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Adult Care Facilities Prepare For Limited Visitation

Erin Carlson, director of community life, and Lutheran resident Dan Kartman, enjoy some time outside planting flowers. Nursing home residents will be permitted to have limited visitors in the weeks to come. Submitted photo

Nursing homes, as well as assisted-living and long-term care facilities, have been informed by the New York State Department of Health that limited visitation can resume starting today for locations that have been free of COVID-19 for at least 28 days.

New guidelines for limited visitation were unveiled Friday, and went into effect Wednesday, although it will take some time for local facilities to meet new health and safety standards for their staff and residents.

Lutheran of Jamestown said it expected that 90% of facilities will not meet the criteria for visitation by Wednesday, and many could take weeks or months before visitors are permitted.

“We are excited to connect families with their loves ones again in the near future, as are our colleagues at Heritage Ministries,” said Tom Holt, president and CEO of Lutheran Jamestown. “One thing we need to make very clear, however, is that reopening of our campuses will happen in phases much like the state’s economy. We have to be smart and we have to be safe. Visitation is going to look very different than it once did.”

All facilities are required to submit a visitation plan to the department of health, which must adhere to these specific criteria:

¯ Residents will only be allowed two visitors at a time;

¯ Visitors must wear facial coverings and practice social distancing;

¯ Only 10% of residents can receive visitors at a time;

¯ Visitors must undergo temperature checks on arrival.

“We’ve talked to Lutheran, and we are all working together, we are in the same boat,” said Lisa Haglund, president and CEO of Heritage Ministries. “Over the weekend, I think it was Friday night, we got the new guidance and we’re so thrilled to know that we can kind of walk into this next phase and allow our residents to see family.”

It is important for visitors to note the differences between nursing homes, assisted-living and long-term care facilities when considering the necessary precautions for visitation.

“I would ask them to be patient with us,” Haglund said. “Within each facility we actually have to take different infection control measures. We have to have different visitation schedules. We ask families to understand that when we do open there is a limit, we can’t just open the doors and have 150 people come in the building or visit all at once.”

Lutheran expects to open its assisted living program to visitors next week, and its skilled nursing facility in two weeks, while Heritage plans to open two of its three skilled nursing facilities as well as its assisted living facilities next week.

Leaders from both organizations explained that visitation will not be a “doors open” approach as it used to be. In fact, visitation on campus is required to be outdoors (weather permitting) with no visitation in resident rooms or care areas unless medically necessary. Social distancing, the use of sanitizing agents and facial coverings must be required at all times to prevent the spread of infection during visits. Visits also need to be scheduled in advance and each facility will have different limits on the amount and frequency of guests on campus at one time.

If safety precautions are violated during a visit, residents will need to be quarantined, and entire facilities could be set back in their phased reopening.

“If anything in terms of the regulations that people in the community have to follow when they come here, if people come to any of our facilities, if people violate or don’t follow the guidelines, they run the risk of the state banning those people from visiting during the crisis period. Which could run through next year,” said Edwin Rodriguez Jr., director of public relations and marketing for Lutheran.

Haglund also emphasized the need for visitors to observe new guidelines.

“We have been told in great detail by our regulators that any guest who violates the social distance instructions given to them during their visit will be prohibited from future visits until the health crisis is over,” Haglund said. “With no end in sight for this COVID-19 threat, the last thing we want is for any one person’s separation from their family to be extended indefinitely.”

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