Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve received many calls and heard many stories about how difficult the visitor restrictions continue to be for hospitalized patients, residents of senior living communities, and family members. As the pandemic continues, more and more organizations and individuals have been voicing concern about the isolation of seniors in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, as well as the lack of advocacy for hospitalized patients. While exceptions for end-of-life or compassionate care visits have been available throughout (for patients without COVID), they often require families to make painful, difficult choices about who can say goodbye in person. Rules for all of the above scenarios have changed, loosened and also vary based on geographic area and facility. Be sure to check the most recent policy of the health care facility or community in question.
Please use the information below to understand the issues as well as to advocate to visit your loved ones.
The Beryl Institute recently released Patient and Family Recommendations for Addressing Visitation Policies during COVID-19. This policy statement emphasizes the importance of allowing a “care partner” to be in the hospital or any healthcare setting with patients. Anyone who has been in the hospital or had a loved one in the hospital knows how critical it is to have someone there with you: it’s usually difficult to understand and remember what the doctors are saying and ask meaningful questions when you are in a health crisis. Care partners also provide important information to health care providers that patients, due to physical illness, cognitive issues or just being overwhelmed, tired, or scared, may not remember to share on their own. While these recommendations include that “All patients must have the option to have a care partner present in the healthcare setting,” they also set out guidelines and responsibilities for care partners to keep healthcare personnel safe. The photo below shows some of the recommendations:
Please see my previous post about having an “In Case Of Emergency Kit” prepared - this will make it easier for your care partner!
Long term care settings:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), has issued guidelines to states regarding visitation of residents of long term care facilities. They note:
While CMS guidance has focused on protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19, we recognize that
physical separation from family and other loved ones has taken a physical and emotional toll on residents.
Residents may feel socially isolated, leading to increased risk for depression, anxiety, and other expressions
of distress. Residents living with cognitive impairment or other disabilities may find visitor restrictions and other
ongoing changes related to COVID-19 confusing or upsetting. CMS understands that nursing home residents
derive value from the physical, emotional, and spiritual support they receive through visitation from family and friends.
The guidelines address indoor and outdoor visits as well as compassionate care visits and visitor testing. See the photo below for some of the guidelines for indoor visits. Check the guidelines from your state and the long term care facility you wish to visit for more specifics.
Bottom Line: There should be ways to allow family members to advocate for and visit their loved ones, combat social isolation, and also prevent the spread of Covid-19. Hopefully, the recent progress in developing guidelines for visitors will help people get the care and companionship they need.
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