care professionals are doing extraordinary work on a daily basis. However, focus on just the small number of communication lapses stokes fear and uncertainty about the care being provided in our centers, which is counterproductive to the work we’re doing and the communication we’ve had with families. It also creates anxiety for our residents.
The communication of health status of residents to other residents and other residents’ representatives is a deviation from practices and standards that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 public health crisis has changed so much of what health care providers must do to protect their residents and staff to maintain compliance, but also to maintain communication in this challenging time. Long term care facilities recognize this need of communication and are rising to the occasion in nearly every circumstance.”
IHCA/INCAL is the state’s largest trade association and advocacy group representing for-profit and not- for-profit nursing homes, as well as assisted living communities and independent living. The association provides education, information, and advocacy for health care providers, consumers, and the workforce on behalf of its more than 446-member facilities. Learn more at https://www.ihca.org