A push to allow more family visitation in nursing homes

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After the New York State Department of Health released COVID-19 nursing home guidelines in September, many people in the Capital Region have been frustrated with the guidelines. On Friday, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon introduced a bill that would allow family members to visit their loved ones in nursing homes.

The bill would allow residents to designate a primary, secondary and alternate caregiver. Specifically the bill establishes who may be an ‘essential caregiver’ as well as the procedures that are necessary to allow their entry into the nursing home setting for the purposes of providing support and care to a loved one. “…A parent, a child, or someone else that could go into a nursing home that can be cleared, wearing a mask or whatever protocols that need to take place being able to visit that individual, we’re not saying we want people to just go in — we want it to be done safely,” says Assemblyman Santabarbara.

Caregivers would be able to provide the needed physical and emotional assistance, which would include bathing, brushing teeth, room cleaning, ensuring that a resident is eating well, providing emotional support, among any other needs that a resident needs to thrive.

Janet Siebrecht is a resident at Fort Hudson in Fort Edward. She says the current New York State nursing homes visitation guidelines need some fixing. “Now they even opened up theaters. They have restaurants open, they have schools open….and here we are,” says Janet Siebrecht. She says emotional support means everything now more than ever. “I think people’s physical health is going to start suffering because of the emotional toll it’s taking on us,” says Janet. She loves when her family and husband come to visit, but it aches her that she can’t hug or kiss them.

Dr. Jonathan Berg, of Saratoga, tries to visit his dad in his Rensselaer County nursing home. He says this proposed bill would allow the hug he’s been wanting to give his dad since March. “I can’t hold my dad’s hand even with this quote on quote visitation [guidelines] that we’ve had — I have to stand like seven feet apart from my dad,” says Berg.  

Assemblyman Santabarbara is confident this bill will gain bipartisan support. “This is a people issue. This bill is about people. It’s about families and that’s why it’s so important that we take it and pass it as soon as possible,” says Assemblyman Santabarbara.

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