Families with loved ones in nursing homes–unable to visit while getting frustratingly sparse information about them–have found a champion in Mairead Painter. Painter, the state’s long term care ombudsman, who works for the state Department of Aging and Disability Services, launched live chat sessions on Facebook that quickly evolved into a real-time information pipeline for families. “I was trying to think about how we can reach people. Normally, residents and family members are sometimes the last people to get information,” said Painter, whose office is independent of the state Department of Public Health. “I wasn’t sure anybody would join [the chats].
Despite strengthened care protocols and improved infection-control practices in Connecticut and throughout the country, nursing homes have been unable to stem the rise in COVID-19 cases. The two Connecticut nursing homes with reported cases of COVID-19 – Evergreen Health Center in Stafford Springs and Sharon Health Care Center – are operated by Farmington-based Athena Health Care Systems, which also owns facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Two residents at Evergreen Health Center have died from the infection; and the number of residents with the COVID-19 rose to eight this week. At Sharon Health Care Center, one resident contracted the virus and is quarantined along with the resident’s roommate, as of mid-week. About once a year, nursing facilities are inspected and rated on staffing levels and the quality of care provided to residents, including how well they prevent infections.
Social distancing is one way to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but for health care workers who provide care in people’s homes, especially for the elderly, that type of care brings heightened risks, experts say. Home health workers assist clients with daily tasks like bathing, dressing, toileting, walking and transferring out of bed; all things that require them to be extremely close to those they serve. In many cases, they also shop for groceries and pick up prescriptions and other necessities. It’s a challenging time, but home health workers are committed to delivering quality care, said Pedro Zayas, spokesman for the SEIU Healthcare 1199 NE, which represents more than 5,000 independent personal care attendants. “Our providers are people who went into this field because they like caring for others,” he said, adding that caregivers are diligent about self-monitoring for fever and other symptoms.
Cases of the highly contagious coronavirus continue to spike in Connecticut and nationally, with elderly people being particularly susceptible.
State investigations of elder abuse, ranging from neglect to emotional abuse to physical abuse, more than doubled in Connecticut between 2011 and 2017, from 3,529 to 7,196. In 2017 alone, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) received 11,123 reports of elder abuse and decided that 7,196 warranted an investigation. That year, self-neglect—when adults are unable to provide for their own basic care—was the most common type of elder abuse reported to DSS, at 30 percent, followed by neglect by others, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment. “It’s all trending up,” Dorian Long, DSS director of social work services, said. Some of the recent cases investigated by DSS Protective Services for the Elderly are chilling.
The state Department of Public Health (DPH) has fined six nursing homes for various violations that endangered or injured residents. Masonicare Health Center in Wallingford was fined $3,900 after a resident developed a severe pressure ulcer. On June 12, 2017, a resident who suffered incontinence and was a risk for skin breakdown was diagnosed with an unstageable deep tissue injury in the lower back. An advanced practice registered nurse determined the resident had the wrong type of mattress and recommended the use of a pressure-reducing cushion, according to DPH. Once the resident received the cushion, it was under-inflated on multiple occasions and documentation from May through August failed to show staff were monitoring its inflation, according to the citation.
Dialysis centers in Connecticut continue to improve their overall quality of care, with 12 facilities reaching Medicare’s highest patient-care rating and just one scoring on the low end of the scale, the latest data show. That’s an improvement from the 2014 data, when six dialysis centers in the state scored low in quality-of-care ratings. Dialysis helps those with kidney failure remove waste from the body, regulate chemicals and control blood pressure. Most often, patients have their blood removed and cleaned in a machine called a dialyzer before it’s returned to the body. Another form of dialysis uses a cleaning fluid and the stomach as a filter.
The state has fined six nursing homes for various violations that jeopardized patient safety, including one in which a resident was struck by a nurse and others that resulted in residents suffering broken bones. The Nathaniel Witherell in Greenwich was fined $1,940 for two instances, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) said. On March 24, a resident with Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other diagnoses suffered a broken collarbone and broken right hip after falling onto the floor in a bathroom. The resident required supervision for standing and transfers, but a nurse aide left the resident alone for privacy, according to DPH. The resident was treated at local hospital.
The state has cited and fined three nursing homes for various violations, including mismanagement of medication. The state Department of Public Health fined Apple Rehab Rocky Hill $3,000 for seven incidents. One incident on Oct. 27, 2016, involved a resident’s hospitalization for an uncontrolled nosebleed. DPH found staff had mismanaged the resident’s anticoagulant medication prescriptions.