Federal agency relaxes visitation policy for nursing homes, long-term care

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Visitors will now be allowed at nursing homes and long-term care facilities following a change in guidance.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just released the revised guidelines. The federal agency called for the change noting increased risk for depression and anxiety.

With the new guidelines, Gene Bailey will be able to see his wife, Nancy, without a barrier, for the first time in six months.

“I’ve heard great news this morning,” Bailey said. “I’ve missed over 900 hours.”

Nancy lives at Sayre Christian Village in Lexington.

New guidance allows visitors to see loved ones indoors or outside, with social distancing, masks and sanitization measures still in place.

“To be able to go beyond this front lobby, and go to the dining room with your loved one, go to the resident’s room with your loved one, even if you can’t have that ability to touch, to still be in person with them is a big deal,” said Karen Venis, CEO of Sayre Christian Village.

On top of relaxed visitor policies, residents can now eat and participate in activities together if they stay socially distanced.

“We have an amazing art therapy program that we’ll be able to do in groups now, you hear of bingo in facilities,” Venis said.

Leading up to the announcement, opportunities to socialize were limited.

“I’ve not been able to see my wife other than through glass,” Bailey said.

Indoor visits were allowed if there had been no new COVID-19 cases in a 28 day period.

“Every time we get a new case, that resets that clock," Venis said. "So, a 28 day period seems like an eternity for us.”

The new rules lower that to 14 days.

With the relaxed rules, Bailey has the option to visit his bride outdoors, too.

“At my age and being away from my wife after being married for 53 years, it’s been hard," Bailey. "It’s not just me, everybody in this building has a loved one here I know feels the exact same way I do.”

Venis said she and her team will meet to create a plan to make this happen.

“We won’t put our staff, or our residents, or their family members at any risk,” Venis said.

Bailey is resetting his clock for a new countdown and he already knows what he’s going to say.

“Tell her I love her," Bailey said. "She knows that. I hope she realizes that, but God’s been good to us for a long time, but this has sure been a different time for us being away from each other.”

Sayre Christian Village has had six residents test positive for COVID-19. Those cases were all asymptomatic and there have been no COVID deaths at the facility.

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