Q. My mother resides in a nursing home where she receives the care that she needs. However, we worry about the risk of her getting ill from the Corona Virus. Should we bring her home?

A. That is a difficult decision, but here are some thoughts:

The number of coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country continues to grow. A Washington state nursing home was one of the first cluster of coronavirus outbreaks reported in the United States, with at least 37 deaths associated with the facility.  NBC news reported on April 16 that coronavirus deaths in long-term care facilities across 29 states had soared to 5,670.

In an effort to contain the virus’s spread, most long-term care facilities are limiting or excluding outside visitors, making it hard to check on loved ones. Social activities within the facility may also be cancelled, leading to social isolation for residents. In addition, long-term care facilities face staffing shortages even in the best of times. With the virus affecting staff as well as residents, facilities are having trouble providing needed care. Assisted living facilities, which are not as heavily regulated, may have greater trouble containing the virus than nursing homes, because their staff is not necessarily medically trained. Still, most staff do try to observe basic protocols with protective masks and gloves.

With this in mind, many families are considering bringing their loved ones home. Before taking this extreme step, however, you need to consider the following questions:

  • Is your family able to provide the care that your loved one needs? Some patients require help with eating, dressing, medication, and going to the bathroom. You need to consider whether you can adequately provide that care at home. In addition to your loved one’s practical needs, you need to think about your physical and emotional stamina. Can you lift your Mom to assist her out of bed? Can you rent or purchase a mechanical list for her room to assist? Is your house set up to safely accommodate her? Are there a lot of stairs? Does the bathroom have rails? If your loved one has dementia, there may be other considerations to take into account.
  • How well can you prevent infection? Will you be better able to prevent infection in your own home, than a nursing home? If your entire household is homebound, you may be in a good position to prevent bringing home the virus. However, if one or more members of your household is working outside of the home in an essential business, you will have to take extra precautions to make sure he or she don’t bring the virus home to your loved one. Are you taking the necessary precautions to keep your house and yourself disinfected?
  • Big Question: Will your mother be allowed to return to the facility when the threat of the virus has abated? If you take your family member out of the nursing home or assisted living facility, the facility may not let your family member back in right away. You should check with the facility to determine if your loved one will be able to return.

Bringing a family member home is a difficult decision, which depends upon the individual circumstances of each family. Unfortunately, the choice is not an easy one.


Thanks to Harry Margolis, Esq., of MA for permission to use and modify this article.