Nursing home story continues

WINDOW VISITS — Families all across America have come up with unique ways to see their loved ones in nursing homes, this family touching at  the window.

The unacceptable death toll among a number of Louisiana nursing homes continues to make news because family members of those who died in those homes want some answers. A reader asked Friday, for example, how she could get some information on the death situation at nursing homes in Allen Parish.

Searching for an answer led me to a complete list of state nursing homes and their coronavirus status and to a six-part investigative series by WWL-TV4 in New Orleans titled, “Standard of Care.”

In Part Six of that series, Jim Cobb, a New Orleans attorney and nursing home law expert, said of the nursing home death toll, “It’s a shame. It’s a tragedy. And we need to learn something. And we need to do something different. Mistakes are all around.”

WWL-TV said its series has shown that hundreds of state nursing homes were overmatched and underprepared for the lethal pandemic. It added that many homes lacked everything from personal protective equipment to enough staff to wear it.

One nursing home CEO said, “It is possible that our situation could have been much different if we had initially had the ability to diagnose COVID-19 quickly and would have had the personal protective equipment to care for those infected safely. The primary shortage that existed was with N95 masks, face shields and gowns needed to protect both staff and residents.”

Cobb said of nursing home residents, “They eat together. They play bingo together. They chat together. Sometimes, it’s two people to a room. There’s really no way to avoid that kind of closeness.”

Another part of that WWL-TV series told the story of Janet Jordan’s efforts to see her 85-year-old mother in a nursing home. Her experience sounded much like my experiences with my wife, Jo Ann, who is also 85 and in a nursing home.

Jordan said, “I need to see her. I need to see her. But there’s nothing I can do — absolutely nothing. It’s like I feel like I’ve abandoned her, you know? And does she understand.”

Like Jordan’s mother, Jo Ann was a resident at a hospice home (Harbor Hospice). I was able to see her every day from May 6 until Wednesday. However, doctors at the hospice home said she was stable, and she was moved back to that “no visitors” nursing home that she had been in until May 6.

Fortunately, Jo Ann is at Resthaven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which is one of 144 Louisiana nursing homes that had no COVID-19 deaths. It had only one case that led to hospitalization of the resident, so it is evident the management and staff did all the right things to protect their residents.

Looking for an answer for that Allen Parish reader led me to the Louisiana Department of Health website (ldh.la.gov). Clicking on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) tab on the health department’s home page led me to a nursing home tab. A click there got me to the May 18, 2020, Nursing Home Report. A click there took me to a complete list of nursing homes in the state and their coronavirus status.

Eight Louisiana nursing homes had 20 or more coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths, according to the May 18 report. The 277 homes listed there revealed that 126 of them recorded coronavirus deaths, 144 had no deaths and data from 7 homes was pending.

The highest number of deaths

(34) occurred at a St. Landry Parish nursing home. One St. Tammany Parish home had 33 deaths and another had 23. A St. John Parish home had 28 deaths. One Jefferson Parish home had 26 deaths and another had 21. A Caddo Parish home had 23 deaths, and a Lafourche home had 20.

Calcasieu Parish had deaths at four nursing homes — 8 at The Care Center of DeQuincy, 8 at High Hope Care Center in Sulphur, 2 at Rosewood Nursing Center in Lake Charles and 1 at the Lake Charles Care Center. There were no deaths in nursing homes in Allen, Beauregard, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Vernon parishes.

The state health department’s release of this newest nursing home information came after what the family member of one nursing home resident called a total blackout. The department stopped identifying nursing home clusters where there were two or more coronavirus connected deaths.

Dave Gajee, whose 81-year-old father was in a New Orleans nursing home, told WWL-TV the family just wanted to know what was going on. Gajee said the situation became so stressful, his family tried to see if there was a way they could pull his father out of the nursing home.

Many other families have had similar thoughts, but, like my family, they really aren’t able in most instances to properly care for their loved ones at home. Some call the loss of connections to their loved ones during the pandemic a Catch 22 situation, which means there is no good solution possible.

Cobb, the New Orleans attorney, lost his 89-year-old mother to COVID-19, who was in a River Ridge nursing home. He said he never thought about filing a lawsuit, but that doesn’t make the loss of his mother any easier.

“You want to be mad at somebody? You want to blame somebody? Blame the virus,” he told WWL-TV.

Unfortunately, that’s it in a nutshell.

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