People hit the hardest by this pandemic, both by contracting Covid-19 and also emotionally, are those who live in long-term care facilities. We have heard through multiple outlets just how hard these facilities have been hit with illness and death. The other side of this is the impact on the residents’ well-being. I have had several clients who have helped their parents move out of a facility and back home because their parents were becoming so depressed. Others have had to go into a facility during this time, which is really scary during a pandemic like this when you don’t know when you will be able to see them again.
In Arizona, these facilities have not allowed outside visitors since March; that is almost six months as of the date of this post. I myself have thought I cannot forgo seeing my granddaughter for an indefinite period of time; which could be months or longer. I represent court-appointed guardians whose obligations include visiting with the protected person. What should families do and how do you make decisions?
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued an FAQs to help families and facilities make decisions. Click HERE to read through these frequently asked questions.
Here’s what CMS has to say about when facilities should consider opening to visitors. CMS does not recommend re-opening facilities to visitors (except for compassionate care situations) until phase three when the following guidelines have been met:
• There have been no new nursing home onset COVID-19 cases in the nursing home for 28 days (through phases one and two);
• The nursing home is not experiencing staff shortages;
• The nursing home has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and essential cleaning and disinfection supplies to care for residents;
• The nursing home has adequate access to testing for COVID-19; and
• Referral hospital(s) have bed capacity on wards and intensive care units.
CMS recognizes that there are compassionate care situations in which visitation must take place. These can be end of life related visits or someone adjusting to the move to a new facility or a resident who has had a family member pass away.
CMS also offers guidance and ideas for visits once there is a planned re-opening.
CMS encourages facilities to create safe spaces for these visits. Ask your facility what their plan is for visitation. The heat in Arizona makes the simple answers of moving the visit outside or doing a window visit very difficult; so they will have to get creative. Still, CMS suggests that risk can be reduced by limiting the number of visitors or setting up appointments in which a safe space can be arranged. The facility will likely screen you for a fever and ask you questions before anyone can be admitted in. The visit may not yet include hugs or contact and social distance may still be required.
In saying this, we’d like you to remember there is more than just in-person visiting. We can support our loved ones in many other ways. My sister has been in the hospital for a month or more at a time with her daughter who has Leukemia that requires in-patient chemo. Only one parent is allowed in at a time and no one else can visit. As a result, my sister is isolated for extended periods of time like the residents in the facility. This CDC pamphlet, Supporting Your Loved One in a Long-Term Care Facility gave me some good ideas for my sister’s and niece’s situation. There are some creative ideas for care packages, intercom dedications, and visuals to express caring. Click HERE to view the article and get some ideas for your loved ones!
Best wishes to you and your family during this time. Take care.
Written by: Jennifer Kupiszewski, Esq.