Although many Ohio nursing homes and assisted living facilities remain closed to most visits, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is encouraging families to make "compassionate care" visits to loved ones when possible.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to pick up steam last spring, it quickly became evident that elderly people were particularly vulnerable to the virus, and visitation at nursing homes and some assisted living centers was closed. While those restrictions were relaxed somewhat in June and July, in September the Federal Government Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, issued new regulations for visitations. Still in effect, they block facilities from opening indoor visitation if they have had new cases in the previous 14 days, are currently conducting testing, or if the positivity rate of the surrounding county is above 10 percent.
But Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says there has always been an exemption for "compassionate care" which is not limited to end of life situations. He says CMS lists several examples where compassionate care visits are beneficial.
"A resident who was living with family before, recently became admitted to a home, and now is struggling with the change of environment and the lack of physical family support. That's an example. Second example - might be a resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently died. Or three: a resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking previously provided by family or caregivers, is experiencing weight loss or dehydration because they're no longer getting that contact with that family member or caregiver."
DeWine says CMS also includes situations where residents have become withdrawn or emotional requiring medication, or dementia has dramatically progressed.
DeWine says he has sent a letter to all Ohio nursing homes and assisted living facilities to remind them to check their visitation status, and be more open to compassionate care visits. He says the number of cases of COVID-19 in these facilities are declining; last week there were 343 new cases, compared to 2,832 cases at their peak in December.
Information on visitation status is available on the state coronavirus dashboard.