JUNE 30, 2020
Residents’ right to visitation curtailed during COVID-19 epidemic

HARRISBURG — The Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) today announced “Visitation Saves Lives Day of Action” throughout the commonwealth, bringing attention to long-term care residents’ fundamental right to visitation during COVID-19 and the consequences of severe isolation on their health and well-being.  This is part of a national day of advocacy to restore reasonable visitation to residents in long-term care facilities.

“Residents of long-term care facilities clearly look forward to visitation by their loved ones, especially during difficult and often confusing times that can lead to emotional trauma,” said Margaret Barajas, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “Visitors and loved ones not only provide emotional and psychological support, but also enhance the quality of life for residents through personal decision-making support, direct care along with the monitoring and supervision of such care.  As consumers, long-term care residents should also have a strong voice and the right to have input on the quality of their care.”

“The lockdown of facilites to anyone but workers is inhumane and unsustainable.  Perhaps understandable at the start of the pandemic with the lack of PPE, testing, and policies to deal with this disaster, these restrictive policies cannot continue and cannot be changed with the rise and fall of cases said Diane Menio, CARIE’s Executive Director. “After all this time, we should be prepared to keep residents, staff, and their families safe.”

Advocates appreciate that the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Human Services released a detailed visitation plan; however, it fails to take into account the residents and families point of view nor does it fall in line with any person centered care approach as required by federal nursing home regulation.

Families (in the broadest sense of the word) are essential in providing life-sustaining support and/or essential services.  If requirements for training can be waived to allow direct-care workers to help meet staffing needs, surely family members who know their loved ones and know what changes are of concern, who know how to get them to eat, can be allowed to enter the facility with precautions to provide these essential services.

Now is the time to give facilities the support needed to ensure safe in-person visitation throughout the course of this pandemic to restore the health, well-being and dignity of residents that only loved ones can provide. Join us today in posting a message, video, or a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram saying why in-person visitation to residents in long-term care facilities is important. Use #VisitationSavesLives #ConnectionMatters in your posts!