Say “Yes” to Compassionate Care Visits!
As we near the one-year mark of limited or prohibited nursing home visits, the toll on residents, families and caregivers continues to an unimaginable degree. The impact is real, we see it in the blurry screens of phones and tablets, hear it in the voices of residents and witness it as caregivers.
With the growing availability of effective vaccines and easily accessible testing, it’s a reasonable time for families to make their visit requests known and for providers to seriously consider permitting compassionate care visits.
Though loosely defined, compassionate care visits are permitted under both state and federal order. Don't think that visits are permitted only in end of life circumstances. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the State of Ohio have outlined situations where compassionate care visits are appropriate, reasonable and essential for both the resident and visitors. Some common situations include:
- Recently admitted residents who fail to adjust to a new setting
- Residents who have lost a spouse, partner or family member and continue to grieve
- Residents with cognitive losses who require cueing, prompting and encouragement to maintain their nutritional health
I suggest that you “make your case” for visits by noting how the isolation and lack of socialization with loved ones has manifested itself in the resident’s physical and mental health. Has there been a weight loss, despondency, a withdrawal from daily routines or other changes from the norm?
Approach compassionate care visits as you would any other need, consider the resident’s perspective first. If the resident has the capacity, include them in the planning of the visit. Remember that the resident has the right to individually choose or decline visitors. What setting would they prefer? How frequent should visits occur? How long should the visits last? The parameters and conditions of the visit should be incorporated into the plan of care.
It’s essential that visitors are aware of the infection control practices they will need to follow in the facility. Clearly communicate the expectations of visitors, better yet create an individualized visitation plan for the resident and visitors. The experience of visiting during the pandemic will be new to everyone, clear communication with all parties involved is essential.
As a final suggestion, consult with your Long-term Care Ombudsman. Your Ombudsman can act as a resident advocate and help negotiate a visit pattern that maintains the balance between safety and resident need for engagement with those they love.
For additional guidance and information on advocating for compassionate care visits check out these resources:
Direction Home Aging and Disabilities: The Long-term care Ombudsman Program https://www.dhad.org
Ohio Long-term Care Ombudsman Program: https://aging.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/aging/find-service
Ohio Department of Health: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/publicorders/6th-amended-do-limit-access-nursing-homes.pdf
Center for Medicare and Medicaid: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-39-nh.pdf
Article by Sam McCoy- Senior Vice President for Elder Rights at Direction Home Akron Canton. Sam has been responsible for the operation of Long-term Care Ombudsman Programs for over twenty-five years.