Submitted by Bria Lewis, Esq.
On September 9, 2020 the NYS Department of Health (DOH) released updated guidelines for Adult Care Facility visitation and Pediatric Skilled Nursing Facility Visitation. The major update to the visitation guidelines is facilities must have no new confirmed staff or resident COVID-19 reported cases for 14 days. (The prior threshold for visitation was 28 days.) However, as of September 10, DOH has not issued updated guidelines for Nursing Homes (Skilled Nursing Facilities). As such, visitation to nursing homes is still restricted by the 28 day COVID-19 free requirement.
In its updated guidance to Adult Care Facilities and Pediatric Skilled Nursing Facilities, DOH is clear that the updated guidelines do not absolve the facility’s responsibility to maintain ongoing communication between the resident and family members. Additionally, communication should be supported by virtual visits whenever that is possible. The same applies to Nursing Homes.
We are concerned that DOH still has not released updated guidelines for Skilled Nursing Home Facilities. This is a serious issue for many residents who have not been able to have visits from family members since March. We are hoping that with the release of the previously stated updates, DOH is working on an update of guidelines for Skilled Nursing Home Facilities that will be released in the near future.
The Center for Elder Law & Justice is available to help. If you are a resident or family member of a resident in a long-term care facility, and have questions or concerns about visitation or communications, please call our office for potential legal representation. Call us at (716) 853-3087.
In addition to the updated DOH guidelines, New York State Senator Rachel May introduced a bill, S8958(May) that if passed, would amend the current public health law, which will allow personal care visitors and expand access for compassionate care visits at nursing homes. Specifically, the bill would add new section 2801-h and 2801-i to the public health law:
Section 2801-h would authorize and direct DOH to develop regulations and guidelines that would allow personal care visitors for residents of nursing homes. The bill defines personal care as care and support provided to such resident by a family member or legal guardian to a resident that is important to the mental, physical, or social wellbeing for such resident and is determined as necessary by medical or mental health professional. Under the bill, all personal care visitors would be required to follow the same safety procedures required for nursing homes staff.
Section 2801-i would require DOH to develop regulation and guidelines to allow compassionate care visitors at nursing homes and residential health care facilities. Importantly, the bill expands the definition of “compassionate care visitation” allow not just for end-of-life situations but also situations where there is a decline in a resident’s physical, mental or emotional wellbeing. (Currently, DOH defines “compassionate care visitation” for end-of-life situations only.)
We support this bill because it recognizes the issue that long-term isolation of residents from loved ones is now doing more harm than good. Residents are experiencing a decline in quality of life due to the restrictive guidelines put in place by DOH that keeps them isolated from their loved ones. If passed, the bill would allow family members to visit residents in nursing homes in a safe manner.
Call to action: use your voice to help inspire change!
The visitation ban on nursing homes has become a growing issue as New York states COIVD-19 cases have decreased and residents are still not able to have visits from family members. Residents are negatively impacted by this ban as their quality of life continues to decline. The visitation ban needs to be lifted as it is crucial to the wellbeing of the residents.
We urge you to e-mail, call, or write New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, your State Senator, and Assembly member and urge them to change the current policies. It is time to be reconnected with your loved ones again.
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
To find your State Senator: https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
To find your State Assembly Member: https://nyassembly.gov/mem/search/