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COVID-19: Is Pulling A Loved One Out Of A Nursing Home The Right Decision?

Elderly members of the public wearing face masks walk down a street.
Elderly members of the public wearing face masks walk down a street.
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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As the coronavirus crisis deepens, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have become particular areas of concern for public health officials, residents, staff and their loved ones. Because older people and people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, outbreaks at the facilities can have much more deadly consequences.

In a press conference yesterday, L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer for the first time advised people to take their loved ones out of nursing homes and assisted living facilities if they can. "In general, we do concur with the advice that's come from both the CDC and the state," Ferrer said, "that if you have a loved one in a facility and at this point in time you're able to care for them at home, this would be perfectly appropriate." 

Ferrer also acknowledged that many families "are faced with the horrible reality that they cannot effectively care for a person in their home, either because... they don't have a place to care for them, or because the person requires a lot of care, and that that care really does need to happen in our skilled nursing facilities or a long-term care facility."

Dr. Ferrer reported Tuesday that investigations are being conducted in 121 institutional settings in L.A. County, which include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and that 37 people who have died of COVID-19 were residents in these facilities. Those numbers include an assisted living center in Redondo Beach where four people have died and 38 others have tested positive for the virus.

Today on AirTalk, we talk with a doctor and professor of gerontology about what families should consider when deciding whether to remove a family member from a nursing home, assisted living facility or long-term care facility. If you're weighing this decision now and have questions, call us at 866-893-5722.


Edward Schneider M.D., professor of Gerontology, Medicine and Biology at USC; he is on board of directors for the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the aging