As COVID-19 Cases and Deaths In Long-Term Care Facilities Drop, Families Look Forward To Changing Visitation Requirements
By Rick Delaney, Chairman of the Board, TSCL
For more than a year, assisted living facilities and nursing homes have been mostly closed to visitors to protect vulnerable older patients from COVID-19. Long term care facilities have been the site of 173,000 COVID related deaths, accounting for 35% of the nation’s total. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructed nursing homes to lock down on March 13, 2020, as the pandemic accelerated, and the Centers for Disease Control said that no one, except relatives making end-of-life visits, should be let in.
But nursing home patients and staff, along with other healthcare workers, were among the first in the nation to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Now, new data indicates that, with the roll out of vaccines, COVID cases among nursing home patients and staff plummeted by 83% from December 20, 2020 to the week ending February 14, 2021. The nursing home industry has set a goal of having 75% of their staff vaccinated by the end of June — this month.
Long term care experts, caregivers, and doctors are asking that long term care facilities relax visitation restrictions and grant special status to “essential caregivers,” family members, or friends who provide critical hands-on care, so they can better tend to relatives. But reopening nursing homes will be complicated and must be done very carefully.
Expect to find that the facilities require some expanded rules for visitors. Plan to schedule visits, to be screened for symptoms, and the facility may even require a negative COVID test before entry. In addition, facilities may limit the number of visitors at any time, may send visitors to designated visitor sites (perhaps outdoors) instead of patients’ rooms, and require the use of face masks and protective plastic gloves.
TSCL feels that the careful re-opening of nursing homes is a necessity for the well being of older Americans in nursing homes, to relieve residents and caregivers of the crushing isolation. We call on everyone with family members in such facilities to prepare for visits by learning visitation policies in advance, and calling ahead before visits.
How has COVID-19 affected you? Please take TSCL’s 2021 Retirement Survey
Source: “Reopening of Long-Term Care Facilities Is ‘an Absolute Necessity For Our Well Being’,” Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News, March 4, 2021. “COVID Cases Plummet 83% Among Nursing Home Staffers Despite Vaccine Hesitancy,” Melissa Bailey and Shoshana Dubnow, March 15, 2021.