Last month I was with an 81-year-old client at a nursing home. We stood knee deep in a snow drift outside a window looking in at her husband of 56 years. Peering in the window, shivering, my client held a cell phone to her ear while her other hand tapped on the glass. My client was determined to see her husband eat the banana bread she baked for him.
With vaccinations on the rise, COVID-19 rates are plunging in nursing homes. As a result, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “CMS” has relaxed the COVID-19 guidance for nursing homes, adult foster centers and assisted living facilities. Family members, including unvaccinated visitors are finally allowed to meet indoors in person with residents, under most circumstances [limitations are made if COVID-19 positivity rates exceed specific percentages of the population]. CMS acknowledged the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents and their families.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) also responded to this decline in COVID-19 cases by issuing an order effective immediately, under the Public Health Code, setting protocols for visitation. In Michigan, visitors of patients in facilities are permitted indoor visitation, but only after testing negative for COVID-19. COVID-19 testing is required before indoor visitation at all facilities housing more than 13 residents. Testing is not required for end of life visits, or visitors younger than 14 years old.
Some facilities have point of entry rapid testing. Other facilities may request visitors be tested on their own within 72 hours of visitation and provide verification of the negative test results. Additionally, the facility must restrict family visitation to scheduled appointments, limited to two visitors at a time, require the use of facemasks and maintain social distancing. Resident's rooms are off limits to family visits. Additionally, Michigan facilities must prohibit indoor family visitation if the facility has a new COVID-19 case, or if the local health department or MDHHS prohibits visitation to the facility. Visitation is also prohibited with any resident that is in isolation or under observation for symptoms of COVID-19.
As for my 81 year old client, she is now able to comfortably watch her husband eat the banana bread she bakes for him, in a room seated 6 feet away from him. With continued and expanded vaccinations, she hopes soon that her offer of banana bread will be accompanied with a hug, a kiss or a touch of the hand from her life-long companion.