How should the reopening of the economy affect New York’s nursing homes? There are concerns that care for residents has suffered during the COVID pandemic shutdown.
Despite the reopening of portions of the Central New York economy, nursing homes remain largely off-limits to family and all other visitors. AARP officials say that raises two problems: despair among both the resident and their family that has a negative impact on health; and the family’s inability to check on their loved one’s care and well-being. AARP Legislative Director Bill Ferris says visitation that’s only online or through a closed window is not enough.
"Right now, where we're at with nursing homes in New York, is that we just can't have someone looking at their loved one through a window. They need to go back into the facility. They need to see how the care is coming along with their loved one. It just doesn't cut it anymore with Skype and Zoom.”
There is a law requiring that facilities set up virtual visitation for emergencies. But another rule change also raises health concerns. Ferris is worried about reducing the need for coronavirus testing for nursing home staff.
"Governor Cuomo says the key to reopening our state, our society, our businesses is testing and tracing. That should be the same for nursing homes. The more testing we have in nursing homes, the more tracing...we can find hot spots in nursing homes. What has happened in nursing homes in the pandemic with over 6,000 people dying, can never, ever happen again in New York.”
Ferris says some senior facilities already had concerns over care before the pandemic, especially in controlling the spread of something such as the virus.
"Some nursing homes we know for a fact don't have sufficient staff. Some were getting sick themselves and weren't coming to work. Seems it was almost the perfect storm of an institution that didn't have the proper staff, didn't have the proper PPE, and didn't have proper standards in place. As we know, the virus, once it gets into a nursing home, is just an absolute killer."
AARP is calling on Cuomo to create a task force to find ways that families can safely visit loved ones, for in-person visits and to check on their care. There’s also a bill on his desk they’d like to see signed that would require emergency plans in nursing homes, and requirements that families be notified of status during pandemics.