Mary Daniel made headlines in 2020 when she took a dishwashing job at an assisted living facility in Jacksonville, Florida. The facility had been locked down due to Covid. Taking the job was the only way Daniel, 57, could get to see her husband, an Alzheimer’s patient who resided there. Our law firm has many clients who didn’t go as far as Daniel did to access loved ones, but were equally distressed about not being able to spend time with them.
Daniel helped spearhead the Caregivers for Compromise coalition, advocating for less draconian visitation policies at long-term care facilities despite the pandemic, arguing that prolonged loneliness can be as deadly as physical disease. There is evidence to back up that view: An Associated Press study of 2020 showed that during the pandemic, many residents experienced despair and loneliness: “failure to thrive” was cited as cause of death. In addition, a study from the University of Pennsylvania published in the January 22, 2022 Health Affairs noted that without the usual visitors helping residents with self-care tasks, already overburdened nursing home staffers faced considerable additional stress.
New Visitation Rules
In response to these concerns, Florida has passed a new law governing visitation policies, SB 988. It goes into full effect in July. The “No Patient Left Alone Act” relaxes visitation regulations at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, as well as other facilities such as hospices. Here is what you can expect as a result of the legislation:
- Effective May 6, facilities must have posted their visitation requirements online. You should be able to see those requirements in a prominent location on the website’s home page. Requirements must include protocols for infection control, but these protocols cannot be more stringent than what is required for staff.
- A resident has the right to name an “essential caregiver.” That person is guaranteed the right to visit under any circumstances, for at least two hours per day.
- Vaccination requirements are prohibited.
- Consensual physical contact must be allowed. In other words, hugs!
- Facilities must allow visitors in certain situations, unless the resident objects. Among these circumstances are:
End of life.
The resident must make a major medical decision.
The resident is experiencing significant emotional distress.
The resident needs the support of family to eat or drink.
A resident who used to talk and interact with others is seldom speaking.
- Facilities have the right to ask you to agree to adhere to their policies in writing, and can revoke your visitation if policies are not followed.
Who To Contact If You Encounter Obstacles To Visitation
If you have a loved one in a facility and are prevented from visiting, you can file a complaint with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Call 888-775-6055 or file a complaint online here.
Read the full text of The No Patient Left Alone Act here.
To contact The Karp Law Firm attorneys to find out how to shoulder the cost of long-term care using Medicaid and/or Veterans benefits, contact our office at (561) 625-1100.