CARMEL — Families say the process of finding a long term care facility that will accept COVID-19 patients is confusing and frustrating.
Tracy Pelton’s 92-year old mother, Delores, had a stroke in September and needed rehabilitation and therapy. Delores went to The Barrington, a long term care facility in Carmel.
“She went into the Barrington for two weeks,” Tracy said. “During that time she had outdoor visits, which were very nice."
Tracy became concerned when the facility emailed her that staff members had tested positive in Delores’ unit.
The Barrington tested Delores, and while the results were pending, Delores’ feeding tube got blocked and she had to go to the hospital.
"Later that night, the hospital notified me that my mother was COVID positive,” Tracy said.
But as her mom got better, Tracy hit a roadblock.
"The Barrington refused to take her back,” Tracy said.
The long-term care facility where Delores likely got the virus wasn’t able to accept her.
WRTV Investigates reached out to staff at The Barrington, who told us they do accept COVID-19 patients, but only if a bed is available in their active COVID-19 unit.
State records show The Barrington has had 13 staff and 11 residents test positive for the virus.
Tracy said she has had a terrible time finding nursing homes and rehab facilities that accept COVID-19 patients.
"That's been the biggest problem, is nobody will take her,” Tracy said. "I spent the past three days calling everyone in the state, trying to find someplace for my mother to go. Our goal is to get her healthy enough to get her to come back home."
Zach Cattell with the Indiana Health Care Association, which represents many nursing homes, said there’s no list of facilities that accept COVID-19 patients because the situation changes daily.
“It can change pretty quickly,” Cattell said. "Whether you have a COVID unit where you're taking on new admissions from outside of your resident population is an operational decision based on your staffing, PPE supply and access to testing."
Cattell said when long-term care facilities experience an outbreak, it can greatly impact staffing levels.
“There is sometimes a limited ability to serve or admit new and existing residents depending on the capacity at that particular facility,” Cattell said. “It’s unbelievably demanding what is going on at these facilities in terms of keeping up with state and federal guidelines.”
Seema Mohapatra, a healthcare expert with the IU McKinney School of Law, said the burden unfortunately sometimes falls on families to navigate the system.
"There's competing concerns in terms of long term care facilities and infection control, as well as the residents and their own rights,” Mohapatra said. “You can't just abandon these people."
The Barrington would not comment on Delores’ case, but told us, “From the outset of the pandemic, we have worked diligently to keep our residents, their families and other stakeholders well informed, often exceeding the reporting and communication requirements of the Indiana State Department of Health and other regulatory agencies."
WRTV Investigates contacted the Indiana State Department of Health, who has not responded to our questions.
Tracy complained to the Indiana Department of Health, which told her they would investigate.
"There's no place for them to go,” Tracy said. “There's nobody that wants them."
Delores is doing better, but she is still COVID-positive and in a short-term rehab.
Tracy is still scrambling trying to find somewhere more long term to take her mom.
"I've lived six weeks of hell since her stroke started,” Tracy said. “Nobody is on the same page."
RESOURCES FOR HELP WITH LONG TERM CARE FACILITIES
- Indiana State Department of Health Family Outreach firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 233-7176 or 1-800-246-8909.
- ISDH Complaints Program at (317) 233-7241 or email@example.com
- Indiana Health Care Association at 1-800-466-4422
- State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office at 800-622-4484, or email at LongTermCareOmbudsman@ombudsman.IN.gov
- Local Ombudsman that covers your particular county