Nursing homes just days away from letting families visit

Andrew Hyman
Created: July 12, 2020 07:22 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) – Jean Wells has not seen her mom since March, when her mother broke her hip and was placed in rehab at The Hurlbut in Henrietta.

It was supposed to be a three-week stay, but the pandemic hit and she's still there, although she has thankfully not tested positive for the virus.

Wells says the only other option would have been to take private care of her Mom at her home, but logistically, it could not happen. Since then, her only communication with her mother has been through an iPad.

“It’s pretty painful.” she says.

With new state guidelines allowing limited nursing visits set to kick in on Wednesday, July 15, Wells and her mother will soon have a chance to be in-person once again.

While she’s looking for to seeing her mother, she’s concerned the time away and her mother's Alzheimer’s may have taken a toll.

"I’m pretty sure that after four months my mother will no longer know me," Wells says.

Wells’ story is part of why elder care advocates like Marydel Wypch are feeling a mix of both excitement and frustration.

Wypch is a co-chair for the Rochester-based Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice, a group that advocates for nursing home residents.

She says that while families like the Wells’ are eager to see their loved ones, they feel there should have been clearer communication from the state. The state made its announcement last Friday, but Wypch says more people should have been told about a list of recommendations outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on May 18.

"It would've helped people with their frustrations and their anxiety knowing that someday nursing homes would be open," Wypch says.

While the doors may be opening, some places just aren't ready for Wednesday to be the day, as a stipulation for nursing homes to open is 28 days without a positive COVID-19 test, among other requirements.

As of last week, the Hurlbut was listed as COVID- free, but only since July 2, so only 10 days before the publication of this article. Hurlbut Properties were among many which News10NBC has covered as nursing homes across the area dealt with cases and deaths.

A statement from President Bob Hurlbut, read in part:

"We are in the process of thoroughly reviewing the notice and conferring with the New York State Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA) to determine appropriate next steps, and will immediately begin developing a formal COVID-19 visitation plan, in alignment with the state's recommendations."

Similar strategies are being hashed out at the Saint John’s Living Community, and at Creekview Nursing and Rehabilitation. 

A spokesman for Creekview told News10NBC:

“Creekview Nursing and Rehabilitation continue to follow the guidelines put forth by the Governor, the New York State Department of Health and the CDC with regards to COVID-19 and the July 10 directive of reopening of the nursing homes.

Although we are extremely excited to welcome back the families, this process must be conducted in the most careful and safest way. In addition to the 28 day period since the last COVID-19 negative, nursing homes throughout the state will not be permitted to open to visitors until five days from the date of this July 10 directive.   In addition to this timing requirement, the Department of Health must also first approve a nursing home’s individualized reopening plan before allowing visitors into the facility.

Creekview administration will be updating our families with the dates and instructions as they are approved. All staff personnel at Creekview Nursing are looking forward to see the families again as we are stronger together.” 

In the meantime, Wells is mixing her excitement with curiosity. 

"How are they going to decide which 10 families are going to be able to see their loved ones?” Wells says. “Alphabetically will be good for me, my mother’s name starts with a D, but if they could start with a Z, I don't know how they're going to do this."

Click here to read the state department of health's guidance on limited visitations at nursing homes, adult care facilities, and pediatric skilled nursing facilities.

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