Nursing homes, health leaders advocate for compassionate care visits

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) — Governor DeWine plans to send out a letter to all nursing homes encouraging them to allow compassionate care visits, even if normal visitation isn’t allowed.

Over half of Villa Springfield Health & Rehabilitation staff have been vaccinated, plus a majority of their residents. After speaking with staff today, they say the decision to allow all types of visitation comes with a certain level of responsibility.

“It’s just really a huge improvement for the resident’s quality of life,” said Executive Director Bill Robinson.

Villa Springfield has been allowing compassionate care visits for several months, letting families and residents gather in central areas for 30 minutes, a guideline set by the CDC. In October, they lost 15 residents in five days due to COVID-19, so they say the decision to keep all visitation options open wasn’t taken lightly.

“It can be really challenging for all of us not to see our loved ones, so I really like the compassionate care visits,” said Robinson. “We are allowing it and it has been effective. You see their spirits are lifted, participating more in therapy, eating better, it gives them a sense they’re going to go home.”

Currently Villa Springfield perform COVID-testing twice a week, once for staff and once for residents. They believe this will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their facility, and have seen some initial success with it too — even with expanded visitations, they haven’t seen positive cases rise.

According to Ohio’s coronavirus dashboard, out of Montgomery County’s 49 nursing facilities only three don’t allow any type of indoor, outdoor or window visitation. Greene County is in the red, so any type of visitation isn’t allowed. Health leaders say the decision to close down visitation initially was a smart choice.

“Because of where we’ve come through, if you look at where we’ve been through the number of cases, the nursing facilities were especially hard hit,” said MVH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Roberto Colon. “It was a way to protect them so we’re in a much better place than where we were before, and now we’re able to loosen up some of those restrictions.”

Dr. Colon says he believes the vaccines are essential right now to get families and loved ones back to visiting inside nursing homes. Isolation and mental health has been one of the biggest concerns among nursing home residents while balancing health priorities.

Governor DeWine said last week, long-term care facilities reported 343 new cases, which compared to the 2,832 new cases when case numbers peaked in December shows tremendous progress.

For a nursing home to regulate normal visitation procedures, they must meet three requirements from the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Those requirements are:

  • No positive cases in the last 14 days
  • Facility isn’t conducting outbreaking testing
  • CMS reports positivity rates at less than 10-percent

Governor DeWine says even if the nursing home doesn’t meet those three requirements, compassionate care visits should still be considered.

Ohio’s coronavirus dashboard

The examples DeWine gave of when compassionate care visits may be allowed are:

  • Residents who were living with their family prior to being admitted to the facility and are struggling to adjust 
  • Residents grieving a recent death of a family member or friend
  • Residents who needs encouragement with eating and drinking, or are experiencing significant weight loss or dehydration 
  • Residents that used to talk and interact with staff and others but now are experiencing emotional distress, crying frequently and isolating themselves
  • Residents who just returned to the facility after a recent hospital visit
  • Residents who take antipsychotic medications, antidepressant or appetite stimulants
  • A resident’s dementia has dramatically progressed
  • During a window visit, the resident’s appearance or grooming has significantly changed causing concern
  • A resident’s cognitive abilities prevents them from participating in virtual visits

For more information on which nursing homes allow visitation, click here.

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