Lifting the “In Person” Visit Ban?
2020 has certainly presented some unique challenges to every area of our lives.
Due to COVID-19, one of the many, many hardships we’ve had to face this year is
the inability of caregivers to visit their loved ones in nursing homes and other
long-term care communities. Although the reason for the separation is perfectly
clear, caregiver exasperation and anxiety has just about reached its limit. The
question on every caregiver’s mind is, “When can we get back in to see our loved
The simple answer is that visiting the nursing home or other care community will
resume when it’s safe—for the staff, the visitors and their loved ones alike. But
the real issue here is, “How will ‘safe’ be determined?” COVID-19 has been
particularly hard on nursing homes and other senior communities, due in part to
their close living quarters and the underlying health conditions which are
sometimes present in the elderly. An exact number of affected seniors in long-
term care has yet to be determined, but an aarp.org article updated on June 11,
2020, indicates that more than 43,000 long-term care residents and staff have
died from the virus 1 . This information helps explain why it’s so difficult to answer
the question of how soon visits to care communities can resume.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a good look
needs to be taken at the specific community; in-person visits between caregivers
and their loved ones can start back when certain questions are answered
satisfactorily, questions such as:
What is the COVID-19 case status in the community surrounding the
- What is the case status in the nursing home itself?
- What are the home’s staffing levels?
- Is there adequate testing for both residents and staff?
- How is their supply of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.)?
- What is the local hospital capacity? 2
Just like the rest of society, recommendations include a phased reopening for
long-term care communities. For phases 1 and 2, the CMS recommends that except in situations of compassionate care (which is care for patients with
terminal diseases) visitation in the nursing homes will be generally prohibited due
to the increased risk COVID-19 poses to the residents. Family members of a
patient with a terminal illness may come in, but they will be screened at the door.
Additional precautions include maintaining social distance and the use of an
alcohol-based hand sanitizer upon entry. Face coverings must be worn at all
times. Phase 3 will allow opening to all visitors, but with the same precautions in
As hard as it is for caregivers to wait for conditions to be right, the very nature of
providing care for a loved one demands that we take all necessary steps to ensure
safety and wellness for our seniors in long-term care. It wouldn’t make any sense
for someone to push their way in carrying a virus they may not even know they
have, inadvertently spreading germs that could cause infection (or worse) in a
number of unsuspecting residents and staff members. Many of our now-senior
loved ones used to tell us that “Patience is a virtue.” Maybe a great way to honor
them now is to respect what they taught us years ago.