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Nursing home/assisted living visitation rules too strict?

Jennifer Lewke
Created: July 22, 2020 06:11 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) — Some local nursing homes and assisted living facilities started welcoming visitors back again this week. The rules set by New York State are strict though and visitations stop immediately if even one staff member or resident tests positive for COVID-19.

A majority of facilities either don’t qualify or aren’t ready and probably won’t be until the state loosens the reins a bit.

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JoAnn Weishaar’s 99-year-old friend Josephine is in an assisted living facility in Penfield and says it’s been a long few months in lockdown for a normally very social Josephine

“They were receiving their meals in their rooms, all their social activities, all interaction even with staff became extremely limited and she was struggling through that, even with a positive attitude like she has,” Weishaar told News10NBC.  

Jospehine’s facility has been COVID-free for 28 days so it was allowed to begin visitations. Weishaar was able to secure one of the first appointments; she had to sign a release, wear a mask and get a temperature check but she says it was all well worth it.

“They wheeled her out to the parking lot and they had a tent set up, it was beautiful, just beautiful… I could tell how much it meant to Josephine, she had tears in her eyes as she held my hand and it was heartfelt, is all I can say for both of us it works both ways,” Weishaar said.

So many families are desperately hoping for a reunion like these two women just had but the rules are strict.  A nursing home or assisted living facility must be free of COVID-19 for 28 days before visitation can begin and even if one case pops up with an employee or a resident, visitation stops and the 28-day clock starts all over again.

“You could be scheduling visits with families, everybody's very excited that there's going to be these reunions and then boom all of a sudden the whole thing shuts down,” saidys Lisa Newcomb, the President of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living.  

Newcomb says while of course safety is the first priority, she believes the state needs to consider loosening some of the restrictions.

“If we were committing to just outdoors [visitation] could that make a difference? Or, since employees who test positive for COVID only need to stay out of work for two weeks, perhaps 14 days is the more appropriate measure to use to shut down visitation,” she wondered.

Newcomb says the promise of a visit and then having to pull the offer off the table, is causing even more heartache for an already fragile elderly population who has been isolated for months.

The Association has a meeting set up with the NYS Department of Health for Friday to discuss their push for some possible changes.


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