Nursing homes and loved ones request changes to new restrictions on visitation

New York News

CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — NEWS10 ABC has been hearing from nursing home residents and loved ones frustrated because they still can’t visit with one another due to restrictions that make it nearly impossible to do so.

For several months, COVID-19 shut off any in-person visits between Lisa Coogan’s family and her elderly mother, Ella, who was living in a North Creek nursing home. To make matters worse, as a dialysis patient, Ella was placed in isolation when the facility had their first positive case.

“To hear on the phone what she was going through, I could not even imagine how bad it was,” said Lisa.

Prior to the pandemic, Lisa said her mother had been happy and felt independent at the nursing home. But the loneliness was finally getting to her.

“If I could have found a way to get out by myself, I would have,” Ella told NEWS10’s Anya Tucker.

In July, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ban on vistitors to nursing homes in New York State was lifted, but the good news came with many restrictions, including personal protective equipment, masks and social distancing.

Another restriction included a 28-day “pause” in visits for any facility with a positive COVID-19 case.

Andy Cruikshank, CEO of Fort Hudson Health System, said they had to pause visits after just two days when a staff member tested positive.

“I would say that this is repeat positive. Which is something that we see frequently with an empolyee who tested positive two months ago. Multiple negative tests and then a single positive followed by a negative,” said Cruikshank.

Anya asked: “Do you feel that you could now offer visitation even with one or two [residents or staff members] testing positive?”

Cruikshank: “Yes we do. Because, keep in mind, the intent of the visitation protection is to keep family members from bringing COVID to our residents. The presence of a positive employee case does not have any relationship to that.”

When NEWS10 asked the Governor’s office if he was reconsidering the 28-day restriction, they referred us to the New York State Department of Health. DOH said they were simply following guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. No one directly answered the question.

As for Lisa, she decided to let her heart guide her decision making. She and her husband renovated their Schenectady home to include a wheelchair ramp, a room with a hospital bed, and grab bars in the bathroom.

On June 13, they moved her mom out of the nursing home facility and brought her to live with them.

“My only regret is that I can’t take everyone home with me. I wish I could,” she said.

Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living (NYSHFA/NYSCAL), a statewide association representing over 450 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, issued the following statement regarding the State’s visitation policy for nursing homes and assisted living facilities:

“It has been since early March of this year that nursing homes and assisted living residents have been unable to receive visitors in person as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our residents have become skilled at using various digital communication platforms to connect with their loved ones, digital interaction doesn’t compare to the joy of in-person interaction.

“The State’s 28-day visitation restriction unjustifiably prevents the majority of nursing homes and assisted living facilities from opening up safe, secure and socially distanced in-person visitation for residents. Under the State’s policy, of the 614 nursing homes in New York only about 130 are able to open up to visitation. The State’s one size fits all policy ignores the uniqueness of each healthcare facility and is having a significant negative impact on residents, their loved ones and our staff who provide essential care. We have requested the State to amend its policy from a 28-day restriction to a 14-day restriction following a positive test to mirror the quarantine period for a positive individual and are awaiting their response.”

Stephen Hanse, President and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living

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