Syracuse, New York – An increasing number of patients in central New York refuse to open their doors to home health workers for fear of catching a coronavirus.
About 50 patients from Nascentia Health, a Syracuse-based home health agency, have refused, canceled or postponed visits from nurses and home aides in recent weeks due to coronavirus problems.
“They are concerned that when we enter other people’s homes and enter their homes, we are bringing something,” said Donna Lennox, of Baldwinsville, a home nurse from Nascentia who makes five to eight home visits a day to Syracuse. area.
Refusing or postponing home visits is safe if the patients are not seriously ill, if parents are helping them at home or if they can be followed remotely via telemedicine services. But for patients with serious health problems, refusing home care can be dangerous.
Nearly half of the 300 public home care agencies surveyed by the New York State Home Care Association said they had seen patients and family members refuse home care providers because of fears of coronavirus.
This may put some patients “… at greater risk that their underlying condition is not given the attention they need,” said association spokesman Roger Noyes.
He said the home care industry has a “certain level of invisibility” even though it serves approximately 900,000 state residents.
While hospitals are at the forefront of the pandemic, home care providers play a vital, often unnoticed, role in preventing patients from leaving hospitals and nursing homes until they reach their limits, said Noyes .
Nascentia has eliminated some home visits through telehealth. It equips some patients with electronic tablets that allow providers to remotely monitor their heart rate and other vital signs, and have face-to-face visits. Nascentia owns 205 and has ordered 150 more.
But it is not an option for patients who need practical care.
Infection prevention has always been important at Nascentia Health, but it’s now getting more attention, said Andrea Lazarek-LaQuay, the agency’s clinical director. The agency’s staff, which has 200 employees, provides home health care to approximately 1,200 people in central New York.
Visiting nurses now take their temperature twice a day and monitor themselves for other potential symptoms of coronavirus such as coughing and shortness of breath. All nurses and nursing assistants who go to patients’ homes are equipped with N95 masks to protect themselves from the aerial transmission of the coronavirus. Lazarek-LaQuay said the agency has a limited number of masks, which is enough for the moment. Nurses also examine all patients for symptoms of coronavirus and contact their doctor if they think the patient should be tested for the virus. So far, none of Nascentia’s patients have tested positive, said Lararek-LaQuay.
Lennox said she spent a lot of time during visits to educate patients about the coronavirus and allay some of their fears. “I tell them, ‘Don’t watch the news,'” she said. “A big part of our job now is to counsel people because of their anxiety.”
A few recently discharged patients told Lennox last week not to visit them. “In home care, the client is the boss and we understand him,” she said.
Patients have the right to refuse care and treatment under state law. When they do, home care providers notify doctors of patients.
Lennox is concerned that some patients may endanger their health by refusing home care. “This is of great concern to us because we are here to help the community stay safe,” she said.
She is also worried about contracting the virus herself and passing it on to her family.
“But I also realize that people need our help and it replaces my needs,” she said.
James T. Mulder covers health news. Do you have a topical tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]
More on CORONAVIRUS
Coronavirus in NY: Cases, Maps, Graphics and Resources
Busted! County official calls on Radisson tailors to violate social distancing order (photo)
Ask Syracuse.com: Will I receive a check if I don’t file a tax return? What if I am disabled?
Coronavirus: Onondaga County schools may remain closed until end of April
16 in hospital, 4 critics in the coronavirus crisis at Onondaga Co .; the total number of cases increases to 111