Aging Well

Aging Well

When can I visit mom in Assisted Living again?

Posted May 7, 2020 8:20 a.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2020 10:49 a.m. EDT

What does Phase 1 mean for nursing homes?

While families are eager to visit loved ones in residential care since they closed their doors to outsiders on March 30, visitation will remain off limits during Phase 1, which goes into effect May 8 at 5 pm, as well as Phase 2, which will go into effect two to three weeks later -- if cases continue to decline. While "rigorous restrictions" will remain in place for Phase 3 in nursing homes and congregate living situations, we do not yet know how that will affect visitation.

These restrictions are with good cause. In today's Wall Street Journal, Mark Peterson, chief executive of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said, "The data shows that 20%-25% of nursing home residents who catch the virus die."

Families have not been able to visit since March 13, when Medicare and Medicaid Services prohibited all but "essential" visitors. In North Carolina, where nearly 47% of deaths from coronavirus have occurred in nursing homes and residential care communities, on April 13, Governor Cooper additionally mandated communities "close common areas, require employees to wear face masks, and test and monitor residents and employees daily."

Visitors aside, this has certainly affected the day-to-day life of people living in nursing homes and residential care communities. Most places have closed their doors to new admissions (even those that were already in-process before March 13), stopped serving food in the dining hall, instead delivering it to residents to eat alone in their room, and limited or entirely stopped group activities. Additionally, many have prohibited private aides from outside the community to continue providing companion care to individuals in communities short on staff.

While the door to outside visitors will continue to remain closed, some communities, with the arrival of warmer days, are considering allowing residents to sit outdoors with family visitors, provided that both wear masks and maintain strict social distancing. Other communities hope to reintroduce communal dining in small groups (of four to six), as well as some activities in small groups. For those who are considering allowing new admissions, newcomers will be required to strictly quarantine in room for 14 days before being able to walk around inside the community.

It is a fine balance, measuring the risk of exposure against the very real mental health challenges that come with being socially isolated. In any case, with no vaccine on the near horizon, families would do well to consider what communication tools they may put in place over the summer, when visitation restrictions may ease.

Many experts predict visitation restrictions will return, if they are ever even lifted, with the arrival of the seasonal flu in the fall.

For more detail on what each phase entails, visit here.

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