What you can do to protect your loved ones living in nursing homes

This follows a recent 10 News investigation concerning possible neglect at a Roanoke facility

ROANOKE, Va. – COVID-19 has kept many loved ones apart, especially those in nursing facilities.

On Wednesday, we shared one woman’s story in a 10 News investigation concerning possible neglect – that’s been looked into by the Virginia Department of Health and is part of a Commonwealth’s Attorney investigation.

Julie Parsons misses her grandmother every day.

Helen Norfleet died in November after having two toes amputated. Parsons was there when her grandmother was brought to the hospital.

“When they took the bandage off, the bone was exposed on her second toe, you could see the bone sticking out. It was so awful,” said Parsons.

As we’ve reported, a 10 News investigation found this report from the Virginia Department of Health saying in part Norfleet’s “foot was not assessed by a physician” for more than two months.

“If I had it to do all over again at the pandemic and I knew what was going to happen, I would have brought my Nannie home with me in March,” said Parsons.

“It’s very important for families to try and find some way to connect,” said Ron Boyd, president and CEO of the Local Office on Aging.

He said that if you have a loved one in a nursing facility, you need to find a way to get your eyes on them.

Boyd suggested using video calls or window visits and not only rely on phone calls.

You can also use openings like a scheduled doctor’s appointment or hospital visit to see them in person.

“You know the medical history, so that’s the time to seize the moment,” said Boyd. “Look for signs of deteriorating health.”

Boyd said it’s important to look for things like changes in hygiene, mental health and bruising.

“Many seniors don’t ask for help. They’re still at that generation where you just adapt, you hunker down, you tough your way through it. So you really need an advocate to maybe see signs that something is off,” said Boyd.

And if something seems off, Boyd says you should immediately notify:

  • The nursing administrator at the facility
  • Adult Protective Services
  • Long-term care ombudsman
  • If it’s serious, you can contact the police and the Virginia Department of Health

That’s something Parsons said she did as she grew more and more concerned.

“My prayer is that not one more person endures what my Nannie endured,” said Parsons.

10 News also talked with Robbie Boyd, the director of elder rights and backup ombudsman at LOA.

He said if someone reaches out to a local ombudsman, they would do an investigation and depending on the circumstance, would report to Adult Protective Services or work with state agencies.

Robbie Boyd says their job is to gather information from facilities and families using faxes, phone calls and more.

If something further needed to happen from what they find, there’s a chain of reaction to follow that could include contacting licensure, state ombudsman, referring to Adult Protective Services.

Ombudsman can also be used to help navigate care options.

Robbie Boyd says they hear from a lot of people who feel like they are not getting help and can help facilitate getting the information you need including your rights, what facilities have to provide, medication or doctor issues.

If you want to call your local ombudsman, you can find contact information here.

You can also find and compare nursing homes here, where ratings are also posted.

The Local Office on Aging also shares these two resources with families who have residents in nursing homes:

This is part of an in-depth 10 News investigation. Jenna Zibton is working for you, investigating different angles of what COVID-19 means for families with loved ones in nursing homes. Contact Jenna if you have questions at jzibton@wsls.com or on Facebook.


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