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Assisted living facilities now open to visitors

Golden Years Rest Home is now allowing visitors
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 7:13 PM EDT
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FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Starting Monday Kentucky long term care facilities are able to have visitors again.

On Friday the state released guidelines for reopening the doors of these care homes. While some may be uneasy as to why the state would allow this to happen, the terminology of what kind of facility is allowing visitors may not be clear.

Among those facilities that are allowed to have visitors are assisted living facilities, personal care and family home facilities, and those are different from skilled nursing facilities.

“They live more independently but they do have staff available if they need assistance with bathing and medicine,” said Sheila Cornett, the District Ombudsman for Long Term Care Residents in the Kentucky River District, as she refers to assisted living patients.

But what is a ombudsman? “Just an advocate for the resident in personal care homes or skilled nursing facilities. Medical, physical and emotional,” said Cornett.

For example, “Say you are 70 and you are still pretty active but you feel like your home might not be the safest place for you you could go into an assisted living community,” said Betsy Johnson, President of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities.

As the phases of reopening have taken time, these facilities are among the last to reopen.

“Of course we are the last to reopen. Communities have reopened much quicker because we know based on data, that the people living in skilled nursing facilities and assisted nursing facilities are the highest at risk. I think data shows that if an elderly person gets COVID-19, 20% of the population is going to die from that, unfortunately.”

Which is why visitation was restricted in the early phases of the virus. At first families and loved ones were upset but that soon took a turn.

“The families have been very, very understanding and they see now that it was before the protection of their family members,” said Cornett.

Also giving those inside the facilities more time to prepare. “It has been a good thing, it is good they are prepared,” Cornett said. With extra precautions still set in place, “Where are you can not open for visits if you have had a positive case within the last 28 days.”

“And that’s why we are a little apprehensive about the visitation aspect but you know the residence really need that too. They need to see their loved ones,” said Cornett.

Moving some skilled nursing care facilities past their reopening date of July 15th.

Although health officials want to continue to protect those most vulnerable, “I think it’s time to try it. I think there are safety protocols such as testing for people who will be visiting,” said Johnson.

Yet still stuck at a crossroads as no facilities in the Kentucky River District has suffered any major cases of the virus.

“You know, you are going to have to do this, we need to do this. But still, yet we’ve worked so hard to prevent it,” said Cornett.

Still putting their trust in protocols, such as visitors wearing masks, getting their temperatures checked and washing hands before each visit.

They can not help but worry about the safety of not only their patients but for their staff as well.

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