In-Depth: Essential caregiver guidance finally released |

In-Depth: Essential caregiver guidance finally released

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: June 02, 2021 06:20 PM
Created: June 02, 2021 05:11 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A new law intended to prevent those with loved ones inside nursing homes from ever being locked out again is finally going into effect.

While the New York State Department of Health missed the deadline to establish the Essential Caregiver guidance by 18 days, it did finally put out guidelines late Tuesday that facilities are to follow to set up the program.

Beth Farris’s father is in a nursing home.

“With the lockdown, he deteriorated terribly… he's in bad shape and he can barely talk now, he can barely move… he has Parkinson's disease and he's just a living shell right now,” Farris told News10NBC.  

Farris was relieved when Gov. Andrew Como signed the Essential Caregiver law back in March which allows each nursing or long-term care resident, two designated visitors to help provide care even in the event of a public health emergency that shuts down regular visitation.

She’s been asking about it since though.

“I asked them [nursing home] to appoint my sister and I as the designated caregivers. I told them that I have been to my dad's doctor and he would gladly sign anything stating that my dad needs this,” Ferris recalled.

But the nursing home just kept telling her they were waiting for NYSDOH guidance.

Now that it has been published—administrators and families are going through it carefully and already have some questions specifically, about some of the guidance that still seems to allow facilities to ban even essential caregivers.

“It doesn't mean there's going to be unfettered access but it does mean a much more expensive visitation than the previous guidelines,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson (D, 138), who sponsored the original bill.

The new guidance requires nursing and long-term care homes to allow designated caregivers in unless in the event of another pandemic, the NYSDOH determines a local infection rate is at a level that presents a serious risk of transmission or the facility is experiencing a temporary staffing shortage or an acute emergency situation.    

“The idea is we're going to let folks in who are going to provide that essential caregiving under almost all situations. It would only be the most serious situation that there might be some restriction and that's only a temporary restriction,” Assemblyman Bronson said.

If a facility is going to keep essential caregivers out, even for a day, it now needs to report that to the State so, Assemblyman Bronson said there will be more transparency and accountability but he understands that families are still wary.

“The administration and the Department of Health, they don't have a lot of goodwill here at this point so, people are suspicious but I am feeling good that this is going to move forward and folks are going to get the relief that we've been seeking,” he said.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities across New York got the guidance late Tuesday so it will likely take them at least a week or two to get the program up and running.  

The Essential Caregiver guidance can be found here.

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