ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR/WROC) — A bill that will permit family members to visit loved ones residing in long-term care facilities during the pandemic has been signed into law. According to Assemblymember Harry Bronson, his bill—which allows designated personal caregivers and compassionate care visitors at nursing homes and residential care facilities—was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
“I have heard over and over from distraught family members in my district about the toll the visitation ban in nursing homes has taken on their loved ones,” said State Sen. Rachel May. “The Department of Health recently expanded visitation significantly, bringing an end to the deadly isolation impacting thousands of seniors across our state. But one of the lessons of this pandemic is that we must never again close the doors and lock the windows to keep families apart. This bill will make sure that such isolation never happens again.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation co-sponsored by May, which aims to improve oversight and care at nursing homes. The legislative package will create a task force to reimagine the delivery of long-term care, allow personal and compassionate care visitors, and mandate disclosure of nursing home ratings.
“This is a great step forward for the health and well-being of nursing home residents now and in any future pandemics,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director. “Family and caregivers have the right to visit loved ones safely during a state of emergency.”
The new law lets nursing home residents and their families designate two or more personal caregivers. These caregivers are exempt from any general prohibitions on visitation, such as the measures in place over the last year.
“This new law ensures that New Yorkers will never again be deprived of the caring eyes and hands of an essential visitor,” said Maria Alvarez, the executive director at the New York StateWide Senior Action Council.
The new law also expands the definition of “compassionate care visitation” from end-of-life situations to any cases where physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing require needed attention. Only caregivers complying with appropriate safety and screening procedures are allowed to be admitted to nursing homes and adult care facilities.
“The physical and mental decline of our senior community and the suffering from prolonged isolation over the last year has been devastating,” Bronson said in a statement. “The time lost and the damage done to the wellbeing of our older New Yorkers and their families cannot be replaced or repaired, but we can hopefully begin to heal and prevent further anguish. After months of fighting for this law, nursing home residents will finally be reunited with their families. The NYS DOH recently set forth new visitation guidelines in keeping with my legislation but codifying these rights into law will ensure families aren’t separated from their loved ones ever again and will prepare our state for future health emergencies.”
Earlier in March, the governor’s office released updated nursing home visitation guidance that allows for visitation at all times for all residents.