Advocates push to safely allow nursing home and assisted living facility visitation to resume

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As hospitals and group homes begin to allow visitors again, some in New York State are also hoping the rules can be loosened for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Advocates say, while virtual visits have helped, it’s still not the same as seeing loved ones in person.

“If the state of New York is opening up hospitals, and they figured out how to do that safely and they figured out how to open up group homes safely, certainly the Cuomo Administration and the Department of Health can figure out how to do that for nursing homes because at this point it’s very frustrating for AARP to hear from our membership about how they can’t go and visit their loved ones in nursing homes,” said AARP New York State Legislative Representative Bill Ferris.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said nursing home visitations were still being studied. 

“There’s still a high risk, and when the Health Department advises me that it’s safe, we’ll do it. I understand the demand; I understand the desire, but the Health Department doesn’t think the reward justifies the risk at this point,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Empire State Association of Assisted Living, Lisa Newcomb, is advocating for outdoor visits to be allowed at assisted living and adult care facilities saying, “… there are ways to conduct the visits safely.  Our members are committed to strict compliance with the rules because, in addition to their concern for their residents’ physical health, they care very much about their residents’ mental and emotional well-being.  This terrible crisis is starting to take its toll on them, and everyone is looking forward to being reunited with their families.”

Ferris says, in the event of another wave, more needs to be done to prepare. On Wednesday, the Governor signed off on a bill that requires residential healthcare facilities to come up with an annual “pandemic emergency plan” to be sent to the Department of Health. 

“It’s really preparing the nursing homes for a future pandemic, which is making sure nursing homes have the proper PPE, making sure their visitations are in line virtual, or otherwise. But, there also needs to be a concerted effort by the Cuomo Administration to really look at the whole long-term care system and how it will respond to a future pandemic,” Ferris said.

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