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Isolation cautiously ends for many in long-term care homes

Long-term care home visits
Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-05 18:30:01-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — It’s been a long time coming for those in long-term care homes -- Friday was the deadline to inform families of visiting policies.

The Pima Council On Aging says visits are critical.

“For instance, that isolation can have a really drastically negative health impact on individuals," said W. Mark Clark, President, and CEO of POAC.

W. Mark Clark was a part of the task force on long-term care, which created the guidelines for visitation.

Pima County is one of several Arizona counties in the moderate zone, meaning loved ones can visit in-person and outdoors. However, the task force recommends before letting visitors indoors -- that there must not be an outbreak two weeks prior.

“It is a situation where people can no longer say, 'sorry you can't come in.' Regardless, what they can say is, 'if you want to come in and do an indoor visit, this is what you have to do.' And then also outdoor visits I think the principal difference -- the biggest difference is, outdoor visiting will not require a test. The challenge with outdoor visiting is, it's hot,” explained Clark.

It’s up to the individual facility to decide the protocol that must be met before entering.

Some of Arizona's recommendations are:

  • Showing a negative result less than two days before the visits
  • Signing an attestation that the visitor has isolated
  • Requiring the use of masks
  • Limiting contact
  • Using hand sanitizer
  • Creating a visitor log for contact tracing purposes
  • More cleaning and sanitizing at the facility

The Tucson Assisted Living Retreat is in contact with its residents and their families about their plan.

“Everybody's really excited actually -- just the fact that they've heard this on the news. They've been calling [and] they're excited about coming. It is important that they know that it does have to be scheduled," said Elena Merchand.

For nearly five months before, the Tucson Assisted Living Retreat allowed loved ones to have visits via video chat and even through the window. For residents in hospice, compassion visits were allowed.

That’s how one 98-year-old was able to have a birthday party.

"It was actually 90 percent of that visit that she had a whole birthday party in the facility, but outside she had her family having a party outside, so it was actually really fun," said Merchand.

Each long-term care home has different rules -- visitors must reach out to the one your loved one is in.