NY Updates Guidance for Visiting Loved Ones in Skilled Nursing Facilities

December 18, 2020 | Wendy Hoey Sheinberg | Trusts & Estates | Health Services

Spending time with family is always important, especially during the holiday season. The holidays are different this year, due to the pandemic, and spending time with loved ones in skilled nursing facilities requires additional planning.

In response to recent spikes in Covid-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities, the New York Department of Health in November issued new rules suspending visitation for facilities located in coronavirus hot zones. For designated red and orange zones across the state, compassionate care visitors – visitors deemed essential to the patients’ care as determined by the facility and provider – and necessary legal representatives are all exempt from this suspended visitation.

For facilities outside the hot zones, guidance published in September authorizes them to resume visitation and certain activity programs. Before doing so, however, each nursing home must submit its proposed safety plan to the State of New York. The skilled nursing facility must provide the State with information regarding their staffing capabilities and outlining the areas where the visitation will take place.

Although outdoor visitation is preferred, given the cold winter weather, visitation can occur indoors in well-ventilated spaces. The visitor count, however, cannot exceed 10% of the number of residents in the facility. In addition, the facility must have proper PPE available for both residents and visitors and disinfectant available for use before, during and after each visit.

Potential visitors must be screened for signs and symptoms of Covid-19 before entering resident areas and must also provide a verified negative result for a Covid-19 test taken within the past seven days. If a visitor does not provide the negative test result, exhibits any symptoms of Covid-19 or does not pass the screening questionnaire, the facility is not allowed to proceed with the visitation.

If a skilled nursing facility has had a new Covid-19 diagnosis within the last 14 days, visitation may be suspended. When planning a visit, in addition to scheduling that visit in advance, you should contact the facility seven days prior to the visit and again the day before your visit to make sure visitors are still permitted.

While seemingly overwhelming, the goal of these guidelines is to protect residents, many of whom are at an increased risk of complications from Covid-19, and their families. When one resident contracts Covid-19, it jeopardizes the health of all of the other residents in the facility as well as the health of residents’ family members and caregivers.

With proper planning and some old-fashioned common sense, it may still be possible to spend time with loved ones in skilled nursing facilities. In doing so, you can be confident you’ll give the gift of a happy, healthy holiday season.

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