Visitation Resumes at Care Facilities

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By Allison Shepherd, The LaRue County Herald News, July 1 2020

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander announced Thursday that starting Monday, June 29, the state will resume visitation at assisted living and personal care homes, group activities (10 or fewer) in facilities, communal dining and off-site appointments.

“Kentuckians have patiently waited since March 6 for the opportunity to see loved ones in long-term care facilities again – in person. We are pleased to say that plans are in place to ease back into certain activities,” said Secretary Friedlander, adding that resuming visitation and certain other activities will proceed without taking an eye off the threat that remains with COVID-19.

Starting July 15, visitation will resume in nursing homes and in Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-IIDs), which will include Sunrise Manor Nursing Home, a Signature HealthCARE facility, located in Hodgenville. KY.

While this comes as good news to many, for a local family it’s too late. “While our family is happy that restrictions are being lifted regarding nursing home visitations, it is too little too late for us. We were not allowed to see our loved one in his final days”, said Patty McDowell Holbert.

Reverend Gordon and Wilma McDowell celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary on June 11, and Gordon passed away on Sunday June 14. The family stated that they he passed away ‘without being allowed to see, touch or hug his wife or any of his family’.

“There comes a time when these mandates cause more damage to the health and wellbeing of patients and their families than they do good. Without the visits and interaction from family, residents are lonely and literally dying from broken hearts. Patients have not been given the right to choose whether they have visits or were quarantined, which is unacceptable. In our opinion, our father’s rights were never considered and that too is unacceptable. Our wish is that changes are made and this never happens to another family”, said Holbert.

Efforts to obtain information about the re-opening standards and requirements at Sunrise Manor were redirected to a corporate communications team at Signature HealthCARE by the current Sunrise Manor administrator Shamika Davis on Monday. In a press release received Tuesday morning from Signature HealthCARE, the release referred to Governor Beshear’s reopening timeline, and stated, ‘limited visitation in skilled nursing and long-term healthcare facilities will not resume until July 15, and only if certain requirements are met.’

The release stated, “Signature HealthCARE is working hard every day to devise a plan that will permit us to reopen our skilled nursing and long-term healthcare facilities in Kentucky, as soon as possible, under the Governor’s guidelines, as well as those from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and our state and local Departments of Health. At this time, Signature is seeing more recoveries each day, indicating our fight is producing positive outcomes. That is why we must remain vigilant in protecting our residents and staff.

Signature HealthCARE continues to examine Gov. Beshear’s plan for resuming limited in-person visitation at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), which include the strict requirements he issued alongside his announcement. One of those requirements, as supported by CMS, makes it clear, no facility can open to visitors unless that facility has been without any new resident or staff COVID-19 cases in the past 28 days. This prerequisite certainly affects many Kentucky nursing homes throughout the state, not just Signature communities. This is just one of several prerequisites that must be met.“

While the McDowell family are only one of many that have been endure these restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic locally and throughout the state and nation, the family of Gordon McDowell stated that “the staff, caregivers, nurses, CNAs all did everything possible to care for our loved one when we were not allowed to and for that we will be forever grateful”.

“We all look forward to the day when residents, families, and staff can celebrate and hug in person,” said Signature HealthCARE Kentucky Operations President, Jason Shelton. “We know that kind of social engagement is vital to personal health. But we must reach this goal safely, and with a plan in place that cannot be rushed or compromised, for the safety of all involved.”

Signature HealthCARE strongly upholds the importance of visitation from family and friends. Until decisions have been made for each of Signature’s 41 facilities in Kentucky, we will continue to keep our residents uplifted and connected using alternate methods of communication for families, including telehealth, social media, and the mailing of cards and letters. We hope, in the very near future, these will be secondary to in-person visits with family and friends.

We are in this fight together and our goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy as we all get through this unprecedented time of COVID-19.”