New guidelines allow visitors in nursing homes, hugs for those vaccinated

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 9:25 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Some good news for families with loved ones in nursing homes.

Residents vaccinated against Covid-19 can get hugs from visitors again under new guidelines just released by the federal government and adopted Thursday by Governor Mike DeWine.

But 19 News found some families don’t think the guidelines go far enough.

People living in long-term care facilities account for one in three Covid-19 deaths.

But the CDC said cases and deaths have plummeted since vaccinations increased over the last few months.

Many families checked in on their loved ones through windows at long-term care facilities for months after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“I’ve lost this whole entire year. She was much better at the beginning of this. So now I’ve lost being with her all this time,” said Cheryl Leissa.

Over the last several weeks, Leissa has finally been able to visit her mom Carol inside of her Lake County assisted living facility.

She’s 82 and suffers from dementia.

But now, she’s fully vaccinated.

Cheryl wishes she could have seen her sooner. She said she’s suffering side effects from her dementia and has landed in the hospital a few times.

“She’s having seizures now, and that’s probably why she fell a month ago,” she said.

Now, Leissa may be able to see her more often.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC came out with new recommendations for nursing home visitors. Big changes include:

-Indoor visitation allowed at all times-- regardless of whether the resident or visitor has gotten vaccinated.

-Facilities in counties with high rates of Covid-19 can still have indoor visits if they take precautions.

-If there’s a coronavirus outbreak at a facility, but it’s contained, visitation can continue.

There are some exceptions to visitation, including when the virus is spreading in a nursing home, and less than 70-percent of residents are vaccinated.

Advocates and families 19 News spoke with said the guidelines are a little bit confusing.

They’re still waiting to hear from their facilities what exactly will change.

“It makes everyone out there think that everyone can get back in, that everything’s back to normal,” Leissa said.

She just called her mom’s facility to ask if anything’s going to change. She said they told her no.

“It’s still going to be in the lobby, by appointment, they only have so many appointments a week, and it’s for a half-hour once a week,” Leissa said.

As her mom’s guardian, she wants in-room visits to help take care of her essential needs.

So while Leissa’s happy for a hug, she wishes it came without restrictions.

“So maybe it won’t be the six-foot distance, but it’s still going to be in the lobby,” she said.

The local non-profit group Elderly Advocates wants to see a primary support person allowed unrestricted access inside of these facilities.

They’ll be holding a rally in Parma this weekend.

At his press conference Thursday, Governor DeWine reminded Ohioans “compassionate care visits” are always allowed.

Those are special visits for a family member or other visitor providing comfort and support, specifically to a resident whose well-being is suffering or at risk.

If this is a problem, you can contact the state’s long-term care ombudsman with a complaint.

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