Another Epidemic at Dad’s Assisted Living Facility


When I visited dad last week there were signs at the door stating that there was a gastrointestinal illness that was going through the facility and that residents were confined to their rooms.

I went to dad’s room and he seemed fine.  He was sitting in his Lazy Boy as usual and we talked about the illness in the facility and about other things.  I told him it was very cold out and the weather was forecast to get much worse.  I said I wasn’t sure when I would visit next, but I hoped to come in on Friday.  Dad seemed fine with that.

While I was there two staff came to his door bring the first part of his lunch, soup and a drink and they said they would come later with the rest of his meal – a sandwich I think was what he had ordered.  They set him up using his walker seat as his table so he could eat from his chair.  He really doesn’t have a table in his room.

When I left, the halls were freezing.  I noticed that the outside door at the end of the hall was propped open.  It is a violation of the fire code and it was only 20 degrees outside so the whole place was very cold.  I asked the aides about it.  They said the smell in the building had been very bad due to the diarrhea and vomiting and that was why the door was open.  I said it was very cold for the residents and I didn’t think it was a good idea.

I was going to speak to the nurse or director about it but they both looked so busy that I didn’t say anything more.  I sometimes hold my tongue when I really feel I should speak up because I want to prioritize my complaints and not complain about everything.

I did an online search of these type epidemics (norvirus like) in congregate living facilities and found that the CDC recommends keeping all windows closed to reduce the drafts.  The idea is to keep any virus particles on the rugs and furniture from becoming airborne in a breeze.  This facility doesn’t seem to have gotten that message.

I know they are not a nursing home where they would have more nurses and staff would be better trained about how to clean up after such sick residents.  I am thankful that at least they have one nurse, as assisted living facilities are not required to have nurses.

On Wednesday I telephoned the ALF and spoke with the nurse.  She said dad had been sick in the night (vomiting) but seemed fine this morning.  He was confined to his room as all the residents were.  I called dad and spoke with him and he said he felt fine and that he understood they were all to stay in their rooms.

I called every day all week and spoke both with the staff and with dad.  The staff told me they were all to remain in their rooms until Friday when they finally lifted the self-imposed quarantine.  When I talked to dad on Thursday I mentioned the quarantine.  He said “I know we are all supposed to stay in our rooms, and that is exactly what I am doing!”  His short-term memory seemed to be working OK for him this week.

I still haven’t visited dad because I am trying to avoid the illness.  My son said he would not go on Sunday because he caught the bug last year when it was going through the facility.  I said I would wait until after I have my grandson over tomorrow so that I won’t bring any illness to him.  So I have gone almost a week since seeing dad.

This morning I called again to see how things were at the ALF and was told that most people are over the illness now and dad is doing well.  He didn’t answer the phone when I called him today but they said he was in the lounge.

We have been having frigid weather lately with lots of snow.  When I finally get out onto plowed roads, I feel like I should be visiting dad, but I am waiting till after I spend time with my grandson.  I feel torn between my father and my children and grand children.  I plan to see dad the day after I have my grandson here with me.

Dad doesn’t complain, but I know he has missed seeing me.  One day when I called last week he asked me where I was.  I told him I was at home but couldn’t come in because of the illness going around.  He understands when I tell him, but then later forgets.

I will be glad when I can just visit him again.

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About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
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8 Responses to Another Epidemic at Dad’s Assisted Living Facility

  1. boomer98053 says:

    When I was a Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman – visiting assisted living buildings – I got norovirus from one of the buildings. OMG – that is a horrific intestinal bug to have so it’s not surprising that the frail have a difficult time recovering. Let’s face it, I was in horrible shape and at the time I was in my late 50s. Propping the doors open is a no-no, especially if the residents suffer as a result. I’m glad things are calming down at your dad’s ALF but I second the motion: don’t go near the building until it has been declared more or less bug free…and wash, wash, wash, your hands.

    • Thanks, Irene. I think they are recovering now but I am waiting just to be certain. I just hate to stay away this month since I know I will be leaving in a month. Dad sounds fine when I talk to him on the phone, but it is always nicer to see him in person.

  2. jmgoyder says:

    This kind of thing has happened at Anthony’s nursing home too btw know what you mean re not complaining!

    • Yes, it is common in all congregate living facilities — and on cruise ships too! And of course, we have to prioritize our complaints. Else they will just ignore us all together! Sometimes I can tell they are beginning to glaze over because of my complaints — for instance dad may go months without a haircut until I speak up several times. Otherwise though, I have to say, dad is happy where he is and that is the most important part 😉

  3. JRizz says:

    You’ll have to excuse me, as I have VERY strong opinions about this door-propping business.
    Last year, my grandmother (who, while suffering severe dementia at 89, was still very mobile) was living in a locked dementia unit at a facility my Aunt had chosen for her four years previously. One day, the staff left the dining room doors open to get some fresh air into the unit. My grandmother (an avid gardener and bird-watcher) must have jumped at the opportunity to get outside, which she did. She fell on the concrete sidewalk, cut up her face, broke a rib (which punctured her lung) and died two weeks later in a hospice center. The facility (who we are in a legal battle with) insists there is no policy about keeping doors closed. But remember this:
    if you feel that your father’s facility is short staffed, it would be very easy for him or ANYONE in his unit to wander out unnoticed. You are not being annoying or a bother. You trust these people to keep you Dad safe and when they are doing something that could be dangerous to his health or well-being, you must speak up! You could be saving someone’s life! Maybe not your Dad’s, but that unit is, I’m sure, full of people who don’t have such a strong advocate as yourself sticking up for them. These people must be protected.

    • Thank you for your comment, JR. My dad’s ALF is not a locked facility. Hiwever it was well below freezing out and icy everywhere. I do agree that the doors should never be propped. I don’t know how long they lever it that way, but I did make my feelings known to the aides. I didn’t follow up with the administration though. Today when I was there, everything was fine and no doors were open.

      I do think it is important to visit frequently and walk around the facility so they remember that people are aware of what they are doing. When I need to get away for awhile, I hire 3 women to visit at different times both to check up on dad and to remind the staff that dad is not unattended.

      • liramay42 says:

        I hear you about prioritizing your complaints and not wanting to come across like you’re complaining about every little thing. However, I think open doors and freezing temperatures are worth making a fuss about! And yes, in the year my mom has been in (two different) ALFs, I’ve learned that it’s VERY important to visit regularly and let the staff know that someone is checking up on her care. I’m thinking of paying friends who are out of work to drop by unannounced during the weekdays when the staff know I’m at work…

      • Actually, I did email the director with my concerns about the open door and I asked that staff check it regularly. I also asked dad’s companions to check on that door also.

        It is very important thatthey know you and others are visiting your family member. It keeps them ontheir toes a bit better.

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