Under certain strict conditions, you may once again be able to visit your loved one who resides in a Florida nursing home or assisted living facility.
Long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities were closed to most visitors beginning in March 2020, when Florida imposed a lockdown designed to halt the spread of Coronavirus. Recognizing the emotional toll of continued separation, Florida Governor DeSantis appointed a task force to explore ways to again allow visitation in a safe manner. The task force’s guidelines have now been incorporated in the governor’s executive order of September 1, which lifts the visitation ban – but only partially. The re-opening is by no means a return to pre-Coronavirus standards. The new rules for visits are extremely restrictive.
Here are the basic contours of the re-opening plan:
- A long-term facility can open to visitors only if no new coronavirus cases have been reported at the facility, both among staff and residents, within the 14 days preceding the visit. Visits will cease if a new case is reported. However this restriction may be waived for “essential” or “compassionate” visitors – see below.
- A resident or a resident’s representative may specify two essential caregivers. These are individuals who assist residents with activities of daily life such as bathing, dressing, eating, emotional support. The resident may have one such visitor at a time.
- Compassionate care visitors are those who provide emotional support to residents dealing with trauma or other difficult situations. The resident or representative can specify two individuals as compassionate care visitors. The resident may have one such visitor at a time.
- The resident may have five “general” visitors on his/her visitation list. General visitors must wear a face mask, and remain six feet away from staff and residents. No more than two general visitors may visit at any one time. General visitors must be 18 years old and over. Temperature screenings and other screening questions will be required for entry.
- Visits must be arranged in advance.
- Salons and barber shops may open with certain restrictions in place.
- Since the new rules were introduced, some elder advocates and family members have complained that the rules are too confusing or inadequate. An article in the Tampa Bay Times reports the case of one family member who was told by a nursing home that family members cannot qualify as essential or compassionate caregivers, as those are paid positions only.
- Many facilities still need more time to secure the appropriate equipment and devise visitation protocols.
- Effective September 13, the state no longer requires assisted living facilities to test staff members (nursing homes must still do so under federal requirements). Senator Lauren Book of Plantation, who chairs the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, indicates her concern in a letter she sent to the Agency for Health Care Administration, saying: “I strongly oppose this change in rules and urge an immediate reversal…. While Florida’s nursing homes still repeat routine staff testing under federal requirements from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, we must continue to extend this common-sense safety measure to assisted living facilities as well… We cannot condemn these individuals to die preventable deaths from COVID-19 because of lax staff testing requirements.”
- Mary Daniel, the woman who took a job at her husband’s facility and was part of the governor’s task force examining opening up facilities to visitation, has started Caregivers for Compromise, a Facebook group to share information about these issues. She also provides some advice in the video below:
If you have a complaint about visitation and want to contact the Agency for Health Care Administration, call 888-419-3456.