We’ve had families acting more suspicious of us than usual, with people complaining about allegedly missing resident clothes or belongings. It’s not unexpected, I guess, with family members’ access cut off to their loved ones for so long due to the pandemic. But how can we a) protect ourselves from typically unfounded claims of theft or wrongdoing and b) soothe anxious and jittery family members?

You are not alone. The pandemic has impacted every type of facility or organization serving seniors, including licensed nursing homes, continuing care retirement facilities, assisted living facilities and independent living facilities. Such facilities must comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state guidelines to prevent spread of contagious diseases. 

Communication about your efforts was made more difficult by the state requirement that the residents be isolated and not allowed visits by family members. This isolation increased fears among residents and their families that the residents are victims of abuse, neglect or theft — ironically because of the actions you’re take to serve them better to protect them from contagious disease!

To protect itself from liability or claims of wrongdoing, any organization serving seniors must communicate thoroughly about its policies and its efforts to protect the residents or staff serving residents from disease or abuse. These messages about the steps taken regarding pandemic precautions, as well as what’s being done to protect them from abuse or theft of belongings, will reduce unfounded fears or claims of wrongdoing.

As the isolation of residents, vaccines, masking and social distancing efforts continue to reduce the spread of diseases, claims of wrongdoing should be reduced or defeated.