Many states are making plans for allowing visitors to return to nursing homes, and we are beginning to get a sense of how these visits might be conducted to maximize safety. Suffice to say it won’t be a return to normal. Due to a lack of a competent and coherent national strategy, COVID-19 cases have surged in many states, but for the families of loved ones in nursing homes, the damage of indefinite isolation outweighs the benefits of strict quarantine.
States and nursing homes are setting their own benchmarks for when they will reopen. Maryland has set its guidelines for allowing visitors as part of Phase 3 of its COVID strategy. Nursing homes in some states have already begun to accept visitors in nursing homes, and a set of best practices is beginning to take shape.
Here is what a nursing home visit might look like:
- Appointments must be scheduled in advance.
- Only one or two visitors are permitted at a time.
- Visitors must pass temperature checks and successfully answer health screening questions.
- Visitors must sign consent forms indicating they understand the risks to themselves and their loved ones, and their obligation to notify the facility if they become ill.
- Visitors must wear masks.
- Visits must take place outdoors (such as on-property gardens, grounds, patios, or open spaces).
- Visitors must stay at least 6 feet apart, enforced with staff-member supervision. Hugs and other physical contact are not allowed.
- Visitors may not bring food or gifts.
- Visitors may not enter the facility, even to use the restrooms.
- Visitations must be kept to 15 minutes.
- If residents or staff at a facility develop new cases of COVID-19, visitation rights at the nursing home will be suspended.
This type of rigid structure may seem more appropriate for visiting a dangerous criminal in prison than for spending time with an elderly loved one. The reality is that even with these protections, the visit represents a compromise on the safety of this vulnerable population until a vaccine solution is viable.
Even the reopening process for nursing homes should be taken with extreme caution, care, and diligence to avoid harming the vulnerable populations inside these facilities. As nursing home attorneys serving in Baltimore and Maryland, our team at Brown & Barron, LLC, can help you explore your options if your loved one developed COVID-19 or passed away due to negligent conditions at their facility. While it’s important to keep in mind that some nursing homes may be protected from civil litigation in this area, we are intimately familiar with the laws in Maryland and can help you fight for fair compensation after a loss.