ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Back in March of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that expanded visitation for family members and loved ones residing in long term care facilities during the pandemic.
However, homes have been waiting on guidance from the Department of Health on how to move forward with those changes.
That guidance finally came on Tuesday evening.
According to Assemblymember Harry Bronson, his bill allows designated personal caregivers and compassionate care visitors at nursing homes and residential care facilities.
The new law lets nursing home residents and their families designate two or more personal caregivers. These caregivers are exempt from any general prohibitions on visitation, such as the measures in place over the last year.
Lawmakers say a caregiver could be a family member, close friend, or legal guardian of a resident, someone they or their lawful representative chooses. This can be for personal caregiving — mental, physical or social well-being— or compassionate caregiving — end of life, or any other psychological distress.
Since the bill was signed into law in March, Bronson has been calling on the New York State Department of Health to issue “mandated guidance immediately to all nursing homes across the state to open their doors for personal and compassionate caregiving visitors.”
In May, nearly 50 days after the the state expanded visitation in nursing homes, Bronson said families still continued to wait to see their loved one.
“Families have been waiting while many facilities continue to unduly restrict visitation by loved ones,” the assemblyman said. “There is no excuse to prolong this suffering.”
Nearly two months after becoming a law, the guidance was released by the state for nursing homes and long term care facilities to move forward.
Although these two designated individuals are exempt from general prohibitions on visitation, the guidance says a facility still has the right to temporarily suspend personal caregiving visits due to increase in local infection rates, inadequate staff capacity, loss of essential service or if a caregiver poses a threat to safety and well-being of the resident.
These facilities have to keep a written record of designated caregivers and visitors.
Earlier in March, the governor’s office released updated nursing home visitation guidance that allows for visitation at all times for all residents.