When we last left Mrs. Jones, she was preparing to admit into an Assisted Living (AL) to better support her care needs. The transition was difficult, as Mrs. Jones’ family was very involved in popping in on her and making sure her needs were met. Mrs. Jones was required to quarantine per COVID-19 precautions but was still able to see her family via video chat or through her window.
Since Mrs. Jones has been in her AL apartment, a lot has changed. Reports from local and state health authorities indicate increased infections of COVID-19 and rates of infections and hospitalizations are on the rise. As those in long-term care (ALs included) are most at risk due to multiple factors, many restrictions remain in place. These restrictions can be frustrating, especially for those residents who have been isolated from family for several months during the pandemic.
At Mrs. Jones’ AL facility, they have begun to set up and facilitate outdoor visits between family and residents. Mrs. Jones is excited about this, but her family gets frustrated as they aren’t able to visit frequently and the process is cumbersome due the requirements for scheduling and screening prior to visits.
Each facility is provided with guidance from the Ohio Department of Health in terms of when and how to safely implement outdoor visits with family. However, that guidance leaves some room for interpretation and visits can be postponed if there are concerns that visits cannot continue to be done safely. For example, some of the primary considerations in the decision to proceed with outdoor visits are as follows:
- Case status in surrounding community
- Case status in the home(s)
- Staffing levels
- Access to adequate testing for residents and staff
- Personal protective equipment supplies
- Local hospital capacity.
If one or more of the above criteria is compromised, it is likely that facilities will scale back or pause outdoor visitation for safety purposes. While facilities have the discretion to do so, there are also considerations on how lack of visitation can impact residents’ psychosocial health. Continue to call, make window visits, and stay in contact with your loved ones who reside in long-term care or who are still at home but have been socially isolating for their protection.
If you or a loved one are experiencing issues with a facility and their outdoor visitation policy or experiencing difficulty connecting with your family in other ways, please reach out to the Long-Term-Care-Ombudsman Program so that we can talk about what is happening and discuss your advocacy options. If you would like to volunteer with our program, please call. The Ombudsman can be reached at 419-259-2891.
Chris Stieben is Director of the ABLE Long-Term-Care-Ombudsman Program, which can be reached at 419-259-2891 (http://ombudsman.ablelaw.org).