‘Nothing changed’: Updated nursing home guidance changes little for families and facilities

Local

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On Monday, the New York State Department of Health presented revised nursing home visitation guidelines. The new guidelines focused heavily on testing requirements, but visitation will still depend on whether there has been a COVID-19 case in the facility in the past 14 days.

“This is going to be a very big deal for nursing home residents and families,” Governor Andrew Cuomo stated during a press conference on February 19.

Initially, Pat Tyrrell Giorgio, the daughter of a local nursing home resident, hoped the new visitation guidelines would change everything for her family. However, once she read the updated guidance from the NYDOH, she was left disappointed.

“People think, that was, oh wow, big news yesterday, but to us family members and elders, nothing changed,” Giorgio said.

Giorgio can hardly believe it’s been four months since she last saw her mother in person. Her last family visit in October was around 25 minutes and six feet apart. Since then, consistent cases have kept her mother in a constant state of quarantine.

According to NYDOH guidelines, if a staff member tests positive at a facility, all residents must quarantine for 14 days.

“Facilities should accommodate and support indoor visitation, including visits for reasons
beyond compassionate care situations, based on the following guidelines: a) There has been no new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and the facility is not currently conducting outbreak testing,” NYDOH Revised Skilled Nursing Facility Visitation states.

Currently, Pat treasures the time she can FaceTime her mother once a week, and she does her best to stay connected with her mom over the phone as much as possible.

“There’s not a lot of skating on TV these days because of the pandemic, but when there is, I call her up and she watches the skating,” Giorgio said. “That’s still our nice connection.”

Most days, Giorgio’s mom watches TV in her room because she’s been isolated for months due to consistent quarantines. 

“It’s not that they can walk around inside the nursing home when they say they’re quarantined for 14 days, they can’t leave their rooms,” Giorgio said.

Yesterday’s updated guidance didn’t change the quarantine requirement, but it did change the testing requirements for visitation. The visitor’s requirement to test before the visit with a nursing home resident is now dependent on the county’s COVID-19 transmission rate. Additionally, New York state will provide a supply of rapid tests to nursing homes for visitors to utilize.

Ari Grinspan, CEO of Diamond Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said it’s vital that facilities communicate the ever-changing transmission rate to residents and family members.

NEWS10 ABC asked Grinspan if anything other than testing protocols had changed for his facility since yesterday’s updated guidance. His response?

“Honestly, that’s it, Stephanie. You nailed it right there. We have had visitation, socially distancing visitation in place for so many months now,” Grinspan said.

Although Grinspan welcomes the new precautions, Diamond Nursing has been utilizing a scheduling platform for online signup for limited visitation and has had their systems for safety already in place.

Therefore, they are prepared for any possible expansions to more visits in the future. However, Grinspan said they are “airing on the side of caution” and expanding incrementally when scheduling family members as they don’t want over-crowding or COVID-19 cases to be an issue.

“Then as more opportunity presents itself, as we see guidelines change so feverishly sometimes—it also could update in the next few weeks—we will also have to accommodate that,” Grinspan said.

Until then, Georgio said she is left hoping for a change in guidance or that her mother’s facility will go without a case long enough to see her outside of the seemingly never-ending quarantine.

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