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Ohio Nursing Homes Open Doors for Visitation

Nursing homes are beginning to resume in-person visitation as coronavirus restrictions relax across several states.  Currently, indoor visitation is allowed at Ohio nursing homes and assisted-living facilities as long as they follow certain health and safety requirements.  AARP Ohio wants to ensure that all precautions are being taken in response to this change. It is important to recognize that there will be new limitations on when, where, and for how long you can visit your loved one.  In Ohio, visitation requirements include a two-visitor limit for a maximum of 30 minutes and safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing face masks.

It is crucial that you contact a facility before visiting to figure out what additional protocols they may require.  Ohio officials have announced that an online dashboard will soon launch to communicate information about visitation, and AARP has put together an accessible interactive map to track the status of nursing home visits in each state.

If you are unsure of what to ask before visiting a family member, AARP has put together five key questions that you should ask nursing homes and long-term care facilities before visiting your loved ones that will protect all residents, staff and visitors.

1. What is the nursing home doing to make it safe for visitors to come back?
· Has the facility met the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommendations for allowing visitors? For example:
· Has it gone at least 28 days without a new COVID-19 case?
· Are cases declining in the surrounding community?
· Have all residents and staff been tested for COVID-19?
· Does it have enough staff?
· Are there adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning and disinfecting products?

2. What kinds of health checks will be required for visitors?
· Is the facility following federal guidelines for visitor screening, including:
· Checking visitors’ temperatures?
· Asking about COVID-19 symptoms and potential exposure?
· Observing visitors for any symptoms or signs of infection?

3. Are visits restricted by time and place?
· Do I need to make an appointment with the nursing home to visit a loved one?
· Will visiting hours be restricted, or individual visits time-limited?
· Can I request a schedule for when I can visit a loved one on a regular basis?
· Can I go to my loved one’s room, or are visits limited to designated areas inside (or outside) the facility?
· Can more than one person visit a resident at a time?
· Who can I contact if I am denied a visit with my loved one?

4. What protective and social distancing measures are in place, in accordance with federal guidelines?
· Do I have to wear a mask? Will the nursing home provide one for me?
· Is hand sanitizer available on site, or do I need to bring my own?
· Do I have to stay 6 feet away from my loved one?
· Can I bring food or gifts for my loved one?

5. Are you doing everything possible to minimize risks to residents?
· Don’t visit if you feel ill, even if the symptoms are mild.
· Don’t visit if you’ve had close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the previous two weeks.
· Keep visits short.
· Consider a virtual visit instead.

It is understandable that many are eager to see their loved ones after such a long period, especially if they were not able to regularly maintain contact through virtual visitation. However, the importance of following all State, CDC and facility safety guidelines cannot be underestimated, considering that nursing home residents represent only 1% of Ohio’s population but account for more than 64% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. However, before visiting we are urging all potential visitors to consider these questions to maintain the safety and health of everyone involved.

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