How to find the right nursing home for your loved one during the coronavirus pandemic

Finding the right place even in the best of circumstances is a "daunting task," let alone trying to do it in the midst of a pandemic, as one industry official said.
More than half of all COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County were residents in institutional settings, including skilled nursing facilities, a figure that poses some concerns for families trying to find the right place for elderly family members to live safely.

"There's too many options, there's too many variables, there's too many pitfalls," said Diana Simons.

Simons began her search for an assisted-living facilities in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and immediately turned to elder care specialist LeeAnn Allman, who believes the first step is knowing her clients.

"What does the family need? What are their concerns? What does mom or dad actually need? What's the doctor requiring," Allman says of the factors she takes into account when determining where to best place individuals.

Finding the right place even in the best of circumstances is a "daunting task," she said, let alone trying to do it in the midst of a pandemic.

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Health officials announced Thursday just over half of all COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County were residents living in "institutional settings," including nursing facilities.



Allman said it's imperative that families work with someone who has actually been at the location.

Just last year, the number of investigations at skilled nursing facilities in L.A. County had grown to 5,000. That was before the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to a motion from the county Board of Supervisors requesting an inspector general immediately begin overseeing skilled nursing facilities.

Terry McGhee, of St. Jude's Home for the Elderly, and his family care for 150 people in over 20 board-and-care homes and so far, he has not had a single confirmed COVID-19 case among residents and staffs at those facilities. His advice is to be wary of facilities not asking you questions.

"If they're not asking you where have you been, where has your loved one been? Who's been in contact with them? Who has done all of these things? They're not doing their due diligence. They're just accepting somebody because they want to put a butt in the bed and they want to make a little extra money" McGhee said.

The Regency Grand in West Covina hasn't reported any positive cases among residents. Co-founder Tom Stanley says that's due in large part to safety protocols that have been in place for months, including testing for all residents and staff.

Stanley and other industry officials recommend taking control of the search and don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions.

"Trust your instincts, get on the phone and if you feel like somebody's full of a bunch of BS... red flag. Move on to the next provider," Stanley said.

If you aren't comfortable in that role, find an expert you can talk to in person who will deal directly with the facilities.

"Even in regular times it would be necessary, but in these times it's just really, beyond necessary," said Simons.
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